Jacology: Father Biondi

(KPLR) – In Tuesday’s Jacology, Charles Jaco looks back at SLU’s history and Wednesday’s meeting that could change the school’s future.  Jesuits have historically been an ornery bunch. Back when the Vatican was preaching that the sun revolved around the earth.  The Jesuits figured that Galileo might be onto something with that whole heliocentric thing. That didn’t go down too well with the pope. But the Jesuits were right.

Which brings us to your friendly neighborhood Jesuit university, St. Louis University. SLU’s never been quite able to crack their athletic or the academic big time. The forward pass may have been invested at SLU; but athletically, the place was never a match for say, Notre Dame or Boston College.

In academics, SLU was never in the very top ranks of some catholic schools, Georgetown, for example. But when Father Lawrence Biondi arrived in 1989, things changed. Biondi runs the university like a CEO.

Think Donald Trump with a collar. Top down management, my way or the highway, that sort of thing over a quarter of a century.  That style turned SLU into a major real estate developer and that development saved midtown, thanks to Biondi.

But a university isn’t a corporation. The learning process with students and professors is more like they say, collegial.  But not at SLU; so after years, both the faculty senate and student government have voted no confidence in Biondi.

They say he interferes in academics, hires and fires administrators at will and has tried to eliminate tenure for professors.

So Wednesday’s SLU’s faculty senate holds an emergency meeting to which all of SLU’s normally secretive trustees are invited. It’s the trustees who’ll decide if Biondi stays or goes. The faculty and students claim Biondi runs the place through fear and has caused SLU’s academic standing to drop. We’ll see if the trustees agree.

I’m Charles Jaco and that’s Jacology.

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