Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Manresa Fiasco: Marquette Stonewalls

When we discovered that the current Manresa Project conference on campus includes a virulently anti-Israel panel, which includes presenters who routinely make excuses for terrorists, we called the Manresa office to ask for an explanation.

We talked to Susan Mountin, who explained that this was handled like any scholarly conference, with requests for proposals being widely distributed, and a committee of faculty winnowing the proposals that were submitted. Apparently, the work was divided up so that three faculty members read each proposal.

We asked for the names of the members of this faculty committee.

Faculty committees are never secret at Marquette, and most members would doubtless be willing to talk about the process. Mountin put us off, claiming that the office was very busy (plausible enough) but promised to send us the list the following day (today).

But this morning we got the following e-mail:
Dr. McAdams,

Dr. Susan Mountin notified me of your request for a list of the names of faculty who reviewed proposals for the upcoming Manresa Project Conference. Since the Manresa Project is a part of the Office of Mission and Identity, this decision rests with me. I am not aware of any compelling reason to forward the names to you, and therefore I must decline your request.

Sincerely,
Stephanie Russell
Translation: stonewall.

Russell apparently believes that the best way to handle the issue is to conceal information.

The problem with this is that trying to conceal information is usually a much more dangerous and reckless damage control strategy that merely owning up to the truth.

Was the process so sloppy that the committee members reviewing this proposal simply didn’t know how biased and hateful the panel was going to be (and this a panel with Marquette’s explicit endorsement)?

To what extent did Russell’s own leftist political views bias the process?

We’d like to know, and will happily keep the identity of anybody on this super-secret committee who will contact us confidential.

In the meantime, it might be interesting to note that Marquette got much of the money for this shindig from the Lilly Endowment. The program that funds Manresa is described by the Endowment as follows:
Five years ago Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. embarked upon an ambitious initiative to encourage college students to draw on the wisdom of their religious traditions as they make decisions about their futures and to consider ministry as their career.

The Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation (PTEV) initiative provided grants to church-related liberal arts colleges and universities across the country to support campuswide programs involving a wide variety of activities that encourage students, faculty and staff to engage in theological reflection on the purposes and character of their lives and work.
How hating Israel and making apologies for terrorism follows from this program is rather a mystery.

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