On Feb. 27, Seton Hall’s Board of Trustees decided to amend the University bylaws in order to expand the search for Seton Hall’s next president beyond members of the clergy to include Roman Catholic lay-persons.
This decision is contrary to a former statement released by the Board of Trustees in April 2017 stating that the president of Seton Hall will in fact, “always be a Roman Catholic priest.”
In an email sent to the University community, Patrick Murray, chair of the Board of Regents, stated that by expanding the candidate pool, the board is hoping to have access to an even wider and qualified array of applicants for the position.
When contacted by The Setonian, Murray did not respond.
Zachary Shaw, a sophomore communications major, said that he thinks this was a good decision.
“I personally think this is a great idea,” he said. “By permitting the search field to be wider, I think the University has more flexibility in selecting a president who may not have been permissible under the previous by-laws.”
Benjamin Jaros, a sophomore economics major, disagrees.
“With about 37,000 diocesan priests in the nation, to maintain that among them not a single candidate met the qualifications seems to be disingenuous,” he said. “The move exposes the selection process for what it actually was: a charade. The announcement seems to demonstrate that the selection committee was not seriously looking for a priest as the candidate in the first place.”
Jaros said that he thinks this decision is a direct insult to the Seton Hall priest community.
“To act as if no one among them is qualified…should be regarded as tacit opposition to mother church and the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
Dr. Mary Meehan, who has been serving as Seton Hall’s interim president since February 2017, agreed with the Board of Trustees’ decision.
“I believe this was the correct decision and one I know was not taken lightly by the Board,” Meehan wrote in an email. “There are only about two dozen Catholic colleges in the United States with a priest president due to the shortage of priests.”
Meehan went on to say that she has faith that the Seton Hall community is just as dedicated to finding a new president as the Board of Trustees.
“I am sure the Seton Hall community shares the commitment to identifying a strong pool of qualified candidates to serve as president,” Meehan said. “The complexity of the climate for higher education in our country has created significant challenges for universities and Seton hall needs and deserves an accomplished leader.”
Meehan concluded by saying that although she is ready to serve in whatever role she is asked to in the future, she has not applied for the permanent position as president of Seton Hall.
Isabel Soisson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.