Culture Wars in Universities

Colleges and universities are in the news (It’s commencement time, I suppose). And some of the news is about commencement. A furor over Georgetown’s invitation to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sibelius to speak. More here.

St. Francis University of Steubenville has announced it will no longer offer health insurance to its students, ostensibly because of the contraception provision in the ACA. But it turns out that the decision is largely financial, and they will continue to offer insurance to their employees.

At Shorter University in Georgia, a furor over the requirement of staff and faculty to sign a statement of moral behavior–. Inside Higher Ed’s coverage of the story; a story from Huffington Post on a librarian who has refused to sign, and the website that is spearheading opposition. Shorter is one of many institutions caught in the middle of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s and 1990s.

And, on a very different note–at another Christian college, the Biola Queer Underground.

And finally, my friend and mentor John O’Malley asks whether medieval universities were Catholic:

Were medieval universities Catholic universities? It is a question easier to ask than to answer. One thing, however, is certain: the contemporary grid for an “authentically Catholic” university does not neatly fit the medieval reality. There are even grounds for asserting that in their core values medieval universities more closely resemble the contemporary secular university than they do today’s Catholic model. If we are looking for historical precedents for that model, we do not find it clearly in the Middle Ages.

I still remember him saying in class some 25 years ago that the university was the one institution in the West that had never been reformed; it still functions in many ways today as it did in the Middle Ages. Shorter and St. Francis are both evidence that some modern universities are more benighted than medieval ones.