Campus Notebook: Walk-out; STEM push; honorary degree record

  • University of Notre Dame students form a line to protest President Donald Trump's policies. (Saskia Hennecke)
  • Jesuit Fr. James Martin is pictured in a file photo. (Religion News Service)

Notre Dame, Indiana – Graduating University of Notre Dame students plan on walking out of their commencement ceremony May 21 to protest Vice President Mike Pence's receiving an honorary degree. Pence, a former governor of Indiana, also is to deliver the commencement address. The walkout is expected to begin as soon as Pence comes out to speak on stage.

"The participation and degree-conferring of VP Pence stand as an endorsement of policies and actions which directly contradict Catholic social teachings and values and target vulnerable members of the University's community," Notre Dame undergraduate student Xitlaly Estrada said in a press release by We StaND For, a coalition of students from Notre Dame, St. Mary's College and Holy Cross College who are dedicated to addressing social justice issues.

We StaND For says on its Facebook events page that school officials and campus security are aware of the planned walkout and won't try to stop them from leaving Notre Dame Stadium, where commencement will be held.

In addition to the staged walkout, LGBT rights organization South Bend Equality, along with several other local social justice-oriented organizations, will host a public protest against Pence just south of Notre Dame's campus during commencement.

While governor of Indiana, Pence enacted the state's Religious Freedom Reformation Act into law in 2015. Critics said the law leaves room for discriminating against LGBT people. Pence also stirred controversy as governor when he attempted to prevent resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana. The Indianapolis Archdiocese brought a Syrian refugee family into the state anyway, clashing with the former governor. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, was the archbishop of Indianapolis at the time.

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Milwaukee – Marquette University's College of Education and Opus College of Engineering has received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop an accelerated master's program that will "attract and retain" teachers in science, technology, engineering and math fields, known colloquially as STEM fields.

The 14-month program, called the Graduate Noyce Scholars Program, will start in 2018, but the university is already accepting applications. According to a press release, the program will cater towards people with STEM-related bachelor's degrees who are not currently teaching.

The grant will support each accepted student with $23,400 in financial aid. Marquette will initially accept seven applicants with the goal of graduating 28 students with teaching degrees and licenses over the course of five years. Graduates will work in urban middle and high schools.

The press release also says curricula will include incorporating literacy in math and science classes, pedagogy, legal issues, leadership and educational policy.

Washington – Jesuit Fr. James Martin will receive his 12th and 13th honorary degrees from Loyola University Maryland and University of Scranton during their commencement ceremonies May 20 and May 28, respectively. He will also be the keynote speaker at both ceremonies. With these degrees, he will tie the record held by the late NBC newsman Tim Russert for receiving the most honorary degrees from U.S. Jesuit colleges. There are 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States.

Martin is currently editor-at-large of Jesuit magazine America. Pope Francis appointed him as a consultant to the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications in April.

Philadelphia – Chestnut Hill College has filed an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in response to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, which denied an appeal seeking clarification on whether or not the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission had a right to hear a case regarding the expulsion of an African-American student from the college. Commonwealth Court concluded in a decision that the Sisters of St. Joseph-sponsored college "did not identify any religious doctrine so as to trigger entanglement."

The case stems from a complaint filed with the commission by a former student, Allan-Michael Meads, who says his expulsion from the college in 2012 was excessive punishment and "because of his race." In a 2015 ruling, the commission found there was "probable cause" of racial bias in Meads' complaint, but that case has not advanced.

Meads was expelled weeks before he was set to graduate for allegedly misappropriating funds from a Chestnut Hill production of "A Raisin in the Sun" that he directed.

Pennsylvania courts ruled in 1988 that the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act does not apply to Catholic high schools, and Chestnut Hill wanted clarification on whether or not that law applies to Catholic colleges as well.

Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), affirmed the organization's support for Chestnut Hill's appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, according to the college's FAQ page on the case on its website.

"In our view, the decision of the Commonwealth Court points to a core misunderstanding of Catholic educational institutions and their relationship to the Catholic Church, whose identity and mission they share," Chestnut Hill says on its FAQ page. "In its decision, the Court left the door open for the College to revisit its interpretation of the nature of Catholic colleges and universities as distinctly private. We believe that the opinion compels the College to appeal, and we are heartened in this effort to enjoy the support of the ACCU."

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Chik-fil-A restaurant (Flickr/Mark Turnauckas)

New York – After receiving backlash from students, Fordham University has decided to reject food service company Aramark's offer to install a Chick-fil-A fast-food restaurant on campus.

Fordham's student newspaper, The Fordham Observer, reports that student groups were notified of the proposal in March.

Controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A arose in 2012, when then-chief operating officer Dan Cathy made public comments opposing same-sex marriage. The Atlanta-based company was also criticized for donating funds to anti-gay marriage organizations, including Exodus International and the Pennsylvania Family Institute. Cathy is now the president and CEO of Chick-fil-A.

Recently, Duquesne University made headlines when leaders of the school's Lambda Gay Straight Alliance expressed concerns over the opening of a Chick-fil-A Express on campus, claiming it threatens to put students' "safe place" at risk. Donald Trump Jr. mocked those students on Twitter.

Quincy, Illinois – The Springfield, Illinois, diocese will donate $300,000 to Quincy University over the course of five years.

According to a press release, the diocese's donation puts the university at 60 percent of its $7 million financial recovery fundraising campaign goal. The five-year initiative started in November 2016. The university was founded in 1960 by the Franciscan Friars Sacred Heart Province.

Los Angeles – In fall 2013, Loyola Marymount University launched its Master of Arts in yoga studies program. The program is not just about learning the ancient practice's physical aspects of stretching and breathing, but exploring yoga from religious, spiritual and philosophical perspectives.

The curriculum involves three semesters of learning Sanskrit to read ancient Hindu scriptures, including the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. Students use the texts to connect yoga to spirituality and theology.

Certificate programs in yoga are also offered to the public.

[Shireen Korkzan is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is skorkzan@ncronline.org.]​

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