Opinions, Editorials, The Leahy Legacy

BC Needs A Leader To Initiate a New Era—That Shouldn’t Have To Be a Jesuit

The next president of Boston College will decide the tone of the University for years to come. BC needs a capable leader to shepherd it forward while honoring its unique Jesuit spirit.

Following University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J.’s departure from BC in 2026, BC hopes to fill the role with another Jesuit.

“To fulfill our responsibilities as trustees, the Executive Committee believes that we need to do all we can to identify, recruit, and name a qualified Jesuit as BC’s next president, one who will advance the University’s distinctive mission and heritage,” Board of Trustees Chair John Fish stated in a June 7 announcement

The Heights’ prescription for the upcoming presidential search is twofold: broaden the search beyond the Jesuit order and select a candidate who values transparency.

The world of higher education is cutthroat these days. Running a university requires boundless stamina, sharp decision-making, and a near-godly level of foresight. For that reason, it is vital that BC’s new president be chosen from a wide breadth of qualified candidates—restricting that pool to only Jesuits is imprudent.

The Jesuit order is in steep decline. It is short-sighted to narrow the presidential search to a slim pool of candidates to carry on a tradition of Jesuit presidents that—barring an improbable resurgence in the Society of Jesus—is ultimately doomed. The University shouldn’t let its hopes for the next 20 years overshadow its needs for the next 100 years. The conversation should be focused on how BC can eternalize the mission and values of the Jesuit order in spite of Jesuit decline, not whether our next president is ordained.

Further, it is our hope that whoever takes on this role chooses to clearly decipher and consistently apply the Jesuit values our institution brands itself on.

BC is driven by its Jesuit philosophy, but misalignment between religious values and students’ desires for social change has led to widespread dissatisfaction in recent years. The problem spans everything from fossil fuel divestment to LGBTQ+ issues to free speech policies.

The BC community has grown too used to vague, pacifying, and impersonal statements from what can feel like a robotic administration. The very least students can be offered are thoughtful and clear explanations about the decisions being made behind closed doors.

The new president must embody a fresh mindset regarding transparency. Becoming a friendly face on campus, engaging in dialogue with students, and opening up to media availability are key foundations to a healthy University presidency.

The next two years will be equal parts president-searching and soul-searching for BC. Done diligently, this should culminate in finding an individual capable of not only fulfilling the administrative role of a University president, but one who can navigate the nuances of BC and wants to work for the students and faculty first and foremost. 

June 10, 2024

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