Saturday, April 12, 2008

Archbishop Tutu Visits Twin Cities

Ithaca College Names St. Thomas Administrator as New President

By an odd coincidence, Desmond Tutu was in the Twin Cities this week as the announcement was made from the University of St. Thomas that Thomas Rochon was leaving to become the new president of Ithaca College.

Another interviewed candidate for the job was the president of the College of St. Benedict, another fine institution, also here in Minnesota.

From the Pioneer Press:

Tutu's visit was not without controversy.

The University of St. Thomas, which had played host to the PeaceJam conference for four consecutive years, declined to invite Tutu to campus last year after he criticized the Israeli government for its treatment of the Palestinians.

The university was widely rebuked for the decision, even by many among its faculty. The school previously had hosted controversial commentators, including conservative Ann Coulter.

In the face of public pressure, St. Thomas officials did an about-face and invited Tutu to speak this weekend. He declined.

From the Ithacan (online):

Rochon’s five-year tenure at St. Paul, an 11,000-student Catholic university, has not been without controversy. In 2006, the University came under fire from students and faculty for a policy that restricted same sex and unmarried couples from staying in the same room while traveling on school-sponsored trips.

Rochon said the controversy must be looked at within the context of St. Thomas being a Catholic university. He said because Ithaca is a secular school, the issue would never arise.

“All universities are about the open discussion, dialogue, search for truth and understanding,” Rochon said, “But in a Catholic university ... some matters are considered to be settled by virtue of Catholic teachings.”

Last year, the university had an opportunity to invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu to speak on campus. After some members of the community said Tutu was anti-Semitic, St. Thomas president Father Dennis Dease decided to not invite him.

As a result of the administration’s decision, Cris Toffolo, a professor and, at the time, chair of the Justice and Peace Studies program, sent Tutu a letter informing him of the administration’s decision. She also indicated her disagreement with the decision.

Rochon said Toffolo was subsequently removed from her position as chair of the program. He said it was not for disagreeing with Dease.

“It was for behaviors I regarded as unprofessional and unethical,” Rochon said. He said Toffolo could have filed a grievance but would not comment further because of legal obligations.

Carl Mickman, president of the St. Thomas undergraduate student government, said that when asked about the incident, Rochon and Dease were not receptive to concerns.

“Complete silence,” he said. “They were really just not willing to discuss a lot of these things with students.”

Dease apologized to Tutu and officially invited him. Tutu had already committed to another speaking engagement and said he wouldn’t visit unless Toffolo was reinstated.

Rochon said it would be “enormously freeing” to work at a secular institution.

“At St. Thomas sometimes these controversies have been a distraction,” he said. “… There are far more important issues to talk about.”

Mr. Bonzo proposes that President Rochon invite Tutu to his inauguration at Ithaca College. Maybe he could work something out with the other educational institution in Ithaca?

For those with good memories, yes, Rochon has made an earlier appearance on the Periodic Table:

Needle Stick! The Latex Gloves Come Off...
Apparently Some Duplications are OK
(Children's Hospitals)
But Not Others (Medical Schools)

This post had to do with the scare St. Thomas threw into BigU when it announced that the possibility of a new medical school was being considered. Rochon spearheaded (or shepherded - two of the more obnoxious adminspeak words) this effort. There have been some positive effects from this even though St. Thomas backed off when they realized that it is a lot more expensive to start a medical school than, say, a law school.

Although the U at first claimed there was no physician shortage and that all this expansion business was just osteopath talk, all of a sudden enrollment has been increased at BigU's med school.

Sometimes a little competition, or even the threat of it, is good?

Off to the lab - Bonzo

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