Independence and a New Partnership in Catholic Higher Education

Gallin, Alice. Independence and a New Partnership in Catholic Higher Education. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1996.

Independence and a New Partnership in Catholic Higher Education, by Alice Gallin, O.S.U., continues the history of Catholic universities and colleges begun by Philip Gleason in his Contending With Modernity, picking up the story where Gleason concluded, in the 1960s. It was in that decade that a series of decisions were made that would dramatically transform most of the three hundred Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S., removing them from the control of the religious congregations that had founded them and placing them under the supervision of lay trustees. The laicization of these institutions, controversial at the time, continues as a matter of debate within the Catholic community, some seeing it as an intrinsically secularizing step, others arguing that it was a critical moment in the modernization of these schools, crucial to improving their reputations and even their survival in some cases. Gallin goes beyond the public debates over this transition, combing more than a dozen archives for the speeches, private correspondence, and minutes of meetings that reveal the specific institutional environments that provided the local contexts for these decisions. Gallin has selected seven schools for an in-depth examination of the personalities and processes involved in the move to lay control: the University of Notre Dame, the College of New Rochelle, Saint Michael's College, the University of Portland, Fordham University, Mundelein College, and Saint Louis University. As Gallin explains, separating a college or university from its founding congregation was a historic, conflicted, and sometimes emotionally painful process. The Catholic college was a place of service to the wider community, being a place where many of those called to the religious life exercised their vocations. Not only was one of its purposes to spiritually form young people and protect their faith, it was also a source of new recruits for the congregation. Altering the governance of these institutions might have broad ramifications indeed. For many members of religious communities teaching at these institutions, independent governance seemed to transform their vocations into mere jobs. But a number of equally compelling forces were pushing these schools in the direction of laicization. Presidents already had learned how useful lay experts in financial matters, for example, were to the functioning of the institution. The new emphasis placed on the laity by Vatican II seemed to justify a more active and responsible role for lay administrators. Several outside commissions on higher education recommended professionalizing boards of trustees. Eligibility for federal and state funding was a consideration at many schools. Gallin explores in detail each of these issues, describes the manner in which they were perceived at the time, and includes a useful chapter on the many legal concerns attending this transformation.