Monday, May 08, 2017

Jesuit boys' school in trouble -- or is it?

Jesuits these days are just far-Leftists -- so that should not be  a problem in Massachusetts

Boston College High School has experienced a sharp decline in applications, prompting trustees to explore ways to reverse the trend and raising fears among many alumni and parents that the historically all-boys school might allow girls to attend.

Over the past decade, the Jesuit Catholic school — a premier destination for college-bound boys for generations — has seen applications tumble from 1,063 in 2008 to 637 this year, according to an April 20 letter by the chairman of the school’s trustees.

Consequently, the school is preparing to welcome one of its smaller groups of new students to its Dorchester campus this fall: about 280, compared to 336 last fall, according to the letter, which was obtained by the Globe.

The numbers suggest that BC High, which had experienced a surge in overall enrollment over the past decade, might not be immune to a national decline in Catholic school enrollment, which has forced schools to close or, for those that educate just one gender, to admit both boys and girls.

BC High has pondered whether to admit girls in the past. In his letter, chairman John McQuillan did not mention the possibility of admitting female students to the school or specify any possible scenarios under consideration to address the application drop but said “all options deserve a fair and honest assessment.”

“The board has made no decisions and has yet to deliberate these or other options, but given the school’s enrollment needs, the board owes a duty to the school to do so,” McQuillan wrote.

He said the board would work with the Archdiocese of Boston and the Society of Jesus to “conduct a comprehensive evaluation of BC High’s options” and what impact it could have on other Catholic schools.

The cryptic nature of the letter is raising alarms among many alumni and parents — who oppose a change in the all-male enrollment — that the board has a hidden agenda to start admitting female applicants. They argue that even though the number of applicants may have declined, the actual enrollment over the last decade has increased by about 300 students, bringing the total to just under 1,600.

“This is a manufactured crisis to support an agenda by a few trustees who are acting more like Donald Trump than stewards of a great Jesuit academic institution that has over 150 years of history, tradition, and success,” said City Councilor Michael Flaherty, an alumnus whose son attends the school. “BC High is a thriving school.”

The tension has flared a year and a half after the board, under a different chairman, discussed the idea of admitting girls but then ultimately reaffirmed its commitment to serving only boys.

Surveys of parents and alumni at the time revealed opposition to the idea, although faculty and students were more supportive, according to a copy of a board letter in October 2015 that was obtained by the Globe this week.

But the board at the time never removed the idea completely from consideration.

Greg Gaillardetz, a 2015 alumnus, said he supports admitting female students.

“I think it’s very important that boys are able to interact with women in an environment they are learning in,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn to respect women and see them as equals.”

In a statement issued in response to Globe questions, McQuillan did not say whether BC High was considering a new model and instead spoke in generalities and highlighted the school’s academic accomplishments.

“It is from this position of strength that our board and senior leadership team will work closely with the Archdiocese of Boston, the Society of Jesus, and our Catholic community to develop a strategic plan addressing market-wide enrollment challenges facing independent and Catholic secondary schools across the country,” he said. “We are facing our challenges directly, and we are confident that our best years are ahead of us.”

Founded in 1863, Boston College High School initially operated as part of Boston College to serve the city’s growing Irish population, before splitting in 1927.

Since then, the high school has continued to be a popular gateway to Boston College and other top universities. Some 98 percent of graduates go on to four-year colleges,many of them leaving the school with a strong foundation in the teachings of the Jesuits, who stress education and finding the good in all humanity.

But the school, which has been on Morrissey Boulevard since 1950, is weathering a turbulent period.

In February, the school’s much anticipated search to replace retiring president William Kemeza collapsed when the school and the leading candidate were unable to reach an agreement, raising questions about what went wrong.

Kemeza initially agreed to stay on until a successor was found, trustees announced in February. But he then decided to stick with his plan to retire at the end of this school year.

At the same time, the school’s last Jesuit teacher retired in December and a sharp decline in the number of Jesuits has created difficulties in bringing in others.

The school’s annual tuition of more than $20,000 has also become increasingly out of reach for middle class families, causing the school to give more financial aid. Nearly 50 percent of students receive assistance. The average annual amount is $8,300.

Enrollment in Catholic schools across Greater Boston has slid by about 10,000 students over the last 10 years, to 37,547 this year, according to the archdiocese.

But some schools, such as BC High, have been defying those trends.

In 2006, in response to families who wanted their sons to start an all-boys education earlier and to better position itself in the private-school market, the school added seventh and eighth grades.

The revelation of declining applications prompted some alumni and parents to question whether school leaders grew complacent in their marketing efforts.

“There are unbelievable stories about there about kids who are incredibly smart or athletic, but you don’t see those stories being told,” said Gregory Vasil, a parent who supports maintaining an all-male student body.

But in his April letter, McQuillan said that despite significant investment in marketing and admissions, the school was unable to draw enough qualified applicants, causing it to enroll fewer students.

Some parents and alumni speculate whether a coed BC High could put the dwindling number of all-girl Catholic schools at greater risk.

“If the school goes coed, it will pummel some of the all-girls schools,” said Joe Donahue, a former board chairman. “It’s not the right time. I don’t feel like we are in a crisis.”


