The Ave Maria Chronicles: Lawyers, Pizza, and Money
The saga of Ave Maria College/University/Pizzaria is starting to take on a life of its own. We have reports from several fronts:
• At the Bettnet Forum, another guy named "Tom" gives a summary of the crisis, which outlines a number of proposals, including moving the college in Michigan to the university in Florida (which even now are two separate legal entities), and/or renaming the Michigan location as "Newman College." Unfortunately, there are also reports that the Michigan school's accreditation status is at risk, endangering the investment of students and parents alike, and calling into question the committment made by faculty, many of whom are unwilling to relocate to Florida.
• A recent piece in the Detroit Free Press underscores concerns over the uncertain future of AMC among students and staff.
• In a stunning editorial, Michael Rose of Cruxnews asks "Is Tom Monaghan dismantling another Catholic College?" Rose gives an account of Monaghan's previous experience with controlling the outcome of educational institutions for which he is the major benefactor.
• Jesuit Father Joseph Fessio, chancellor of AMU, gives his own account of recent events, including attempts to ensure continuity in the transfer of the institution, and a defense of the chapel design heretofore criticized by Rose elsewhere in Cruxnews.
• Rose responds to Fessio.
• "Vincent," a student at the Michigan campus, offers a scathing evaluation of the Ave Maria leadership in the comments section of Sed Contra, dated April 21. Some of it is very serious, and demands some kind of proof.
But wait, there's more...
• Conor Dugan of TriCoastal Commision produces an anonymous memo from a source reported to be close to the Ave Maria: "Some of those he has persuaded to join him, particularly the faculty and staff of AMC Michigan have made great sacrifices to help Monaghan achieve his vision. But many of them believe that some serious mistakes are being made in pursuit of that vision, ones that may, indeed, jeopardize the project itself...
• Parents of Ave Maria students have started their own website, in an attempt to make their voices heard, and appeal to the powers that be. It could get ugly, according to one canon lawyer: "If my son is not allowed to graduate from Ave Maria College, with a degree from Ave Maria College, based on courses taken at a functional Ave Maria College, we will sue. Period."
The drama unfolding is not untypical of the sort of political shenanigans that arises within the halls of academia. A quick read of a periodic journal produced by any institution of higher learning, is complete with photos and accounts of old geezers with lots of money and titles, with very little space devoted to the students that attend there. As anyone who spends four years in college will tell you, the food chain on campus is like this: academic research first, athletic programs second, and student welfare dead last!
Be that as it may, stories of high-handedness on the part of the Ave Maria leadership are not new, and have been related to yours truly in the past. There is one account of an otherwise exemplary student, who was expelled from AMC for being found carrying a six-pack of beer to her OFF-CAMPUS residence, after having been followed by school authories. While possession of alcohol by a minor is against state law, the beer was going to be shared with a real live adult also living at the residence, and the incident occured off-campus (yeah, we said that already, didn't we?), and was thus outside of the school's jurisdiction.
There is also concern that a listing of those appointed to teach economics at the Florida campus, reads like a who's-who of neo-conservative laissez-faire capitalism, the kind criticized by even the Holy Father himself. Chesterton and Belloc certainly won't be required reading in that curriculum.
Should this trend continue, millions will be invested in yet another attempt to equate Catholic orthodoxy with the ability to talk a good game, and the money to have one's way about it. In the face of "the best laid plans of mice and men," it is best to remember the warning given by Christ Himself concerning Solomon's temple: "Not one stone will be left upon another."