UST Class Action

Ominous Bylaw Changes

Historically, the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis has, upon becoming Archbishop, automatically become Chairman of the University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees. He has had the authority to appoint the president of the University of St. Thomas. For example, Archbishop Roach appointed Fr. Dease President of the University of St. Thomas. Upon Archbishop Roach retiring, Archbishop Flynn became Chairman of the Board.

In October of 2007, this changed. The Board of Trustees changed the Bylaws so that they had the power to appoint both the Chairman of the Board, and the president of the university. They then proceeded to appoint Abp. Emeritus Flynn Chairman for a five year period, and Fr. Dease President for another five years.

Fr. Dease supported this change, saying the "archbishop doesn’t have enough time." But from news reports, there is no indication that Fr. Dease asked Archbishop Nienstedt if he had enough time. Fr. Dease further justified this change, saying the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities recommended it. There is a problem here: This is secular, out-of-state organization that has no competence or authority in this matter whatsoever.

The Catholic Church possesses both the competence and authority. One governing document is On Catholic Universities, also called Ex Corde Ecclesiae, by Pope John Paul II. In it he writes, "Every Catholic University… is to be in close communion… with the diocesan Bishops of the region… in which it is located. Each Bishop has a responsibility … and duty to watch over the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic character…. If problems arise, the Bishop is to take the initiatives necessary to resolve the matter..."

What mechanism is in place to assure the Catholic identity of St. Thomas after Fr. Dease is no longer the president and Abp. Emeritus Flynn is no longer the chairman?" From what has been revealed, there is no mechanism. The fact that a few members of the board are Catholic is not sufficient security. In contrast, the bylaws of Seton Hall University say that "any appointed member of the Board of Trustees may be removed (by the archbishop) with or without cause…. The Chair of the Board of Trustees shall always be the Most Reverend Archbishop of Newark…" After the bylaw changes, which school, St. Thomas or Seton Hall, is more likely to retain its Catholic purpose?

The Bylaw changes upset the checks and balances of the board by concentrating too much power in the hands of the trustees. They open the way for the increasing secularization of St. Thomas. They weaken the ability of the present Archbishop and all future archbishops to assure the Catholicity of the school. This is not respectful of the men of faith who built the college, donors long dead, alumni, students, and Catholic parents who expect a quality education that respects their faith. We urge the Board of Trustees to reinstate the old bylaws to help assure the Catholic identity of St. Thomas.