U.S. Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Resolution To End Campus Free Speech Zones

On many college campuses, students are limited to small “free speech zones” to exercise their First Amendment rights. Failure to remain within one of these zones can result in disciplinary action and even arrest.

On Wednesday, several members of Congress made a bipartisan effort to stop this practice, introducing a resolution that would end free speech zones and reaffirm the First Amendment on campuses. Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) introduced the resolution along with six cosponsors: Reps. Rick W. Allen (R-Ga.); Todd Rokita (R-Ind.); Glenn Grothman (R-Wisc.); Jason Lewis (R-Minn.); Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.); and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).

“With our current political climate, it’s more crucial than ever that colleges and universities protect all First Amendment rights,” Roe said in a press release. “It is my hope through passing this resolution we will send a strong message to college campuses across the country that restrictions on freedom of speech, thought and expression are inherently at odds with the rights guaranteed by our Constitution.”

The resolution is based on research from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has sued schools over free speech zones. Most recently, the organization joined Los Angeles Pierce College Student Kevin Shaw in suing his school, which told him he could only pass out Spanish-language versions of the U.S. Constitution while standing in a tiny area on campus. FIRE estimated the size of Pierce’s free speech zone to be roughly equivalent to that of an iPhone on a tennis court.

In another recent example, the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at Kellogg Community College is suing its school for arresting a student for passing out copies of the Constitution. Because they were outside of the free speech zones, in which they had limitations that liberal students were not required to follow, they were arrested for trespassing.

“Free speech zones and restrictive speech codes are inherently at odds with the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution,” Roe’s resolution states.

FIRE says legislation to end free speech zones has passed in Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri, Utah, and Virginia, while similar legislation is pending in Louisiana, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

“Too many colleges and universities are restricting expressive activities on campus with misleadingly labeled ‘free speech’ zones,” FIRE’s Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn said in a statement. “FIRE is thrilled that Representative Roe sees these policies for what they are—unjustified quarantine zones. Hopefully, this resolution draws the broad bipartisan support it deserves.”

It is still unclear what actions President Trump’s Education Department will take to provide civil rights to college students, including free speech, but perhaps Congress will act on its own.


University Students Fall for Sexual Propaganda, Bemoan Opening of Chick-fil-A on Campus

A new fast-food restaurant on campus should have been a no-brainer. Sadly, closed minds don’t work that way.

Some college students at Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University are claiming, like Chicken Little, that the sky is falling. Sadly, given these crazy times, that’s no longer really news. We’ve seen a steady stream of reports about scholars being driven off campus by mobs of triggered students, of speakers being disinvited or losing announced awards because of their Judeo-Christian beliefs—all in the name of tolerance, diversity, and “safe spaces”!

Truly, though, the kerfuffle at Duquesne shows what we’re up against. In March the university announced that the popular fast food chain Chick-fil-A would be opening in the Catholic school’s main food court.

Instead of cheers for a company that donates generously to charity and makes a great chicken sandwich, the decision brought jeers from some students, who claimed this would put their “safe place … at risk.” One leader of a gay student group said Chick-fil-A has “a questionable history on civil rights and human rights.” A petition that says bullying is a problem on campus demands that Chick-fil-A be banned, while Niko Martini, the president of the Lambda Gay-Straight Alliance, says that the school should, at the very least, “acknowledge there is still some tension.”

So, what has Chick-fil-A done? Well, Dan Cathy, son of Chick-fil-A’s founder, Truett Cathy, has publicly stated his support for the biblical definition of marriage. And the company’s foundation in the past has supported Christian organizations such as Exodus International and Focus on the Family that have taken faith-based stances on human sexuality. By that standard, lots of people of faith are “questionable” in the eyes of some campus groups.

But of course they’re wrong, and we’re not. Dan Cathy is a case in point. A few years ago, you may recall, Chick-fil-A’s president and COO reached out to Shane Windmeyer, who was organizing a national boycott of Chick-fil-A as the executive director of Campus Pride, an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender college students. Before they met, Windmeyer thought Dan Cathy was a fiend. What he discovered after months of discussion was that Dan had become his friend. His mind began to open.

“Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level,” Windmeyer wrote in an eye-opening article in The Huffington Post. “He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being ‘a follower of Christ’ more than a ‘Christian.’”

There was no marginalizing here, no destruction of safe spaces, even as Dan Cathy made no apologies for his beliefs, while conveying respect and a peaceable witness to Windmeyer. I wonder whether those Duquesne students might gain a new perspective about Chick-fil-A—and about Christians—upon reading that article. Even better, what might happen if Christians like Dan humbly came alongside them and became, not a debating partner, but a friend?

Let’s face it, folks, convincing people who’ve fallen for the new sexual propaganda that we’re not out to scare or marginalize them won’t be easy. Through long years of indoctrination in academia and popular culture, their minds have been closed to a Christian worldview. Sadly, they really do think we have horns and tails.  But we don’t, and we’ll need to more consistently emulate the patient, loving approach of Dan Cathy if we’re ever going to change their minds.


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