My Blog List

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Just Deserts

Manhattan College, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, like so many Catholic colleges and universities these days, is embarrassed by its Catholic past and does its best to eschew it. Employees are not required to be remotely religious or even believe in God. Little instruction in Catholicism is required of students, who may spend their entire tenure at the college without ever setting foot into the chapel. The faculty, formerly staffed by the Christian Brothers, was long ago laicized and the college website makes only slight and passing reference to the institution's Catholic heritage (an on-campus shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes is quaintly referred to as a "religious symbol") and stresses the college's "independence." To put it pithily, Manhattan College "used to be Catholic" (to quote the Preppy Handbook on Georgetown University).

Unfortunately for Manhattan College, however, its proud secularization may now cost it dearly. Adjunct professors, the navvies of academe, have waged a long and bitter campaign to be permitted union elections, an effort strongly resisted by the college administration, which insists the college is a religious institution within the Holy Catholic Church and is thus exempt, unlike its non-religious counterparts, from allowing union elections; indeed, the administration has used a slew of legal tactics to forestall them. Last week the National Labor Relations Board ruled against the college administration and ordered the elections to take place, virtually guaranteeing in the future the administration will have to engage in collective bargaining with the odious American Federation of Teachers, which represents the adjuncts.

I should state I have little sympathy for adjunct professors. They are, almost to a number, hard-core lefty graduate students and if their working conditions are miserable (low pay, no benefits and no respect) that is only a function of free markets, which have determined there is either little demand for instructors of feminist post-structural analyses of "The Flintstones" or there are simply too damned many of them; take your pick. As Governor Christie of New Jersey explained recently to an angry public school teacher: "You don't have to do it."

That said, however, I have even less sympathy for Catholic college administrators who, while loudly proclaiming their institutions' autonomy from Holy Church, her teachings and influence (in order to establish bona-fides with left-wing faculties, including the adjuncts), scurry behind the First Amendment for protection when their immensely profitable workhorses demand a greater piece of the action. The NLRB saw right through this ruse and in its decision states so clearly.
[T]he evidence establishes that the purpose of the College is secular and not the "propagation of a religious faith." Id. In the College's own words, "the mission of the College within the Church is strikingly different from that of parochial schools and Catholic high schools where indoctrination in the faith and insistence on religious observance is seen as part of their mission." Unlike parochial schools, the College asserts that its has "no intention" of imposing "Church affiliation and religious observance as a condition for hiring or admission, to set quotas based on religious affiliation, to require loyalty oaths, attendance at religious services, or courses in Catholic theology."
The NLRB also takes issue with a "religious" institution that has virtually no religious on its staff.
In the Sponsorship Covenant, while the College affirms its commitment to a continued relationship with the Christian Brothers, this affirmation is tempered by the statement that the College also "affirms its commitment to academic freedom and responsibility, and to institutional autonomy." Not only is there no evidence in the record that the Church or the Christian Brothers wield any control over the College, but the College's public statements assert the lack of such control. The Trustees Report, distributed to all prospective hires, states that forty years ago "the Board of Trustees eliminated any structures of control by authorities of the Church or the Institute [of the Christian Brothers]." Such facts stand in stark contrast to the power of religious orders wielded over educational institutions where the Board has declined to exercise jurisdiction. See, e.g., St. Joseph's College, supra at p. 68 (bishop authorized to fire faculty whose conduct was deemed unharmonious with Church).
I believe this decision could have major ramifications, well beyond labor relations, for those numerous Catholic colleges and universities that long ago forsook their missions in the name of secular humanism and multi-culturalism; and while the trustees of Manhattan College have vowed to appeal the decision, which could likely end up in the Supreme Court, I am sure administrators at Notre Dame, Georgetown, Boston College et al. are already regarding this turn of events with great alarm. They should be.

Thanks to the Riverdale Review.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Used to live on Waldo Avenue, overlooking the Jaspers. Damned shame a once-proud Catholic institution that helped thousands of poor Catholics out of poverty has degenerated into this puddle of pollution. So glad the courts called them on their Catholic pantomime.