Obama at Notre Dame: Golden Dome Bosses Serve a Cold Dish of Revenge

by Jack Fowler

Notre Dame philosophy professor David Solomon posted a devastating analysis on his “Ethics and Culture in the News” blog on a troubling campus development: the sacking of long-time ND staffer Bill Kirk, the only man from the university administration who joined an on-campus pro-life “NDResponse” rally last year (also attended by South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy) protesting the selection of Barack Obama as the commencement speaker.

Kirk and his wife Elizabeth are prominent campus abortion foes (she was assistant director of one of the few institutes on campus that is avowedly pro-life and orthodox). Now their voices have been silenced, and by the same people who gnash their teeth and pluck their beards about living wages, unionization, fair treatment of employees, and the rest of the Catholic Left’s lobbying agenda. One can hear the college brass channeling Henry II: Will no one rid us of this troublesome pro-life Associate Vice-President for Residence Life?

Here is just a piece of Prof. Solomon’s take, which adds more tarnish to the Golden Dome:

As official faculty advisor to the Right to Life Club, Elizabeth served as primary advisor to the student coalition formed in the spring of 2009 as “NDResponse” and served as a conduit for many, including junior, untenured faculty members, who were unwilling to get involved directly for fear of reprisal. Without compromising his administrative duties, Bill stood with the students of NDResponse at their rally on the South Quad on Commencement day. He was the only senior administrator at Notre Dame willing to do so. With the firing of Bill Kirk, Notre Dame will almost certainly also be deprived of Elizabeth’s talents. 

At the time Bill took part in the NDResponse rally, many people commented on the courage it took for him to stand with his wife and other witnesses to this protest of Notre Dame’s decision to award President Obama an honorary degree. I personally discounted these worries, believing that the Notre Dame administration would admire him for his principled stand on a matter so close to the Catholic heart of Notre Dame, even if they disagreed with his particular action. The administration welcomed President Obama’s sharp dissent from and attack on central Catholic teaching on life. It seemed only reasonable that they would equally welcome dissent from university policy by such a loyal Catholic and member of the Notre Dame family as Bill Kirk—especially when his dissent was made in the name of the Catholic principles at Notre Dame’s heart and in the company of his bishop.

Perhaps, alas, there was reason for Bill Kirk to be worried about his participation in NDResponse after all. There is no doubt that the treatment of Bill Kirk this summer will have a chilling effect on the participation of other administrators, unprotected by the safety net of tenure, in the great debates about public policy and moral principle into which Notre Dame will be inevitably drawn. A number of other administrators have told me that in light of Bill Kirk’s treatment, they will in the future keep their heads down rather than dissent from the policies of the central administration. It will be tragic if these pressures toward uniformity become a permanent feature of Notre Dame life. Universities are no place for yes-men.

By the way, Kirk also had the temerity of requiring the school’s pampered athletes to live by the same rules of conduct expected of all students. So there will surely be some joy over his ouster this coming weekend at the alumni tailgate.

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