add_theme_support( 'post-thumbnails' );Opinion: What's the Deal with Father Leahy? - BANG.

Opinion: What's the Deal with Father Leahy?

Let me start by saying that I have never once seen Father Leahy in person. I didn’t know what he looked like until last year, when I saw a photo of him that a friend had hung up in her dorm room. Part of this is my own fault. I’ve never been to a Mass of the Holy Spirit, which I understand he presides over, and I skipped Freshman Convocation (although the friends I have who did go can’t remember if he even spoke). It’s not like this bothered me particularly—that is, until I started hearing more and more often that my experience is not unique.

In light of mounting student discontent and agitation—both on our campus and nationally—the relationship we have with our president is especially important. We appeal to him with our grievances, our desires for reform, and he decides our fate. Given his supreme power over the lives of 14,100 students, shouldn’t it make sense for Father Leahy to have a more active role in our everyday lives?

His Boston College is not our Boston College, but it should be.

And that’s the question at hand. I don’t want to get into specific contentions, because I think at the root of individual issues with Father Leahy is this sense of aloofness. We don’t feel connected to him, so it’s unfathomable that he feels connected to us. Without that personal connection, it’s likely that any determination he makes which disrupts or changes our lives is going to feel unjustified.

I agree with the complaints about him—I do think he’s out of touch with the reality of Boston College students and doesn’t fully understand the range and complexity of issues we deal with on a daily basis.

Boston College is a corporation, and its President is primarily responsible for managing it as such. He is elected by the Board of Trustees, whose focal concern is the financial wellbeing of the University. The Bylaws of the Trustees of Boston College specify that the President of the University “shall have the general direction, management and control of the educational activities, business operations and other affairs of the University,” which entails the power to “sign and execute all authorized contracts, instruments of conveyance in interests in real and personal property, bonds, mortgages, notes or other securities in the name of the University." The Statutes of the University dictate that the “President shall be the chief executive and administrative officer of the University, subject to the direction of the Trustees of Boston College.” I’m driving at two points here: first, that his main responsibility is treating BC like a business; second, that his decisions are by proxy decisions of the Board of Trustees (whose main responsibility is treating BC like a business).

With that in mind, what can we really expect of Father Leahy? After all, Boston College is a business, and a lucrative one at that. Right?

David von Drehle of TIME writes, "colleges and universities are catalysts of economic development, stewards of public health, incubators of social policy and laboratories of discovery…classrooms and labs are today what mines and factories were a century ago: America’s regional economic powerhouses, one of the few certain engines of growth in good and bad economic times. As a result of these challenges and opportunities, college presidents are on the line as never before—and must be accessible and accountable to the public in a way that rivals or even surpasses what is required of public officials.

He has a point. Institutions of higher education are starting to resemble industries. As CEO, it’s Father Leahy’s job to keep Boston College solvent and thriving, and a big part of that is manufacturing top-of-the-line students.

If Boston College were just a business, and its students were just young adults preparing for careers, then maybe it would be unfair of us to expect more of Father Leahy. But the reality is, Boston College is more than a corporation. It’s a university, a place where we’re supposed to challenge ourselves and our assumptions. It’s a community, a place to cultivate interests and passions. It’s a home, a place to foster a sense of family. And we are more than our marketability; the foundation of our Jesuit education is the holistic development of the entire person. We’re taught to strive for academic excellence, serve others, and engage the world critically and thoughtfully. We’re supposed to change things, set the world aflame.

A school is not made for employers, parents, professors, or administrators. A school is made for students. And as such, I think it’s fair to expect our President to reflect that. But that is impossible if a President isn’t in touch with his students. And through conversation with my friends, classmates, and peers, it is evident that he is very much out of touch. The few people I know who have ever seen him can count their sightings on one hand. Most admit that even if he were to walk by, they would not recognize him.

There’s a broader point to be made in that: our cracks about never seeing Father Leahy are indicative of a greater discontent, and his absence is indicative of his own detachment from our world.

His Boston College is not our Boston College, but it should be.

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