Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Departing AMU professor's letter confirms many fears about Monaghan-dominated educational institutions

The following are excerpts from an outgoing AMU Professor's letter to other Florida faculty members, dated December 8th. I withheld this letter for almost two weeks because there have been concerns about posting it in its full form, which was briefly done over on Fumare and then removed after a request made by a person using the professor's name. I will only quote parts of it, because they shed light on a few key issues, especially the allegations made concerning intimidation by the Dean to stop organizing activity at the law school. But it also makes very clear what happens when Tom Monaghan excercises too much control over an educational institution, as he has done since breaking up AMC and effectively moving it down to FL to form AMU.

Note that the comments about social justice and union organizing at AMU were made before the Dean called his own union-busting meeting at AMSL...

...AMU also misled us about its Catholicity. The university is not connected to the diocesan structure, nor to any order of the Church. It is an endeavor by lay Catholics, at best tolerated by the local bishop who has never visited AMU. The Oratory in the new town will not be a diocesan Church, nor will it have RCIA or be able to offer sacramental preparation for children, just as it is the case now. Imagine our surprise to find a ‘Catholic’ entity disconnected from the Church hierarchy. As people choose to move into the town because it is advertised as a Catholic town, many will be surprised to find out that the Oratory is under the control of Monaghan and not the Catholic Church. Presumably they will do sacramental preparation in the closest parish in Immokalee. The town will have space for a public school but not for a parish. This situation is not sustainable, at some point the Church will flex its muscles and for good reason!

... AMU does not behave like a Catholic employer. The university is run as
a secular business venture with an outdated business model that relies on cutting costs to meet goals. As Chair I have attended dozens of meetings and have been generally appalled at how little consideration the views of students, faculty or staff are given, Catholic social teaching principles are never seriously invoked and when I mentioned them, they were politely discarded. Given the problems with living wages it would be natural to unionize the faculty, as our neighbor FGCU did with good effect on improving retention and recruitment, yet every faculty member perceives correctly AMU as a union buster, the type of employer the social encyclicals condemn. Justice issues are systematically neglected in the employer-worker relationship. Instead, sacrifice is preached as if charity could justify violations of justice. If the university wants the faculty to sacrifice pay the faculty fairly, then let them donate the money back if they want to. Do not confuse justice and charity. I have decided no longer to teach Catholic social teaching in large part because of the example of AMU administration. It is no wonder Catholic social teaching has no widespread credibility, Catholics do not follow it. Apparently, we stop being Catholic after the sixth commandment.

Finally, AMU management that lacks basic essential preparation in higher education...They have no notion that higher education is a very competitive marketplace and have no feasible business plan outside of ‘we are Catholic, people ought to be grateful we let them work here". AMU needs professional management, in my opinion.

I became convinced, however, that there is no serious commitment to make AMU a university nationally known for its scholarship outside of theology, or to have AMU become a model employer that follows Catholic social teaching. There is also no intention to stop making claims about the university and town which we know cannot be accomplished within the next decade.


At 10:46 PM, Blogger buildbridgesnotwalls said...

No man,

Student hostility is growing at AMSL. This is not our AVE. Yes, you have legit concerns, but please realize that if you keep talking and don't offer solutions, you become a part of the problem.

At 10:51 PM, Blogger J. T. Corey said...

I concur.

At 11:47 PM, Blogger kmte said...

It's ideal to have a solution when you bring up a problem. But isn't it a proactive first step in finding a solution to get a robust understanding of the problem?

The AMU professor quoted in this post brings up some significant problems. From my experience--which is very firsthand, I think his analysis is quite good.

Certainly, there are solutions, such as following Catholic social teaching in some cases, or good academic practice in others. Maybe some of the problems are being overstated. You won't know if you don't look at them and try to come to an understanding and some solidarity towards some kind of action or stance. I thought that was what blogsites like this were for.

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Poor Billy said...

