Recommendations of the Panel of Educators


Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict find themselves at perhaps the most crucial crossroads in their entire histories. They have each long provided Catholic education for children of Minnesota and have been able to do this through the dedicated contributed services of the Nuns and Fathers. Increasingly, however, both institutions have experienced problems which no other generation has had to face. Both institutions have had to use larger and larger numbers of lay faculty at a time when the cost of lay faculty is escalating rapidly. This has necessitated increases in tuition at the very time when the competition from relatively low cost public institutions is becoming marked. This competition is especially serious in Minnesota where the population is relatively static. Both institutions really need to increase their enrollments and yet are finding this task difficult because of the limited pool from which they recruit students. Thus, both institutions have begun to experience severe financial problems which are not likely to diminish in the future. The early attempts at cooperation between the institutions were really begun in response to an awareness of the financial problems which lay ahead. However, cooperation at the level now conducted has not begun to resolve these financial issues.

Consistent with developments in private higher education across the country, Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict must broaden the base of support from its limited reliance on contributed services and tuition to reach segments of the lay population. Both institutions really need to mount major development campaigns outside of the State of Minnesota. While this development effort must take place, both institutions should be aware that increasingly prospective donors are asking the serious question as to how limited resources for church related education can best be utilized. One cannot only speculate but actually predict that major development programs of two institutions located close together would fail because people would question whether contributions to two institutions, each duplicating efforts of the other, were really justified. In order to mount a development program reliance must be placed on laymen and increasingly laymen out of the corporate or business community will ask the apparent question: Why work for two institutions when one institution would be so much better?

Both institutions have some significant physical facilities and intellectual and artistic resources that are not being fully utilized nor does it appear likely that they will be fully utilized if the institution remain separate. The difficulties of coordination and the lack of any agency powerful enough to enforce coordination makes frustrating under-use of resources almost an inevitability.

Contemporary parents of college students and college students themselves are quite sophisticated in their expectations of a rich collegiate experience. Some of these expectations can be met by complex public institutions but not met by the relatively small private institutions of limited resources. But if several private institutions combine resource’ and eliminate costly duplication of effort, enrichment can clearly follow.

Throughout the country the logic of small private institution merging has become apparent and is being examined thoughtfully. A few institutions have exerted leadership by making the shift from independent to merged institutions but there is still need for other examples which can give several hundred private institutions hope that they can survive and make their traditional contributions through a process of changing form and structure. One of the most exciting possibilities is for Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict actually to merge and to demonstrate to the entire nation that these two institutions faced with enormous problems could generate the creative energy necessary to change their structures in order to remain educationally viable.

The options open to the colleges if they do not merge are clear and not particularly desirable. One option, of course, would be to continue the cooperation at its present level fraught as that is with both major and minor frustrations and producing no real gain. A second option is for each institution to attempt to survive as a completely independent entity. This would clearly mean that first Saint John’s would attempt to become co-ed and Saint Benedict would follow thereby entering into a competitive situation from which neither institution could gain. A third option is to continue to think about ultimate merger. This has the weakness, however, that each institution might commit itself to new facilities, development efforts, faculty recruitment and curricular programs, which would deny the possibilities of ever coming together.

Our panel has thought most seriously about the problems of the two institutions and has reached the unanimous conviction that merger of the two into a new corporate entity is the only plausible solution. Thus, we recommend that the two institutions merge and merge quickly. We believe to delay more than two years would so irreparably damage either or both institutions that ultimate merger or cooperation would no longer be possible. In our longer report we indicate some of the details which must be arranged, but for the moment we simply wish to urge three major steps: (1) that the Boards of the two institutions agree and announce publicly their intent to merge; (2) that the two Boards combine themselves into an ad hoc joint Board of Trustees to make the many decisions necessary as the two institutions move toward merger; and (3) that these combined boards appoint an individual to serve as a coordinator of the development of the merger and that he be given status equal to the presidents of the two institutions. After all both existing institutions must continue to function during the two years while the merger is accomplished hence both existing presidents should continue in office. They have not the time to work through the many details of a merger. That task requires an additional person and someone with sufficient authority to make the many decisions which will arise. We believe the Board decisions and the appointment of the coordinator should take place during the summer of 1968.

Thus for those reasons we recommend that the Order of Saint Benedict and the College of Saint Benedict merge the Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict into a new institution having its own Board of Trustees and called the Benedictine University or some other suitable title reflecting the traditions of the two parent institutions. We further recommend that the names of Saint John’s University and Saint Benedict’s College be preserved by maintaining two separate campuses of this one institution. We reach this recommendation in the belief that in order to achieve economies to scale of operation, to provide enriched educational programs, and to extend educational services beyond the confines of the State of Minnesota the larger combined institution seems desirable.

