Mount St. Mary’s University (Md.): Simon Newman’s Proposal for Student Retention Numbers is Inhuman and Fails to Incorporate the Teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church

The Lord, Jesus Christ (Matthew 9: 9-13) Simon P. Newman, president, Mount St. Mary’s University, Md. His Holiness, Pope Francis
As Jesus passed on from there,d he saw a man named Matthew* sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

 

10 While he was at table in his house,* many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.e

 

11 The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher* eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

 

12 He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.*

 

13 Go and learn the meaning of the words,f ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’* I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

 

 

 

In the midst of discussion of a proposal to dismiss Mount St. Mary’s University students in order to improve retention rates, the Mount St. Mary’s College student newspaper reported that Newman made the following statement.

 

According to Murry, during the course of the conversation, Newman said, “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t.  You just have to drown the bunnies…put a Glock to their heads.”

 

 

 

At a joint session of Congress in 2015, His Holiness, Pope Francis made the following statement while discussing the refugee crisis.

 

“Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do onto you” (Mt 7:12).

 

The Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated.   Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves.   In a word if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.” (Emphasis, the blog author.)

[Update Mar. 1, 2016: Simon Newman, now former president of Mount St. Mary’s University (Md.), submitted his resignation on Feb. 29, 2016. The Mount’s board named an acting president, Karl Einolf, dean of the Richard J. Bolte Sr. School of Business, according to the New York Times.]

[Update Feb. 9, 2016: According to the Baltimore Sun (see also the Washington Post), Mount St. Mary’s University fired Professor Edward Egan and tenured Associate Professor Thane Naberhaus. President Newman asked for the Provost to step down from the position of Provost, although he will remain on the faculty. Newman was said to have “apologized” (an often misused word), but it is not sincere if the action is to fire or demote those who disagree with his (flawed) student retention proposal. Failure to listen to the Holy Spirit is serious; no mere apology is enough without providing detailed reasons for such apology and the remedial actions that will occur by Newman.]

The Washington Post, following publication of a story from the student newspaper at Mount St. Mary’s University (Mount), a small university in Maryland, reported on the proposal from the university president, Simon Newman. Newman’s proposal was to dismiss 20-25 first-year students, who seemed to indicate difficulty on a university provided survey–a mere six weeks into their first semester. The consequence of being expelled as a result of their answers was not disclosed to the student respondents.

There was an objection to this proposal, which was not ultimately instituted. However, in response to the objections to the proposal, Newman, a former private equity chief executive officer at Cornerstone Management Group and managing partner at JP Capital Partners, wrote the following:

“Amid a conversation about student retention this fall, the president of Mount St. Mary’s University told some professors that they need to stop thinking of freshmen as “cuddly bunnies,” and said: “You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.””

Newman, according to a Baltimore Sun article, referred to himself as a devout Catholic. So, it was to my dismay, disappointment, and disgust that the teachings of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and of His Church, had absolutely no bearing in Newman’s statements. Jesus welcomed and loved the poor, the sick, and sinners. (Matthew 9: 9-13) At the Mount, the institution is called to educate those desiring increased knowledge and firming their humanity through education and self-development. There is a duty to care for the humanity admitted to the institution. (See Pope Francis’ remarks, above) (If indeed the student runs into difficulty, assistance should be provided with the goal of ensuring that the student participates fully in the process. A secret implementation of a plan to cull students does not fit the requirement.)

Newman’s statement revealed blatant inhumanity and abuse of power, which led to the opposition and the release of information to the student newspaper. Treating students as a wagon of money and viewing the university’s goal as a mechanism to take the money from the student, while refusing to provide any education benefit, is fraudulent and a terrible betrayal of trust.

Further, for Newman and others to defend the plan as a means to improve student retention numbers is boggling, as Newman’s proposal is contrary to the teachings of Jesus and His Church. Newman’s proposal needed to be fully disclosed to all those who would be affected and permitting open, full communication and agreement before any implementation (again, the proposal was not implemented in fact).

Such a process did not occur, and Newman’s and the Mount’s board statements bemoaning the disclosure and attacking those who revealed the information is disappointing yet revealing. Especially, since the teachings of Jesus and of His Church are totally ignored by Newman at an institution that should be an example to the People!

Upon reading this article, I was surprised that I was seeing Newman propose a form of rank and yank. Dick Grote uses similar justification to defend the firing of those placed into a low ranking as a result of a secret managerial meeting. [Author’s note: Grote’s daring to place himself in the position of God (second paragraph, first sentence), is jarring, the statement written is an incorrect, biased value statement, and is unacceptable.]

Forced ranking is a subject that makes many top managers cringe. “I believe that the reason for the great reluctance about talking about forced ranking,” says Dick Grote, founder and head of Grote Consulting Corporation in Addison, Texas, “is that in our culture we have a bone-deep belief in egalitarianism. That all people are essentially the same. And one of the great advantages of forced ranking is that it requires reluctant managers to actually identify the most and the least talented members of the work group.”

That’s a necessity because “all God’s children are not the same,” Grote adds. “And that is treated as management’s dirty little secret.” Grote is one of the country’s foremost advocates of the rating system and has helped implement it at half a dozen or so large companies, which he is contractually forbidden to name. “The benefits of forced rating, intelligently and ethically conducted, are numerous,” he wrote recently in an article published by the Conference Board. “More than any other process, the system creates and sustains a high-performance, high-talent culture.” “

As covered in many blog posts, the expectation of perfection is not applicable to the management playing games with employee livelihoods. It is with the same dismay, disappointment, and disgust that I have for Grote’s inhumane program that I viewed Newman’s statements. It is stunning the similarity of their proposals, but the application of this rank-and-yank process in a Church-inspired institution that must value human life is galling and must be called out and rejected completely.

[Author’s note: Newman provided a response to the Washington Post, but he did not address his statements as discussed in the Mount’s student newspaper or the Post, so I do not consider them responsive. All proposals at the Mount must be in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church. Newman does not begin to satisfy this reality. (Consider, carefully,  Matthew 23: 1-36.)]

In closing, please reflect on this Gospel passage.

Matthew 23: 1-12.

1a Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples,

2* saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.

3Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.

4b They tie up heavy burdens* [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.

5* c All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.

6* d They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,

7greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’

8* As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.

9Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.

10Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.

11e The greatest among you must be your servant.

12f Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

 

 

 

 

 

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