Letter to the Editor: AAUP Responds to Magdziarz’s Defense of Rooney

Pamela L. Caughie is an English professor at Loyola University Chicago and former president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). 

As one of the faculty members who composed and signed the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) Chapter’s letter to the Board of Trustees expressing faculty concerns over the performance of President Jo Ann Rooney, I would like to respond to some points in Wayne Magdziarz’s letter to The Phoenix, published July 9. Mr. Magdziarz has been at Loyola almost as long as I have (over three decades), and I trust we share the same motivation for writing: a desire to protect and preserve the university where we have made our careers. I also appreciate that the job of the senior vice president is to support the president, whether that position is held by Fr. Michael J. Garanzini or Dr. Jo Ann Rooney. As officers of Loyola’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, our job is to voice the concerns of faculty across the university.

Mr. Magdziarz’s letter repeats points made by the chairman of the Board, Bob Parkinson, in his reply to the AAUP letter. They both give Dr. Rooney credit for the academic reputation of our university. That reputation, however, was not made in three years. The creation of endowed professorships, the hiring of publishing researchers and scholars, the increase in our students’ ACT scores and our growing national reputation began under previous administrations, especially Fr. Garanzini’s, beginning in 2001. In 2003-2004, for example, faculty salaries increased significantly so that Loyola could be competitive with our peer institutions in recruiting top-notch faculty. From the classroom, I have witnessed the steady improvement in our students’ academic abilities and geographic diversity over the past two decades. These achievements cannot be attributed to our current president, though they may be sustained under her administration.

What we find ironic is that while President Rooney is given credit for a reputation built before she came, she is not held responsible for a financial picture that has not improved during her tenure. Although Mr. Magdziarz touts our “solid financial position,” that is not the picture Dr. Rooney painted for the Faculty Council at its last meeting in April 2019 where she reported on the results of a consultant’s study of our alumni giving. In comparison with our peer institutions, we are performing near the bottom. One dismal graph of our performance covered 2016-2018, the years of Dr. Rooney’s leadership.

Faculty understand the academic landscape across the country. We are aware of the need for fiscal restraints. But we find many of the decisions made in the name of fiscal responsibility to be injurious to our academic reputation and identity as a Jesuit Catholic institution. And decisions bearing on teaching and research have not been made with faculty input. Not only were the Faculty Council and the University Senate not consulted on important decisions impacting our academic programs, members first heard about many of these decisions at their last meetings of the year — such as the decision to allow LUMA’s prestigious and hard-earned accreditation to expire and the decision to gut the ELLP program, thereby weakening our ability to recruit full tuition-paying foreign students.

Mr. Magdziarz seems as anxious to defend the president’s top-down, unilateral leadership style as the substance of her decisions. His letter elides the main point of the AAUP’s letter: a call to honor, and strengthen, shared governance at Loyola.

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