Issues of Catholic identity, rocky neighborhood relations and lower endowment await DeGioia

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September 6, 2001

The University has not been told it has to encourage or require professors of Catholic theology to seek approval to teach from the local cardinal, University President John J. DeGioia said yesterday.

The President’s statement reinforced earlier comments by Theology faculty that the University would not be responsible for whether or not a professor seeks the Church’s approval. The approval, known as the mandatum, is part of the Vatican’s most important higher education initiative in decades, known as Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

Acting Chair of the Theology Department William C. McFadden, S.J., had said earlier that the professor’s decision to seek the mandatum would not affect his or her employment status. DeGioia’s statement affirms this.

DeGioia’s comment came as part of a roundtable discussion with campus reporters that ventured into, among other issues, University-Church and University-city relations.

While DeGioia recognized that the school and the Vatican have not always agreed, he was quick to say that he believes the University can make policy in accordance with the Vatican’s teachings without sacrificing academic freedom.

As Dean of Students in the early 1990s, DeGioia did break with then-Cardinal Hickey when he approved funding for an abortion rights group, provided the organization only discussed the issues rather than engage in political advocacy. When the group was discovered to be encouraging attendance at pro-choice rallies, DeGioia revoked funding.

On the day the University filed a lawsuit over the city’s objections to its campus plan, DeGioia was determined to be upbeat. He said repeatedly that the District was the best place for a university, despite the regular tension with Georgetown neighbors and the current fight with the city over the its planned construction projects.

City authorities have denied the University’s request to increase enrollment by 389 students over the next decade, which is necessary to cover the operating costs of the planned buildings.

DeGioia said it would “be prudent and responsible” to develop contingency plans in case the BZA’s ruling on enrollment is upheld in federal court. He said he could not elaborate on the contingency funding plans.

The enrollment increase was to supplement the University’s fundraising campaign, which has raised $713 million so far. DeGioia said his goal is to raise an additional $150 million this academic year, putting the university closer to its $1 billion goal by June 30, 2003.

The president said last academic year was the University’s most successful for fundraising, although its endowment fell from $764 million to $696 million. Some endowment monies are invested the stock market, which has tumbled over the last year.

The drop in the endowment and the BZA’s challenge to the enrollment increase did not deter DeGioia from pledging not to use Law or Medical Center revenue for projects on the Main Campus.

In other remarks yesterday, the president repeated his general goals for the year, such as raising faculty retention, increasing student financial aid and creating new student activity space.

Raising retention?done by raising faculty pay as a means of enticing professors to stay?was the first topic DeGioia discussed in his faculty address, said Associate Professor Anthony Arend of the Government Department. Arend, a member of the Executive Faculty Steering Committee, said the address was “warmly received” by professors.

Going forward, DeGioia will work with a relatively new senior team. University Provost Dorothy Brown, who is in charge of academic affairs for the Main Campus, will retire after this year. DeGioia said the presence of three students on the 15-member search committee for the new provost is the most he can remember for any search committee.

DeGioia will also recruit a person to fill his former position as senior vice president for administrative affairs.

DeGioia said his professional relationship with Vice President for Student Affairs Juan Gonzalez, who joined the administration last year, is very good. Gonzalez will advise DeGioia on, among other matters, the request by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender organization for a resource center and living area.

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