I would suggest everyone take a step back and re-evaluate where we are. That includes all stakeholders. Management of the school should try to figure out how to bring people into the fold - especially those who feel left out right now. They should not view every bit of vigorous disagreement as an attack. Alumni should continue to bring pressure to bear but should do so in a Christian manner. It has come to the point where all stakeholders need a seat at the table. All the disinformation and intimidation needs to come to an end. What we need most is effective leadership. If that leadership can come from Dean Dobranski then so be it. But, if it can't, so be it as well. It is going to take a great leader to bring this community back together. But time is wasting....

As I see it, Florida is NOT the issue. The issue is one of marginalization of members of our community and perceived inequitable treatment.

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Anakin Aquinas said...

I think the point of this website is to provide information.

The way I look at this stuff, is there is such a lack of information provided by the relevant parties, that even if this stuff is untrue, At least the administration is aware of the rumors that have spread because of their tight lipped ness, and can take appropriate steps to provide the accurate information. (like I heard somewhere that Monaghan is a 50% partner with the developers for the town in Florida, and have no idea what the validity of that rumor is).

I still eagerly await the release of the minutes of the Dean's staff meeting, to perhaps settle some of the hostility.

However, essentially you're alleging that "If you're powerless just shut up, so we can live in ignorance" OR you misunderstand the problem.

The problem very much is that Tom Monaghan wants to move the school to Florida, and it appears that the removal of Rice from BoG member, as well as Life governor seem to be in prepapration for that move. The PROBLEM is that all of this is being done with disregard to the Faculty, Students AND alumni who have voiced their concerns. The problem is that Monaghan and Dobranski DO NOT care what the groups think. And the evidence being offered, among other things is similarity to the way Ave College was treated. (BTW I haven't heard from many people involved with Ave College who have come out and said that the accusations made against Monaghan in that situation were wrong).

anyway, i went on a tangent, the point of this website is to provide information. Perhaps those seeking a bridge to be built should provide some of their suggestions as to how we can work together for the survival of the school.

One thing I have noticed is that several people have commented to me privately, that upon their questioning of decisions made by the administration, they were accused of trying to destroy the school by questioning the Dean. I have friends on both sides, and I apologize if I have been curt, but i do take exception to the idea that students trying to seek out the truth are the destroyers of the school (as see another post on this blog where they were accused of being in line with Satan).

At 8:49 AM, Blogger mSCIENCE said...

"if you keep talking and don't offer solutions, you become a part of the problem"

no... if you offer solutions and don't understand the root and depth of the problem, then you're deceiving yourself... and let me say, the public does not know 1/10th of what has been said and done

as Professor Rice stated, it is high time that actions be brought into the light...

a word to the AMU, AMSoL, AMC and Ave Maria Foundation administrators who are reading this -

for years you have frittered away the trust and loyalty of many good and faithful Catholic men and women... we've poured ourselves (careers and families) into the founding of Ave projects because the world needs these projects and we've felt called to build them... we will no longer tolerate having our charity squandered nor being treated as if we have no stake in the communities we've collectively built... you and Mr. Monaghan are PART of these communities... you and he have enjoyed unquestionable control for too long... you are now being watched... you will be scrutinized because you have demonstrated utter disregard for accountability... you can no longer commit acts and speak words that will be protected by your spoken or unspoken intimidation... the actions that you have taken, and continue to take, will be made known... so straighten-up and start acting like good stewards of the many resources entrusted to your care

Andrew Messaros, PhD

At 9:25 AM, Blogger J. T. Corey said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:30 AM, Blogger J. T. Corey said...

Dr. Messaros,
Do you have any suggestions for how the problems you have seen should be addressed, besides the methods that have already been used?

At 11:14 AM, Blogger mSCIENCE said...

Before my suggestions are understood as not having arisen from personal animosity, one must first be convinced that the symptoms objectively arise from a core problem.

