Editorial: We should welcome a non-Jesuit president


Photo credit: Hayley Hynes

A few months ago, Father Wildes told the Loyola community that after 13 years as president, he was leaving Loyola.

Later that day, chairman of the Board of Trustees Paul Pastorek sent out an email. It said the search for a new president had begun.

And come June, that search will end when a new man steps into the shoes left by Father Wildes.

Or…maybe not.

That’s because the university board has opened up the search process to non-Jesuits, a first in our university’s 105 year history.

What that means is that no longer will our university have to limit the presidential search to Jesuit priests. So now any man – or woman – that meets the committee’s qualifications is eligible to become university president.

It’s about time.

Why is it that only a Jesuit priest can be trusted to run the university? Sure, Jesuit values are the basis of our university mission, but the job is much bigger than that. A president must be well-rounded in terms of academics, relations with the business community and donors, and engagement with student needs.

Can a Jesuit priest do this? Sure. But so can someone outside the Society of Jesus.

Getting the most qualified person for the job is most important. Not getting the most qualified priest. Leave that up to mission and ministry.

That’s not to say Loyola’s just going to let some Nietzschean take command and declare “God is dead” on campus, though. Far from it.

Interim Provost David Borofsky, who is in charge of the presidential search, said that the search committee seeks “a person of faith” to lead the university forward. So, rest assured, faith on campus will continue to be a priority, even without a Jesuit in charge.

Also, it’s not like Loyola is doing this move on their own.

The change to allow for non-Jesuit presidents has been a trend among universities of that creed in the United States for the last several years. Of the 30 Jesuit universities in this country, 14 are now headed by non-Jesuit presidents, and three – Le Moyne College, Wheeling Jesuit University and Loyola University Chicago – are led by women.

It was due time for Loyola to join in taking that necessary step forward. So if the university picks a non-Jesuit, we would find ourselves in the middle of the pack in terms of schools making this change.

Or maybe that won’t happen. Maybe we’ll get another Jesuit priest. And if we do, that’s fine, as long as whoever is chosen is qualified to serve in such a position.

The point is that no longer is a Jesuit priest as president inevitable, and rightly so. This is a big job, and we need the right candidate. No matter where that person comes from or what that person may wear on his or her collar, he or she needs to be ready to take on a big job.

So now, with the race on, may the best man, or woman, or Jesuit or non-Jesuit win.