Posted by: bridget | 13 November 2006

Academics & Catholicism

The Boston Globe reports that Catholic colleges are trying to find more innovative ways to integrate religion onto their campuses. Far be it for the atheist to criticise, but these colleges don’t seem to really want to be Catholic schools with a high academic caliber; they strive to be, first, excellent universities (or sports schools, a la BC) and second, to be Catholic schools. The universities, in the name of “academic freedom,” are squeamish about restricting student activities, speakers, and productions. BC’s application makes no mention of religion. The administrations do not act as if there is an overarching vision for the school as a Jesuit institution.

The pachyderm cannot help but think of Justice Scalia’s comments in Gratz/Grutter: that Michigan could have either a diverse student body or a highly talented student body, but it has made its choice. Imposing a religious entrance requirement would diminish the applicant pool and may have an adverse effect on alumni support, but, without such a requirement, the students will hardly be different from those at any other university. It is ridciulous to then lament the decline in religious belief among students. Want religious students? Select for them instead of hoping that the academic élite who apply will also happen to be brought up in a strong Catholic tradition.

There is nothing stopping BC or Notre Dame from taking a page out of Liberty’s application strategy and explicitly making religion a component of the application. (Note that, among others, Grove City College and Yeshiva also make religion prominent in their applications.) There is also nothing stopping any private university from setting limits on its extracurricular activities or from infusing the entire collegiate experience with religious values (W&L explicitly requires that all applicants, upon matriculation, will abide by the Honour System). The administrators may then find that its students are welcoming of a campus with a strong Jesuit tradition and without the Vagina Monologues.

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