My diagnosis in NOR last year continues to pan out - all the problems and dysfunction that you see unfolding are a direct consequence of the coercive influence that goes with Mr. Monaghan using his financial 'charity' in a way that perpetually ensures that his desires supercede all other duties. Administrators know that to not please Monaghan is to risk/cause shutdown, and Monaghan has said as much, repeatedly.

The solution (at least for AMSOL):

1) The coercive effects of Mr. Monaghan's relationship with AMSL need to be recognized by the AMSL Board (which will, undoubtedly, require pressure from the faculty & alumni)

2) The Board should move to table any and all Florida discussions until 2008 (which, I believe, was the Board's original position). This will IMMEDIATELY bring stability to AMSL (ie. to faculty, prospective students, and alumni).

3) In keeping with the Board's decision to implement term limits (without Life Governorship), Mr. Monaghan should respectfully be required to step off the Board. His contributions & Professor Rices contributions should be recognized together in a special way, and both should be invited to continue their unique contributions to AMSL in the future (albeit not in the Board room)

4) This will undoubtedly trigger Mr. Monaghan's withdrawal of all future financial support. It should be ensured, however, that he/AMF continue to be held accountable for the commitments already made to AMSL (Monaghan, through AMF, will make a financial pledge, then *trickle* money to the institution rather than just giving it. This keeps the institution beholden to Monaghan/AMF in day-to-day operations.) Seeing to it that AMF's commitments are kept is *key* since day-to-day accounting to avoid shut-down depends on such commitments. The Board, now working with vigorous alumni support, should immediately seek to offset AMF's financial withdrawal.

Addendum - I believe that administrators like Dobranski & Fessio are, in their heart-of-hearts, genuinely commited to the goals of the Ave projects (just as we all are). But, pragmatically speaking, they know that to placate Tom is the cost to access his money to fulfill the project goals. So they, and all of us, need to ask ourselves - Where will we be if we strive for these great goals, but violate those very goals to get there? If you really want to put your trust in our Blessed Mother, trust that AMSL will flourish without Mr. Monaghan's money.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger mrbooks said...

Have you ever tried to talk reasonably with a fire-breathing anti-Catholic?

You're not even trying to move them to a point of accepting the Church, and all that entails. You're just trying to get them to a point of some rudimentary knowledge of the true teachings of the Church as opposed to the misunderstandings and outright fabrications they learned.

Problem is, they don't want to hear it. Even that small change is more than they can bear.

In this case, we have a man who stands up at the Ave Maria Foundation Christmas party and gloats over his success in the initial AMC lawsuit (appeal still pending, I understand) and in circumventing censure by the DOE. He obviously doesn't want to hear what critics are saying. That's nothing new, all Ann Arbor has seen that tendency ever since Domino's Pizza grew beyond one store.

This is the same man who's choice for running AMU, Nick Healy, called in October 2004 and postponed AMC's accreditation. He had no status to do so, as he was not AMC president, and we had been informed that decision for AMC would come through the AMC president, Ron Muller, not Nick Healy, AMU pres. No one at AMC was informed, and the consultant hired to oversee the process either didn't know (And why not, we might ask, since he earned a 6 figuree income to know these things.)or choser not to say. Consequently, the AALE was in the process of closing the AMC file for lack of activity when, most fortunately, the situation was discovered and corrected.

TM doesn't want to hear, because then he would have to admit errors in his choice of people and in his - and their - management styles.

Sorry, I don't mean to sound defeatist. In fact, I know some who feel we might have made progress in discussions with TM if it were not for interference from Healy and others.

So, there is hope. We just need to continue to prayerfully struggle to find ways of opening communications so that we can indeed find those solutions we seek, especially to avoid catastrophe at AMSOL.

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Kate said...

Mr. Books - I find myself very curious about who you are (and whether, as I suspect, I know you). Feel free to email me to confirm or deny this suspicion, if you like.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger mrbooks said...

To Kate:

You do.

'nuff said.


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