We recommend that this merger be accomplished in the relatively near future and suggest that the two present Boards of Trustees together with the superiors of the two sponsoring orders announce immediately the intent to merge and to suggest to the faculty, administration, student body, alumni groups, and other interested publics of its intentions together of an indication of a possible time schedule by which the undertaking is to be accomplished.

We believe in order to bring about this blending of the educational efforts of the two institutions that the Board of Trustees of Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict prepare themselves to be an ad hoc board which will supervise the accomplishment of the many details incident to this merger. This combined board should, as its first important order of business, seek to identify and employ an academic officer of high credentials who could be declared the coordinator of the educational programs of the two campuses. We visualize this individual to be either a distinguished emeritus person or an individual of established reputation who might conceivably take a year or two years leave of absence, or else a relatively  young promising individual possessing the characteristics needed to serve as a provost chancellor or college or university president. It would be the duties of this’ coordinator to insure that there was no unnecessary overlaps in curricular developments, that appropriate faculty personnel were appointed, that development and admissions activities of the two institutions were coordinated in effect to establish the groundwork on which a completely merged institution would be erected. We visualize for a number of reasons that the individual serving this role of coordinator should be recruited from outside the two existing institutions. We suggest the distinct possibility that one of the foundations and quite possibly the Hill Foundation because of its interest in these two institutions might provide salary and expense money for this coordinator, during the planning phases.

Although the coordinator will be officially responsible to the combined Board of Trustees of the two institutions, he should be provided an advisory committee consisting certainly of the chief academic officer from each of the two existing institutions, the chief financial officer, and quite probably representatives of the faculty.

We recommend that a new Board of Trustees be created consisting of perhaps twenty-one individuals, five of whom would be designated by the Convent of Saint Benedict, five of whom would be designated by the Monastery of Saint Benedict, ten of whom would be laymen elected by the ten designated members. The twenty-first member of the Board would be the president of the new institution, once appointed. After the first designation of the Board of Trustees, it would be self-perpetuating with respect to the lay members; however, the two sponsoring religious orders would always have the right to designate the five members for each. It seems an important consideration because this entire set of recommendations is based on the assumption that the two orders will continue to express their commitment to education by providing contributed services, financial support, and of course clearly an allocation of existing physical assets. In this regard, a detailed agreement between the two orders and the newly created institution should be prepared. An example of what we have in mind, is the agreement reached between the Saint Louis University and the Jesuit Community. We believe this board should be identified relatively soon after the declaration of intent to merge even before many of the legal questions and financial matters are resolved. It would be this designated board which would solicit from the State of Minnesota the necessary letters of incorporation. We believe selection of a proper Board of Trustees is crucial, quite obviously the two supporting orders would appoint strong individuals as their designates and an effort should be made to find lay board members who are truly willing to work in the interests of this new institution. It is a truism that a high quality board attracts future highly qualified individuals. In view of this, we believe it to be imperative that individuals of the highest prestige and quality be selected for this initial board appointment. We believe that the presidents of the two existing institutions should be given primary responsibility to identify future board members and to make the necessary overtures. Always of course validating their assessments with their own existing board members.

We believe this merger can and should be accomplished within two years and we believe the more expeditiously it is accomplished, the better. We feel that the declaration of intent to merge should be made in the summer of 1968 and that the coordinator be appointed as quickly as a suitable candidate can be found. We believe that steps should be taken to obtain legal advice and financial assistance in working out the highly complex details involving resources of the two colleges and their supporting orders. We believe that even before final incorporation of the new institution, the Board of Trustees designate should institute a search for an appropriate first president.

We recommend that the academic effort of the new institution be conducted by academic departments, the heads of which would be responsible to an academic dean and associate deans and we suggest that the academic dean be given the title academic vice president. It is the intent that these departments would offer a single educational program, parts of which would be scheduled on one campus, parts on the other. However, we are deeply sensitive of the need for each campus to maintain a stance of curricular experimentation, and indeed differ, one campus from the other with respect to what might be called indigenous courses, programs, and curriculum. Particularly do we see value in the Saint Benedict experimentation with Basic Studies sorts of courses and equal value in Saint John’s using other styles of approaches to the curriculum. We visualize the possibility that most male students who take most of their freshmen and sophomore year on the present Saint John’s campus and we visualize most women students taking the bulk of their lower division work on the Saint Benedict’s campus. However, we should not want to exclude the possibility that some girls conceivably would take the bulk of their lower division work on the Saint John’s campus and men might do likewise on the College of Saint Benedict. We particularly wish to guard against the possibility of so specializing the educational efforts of each campus as to type the campus along strictly subject matter lines. We believe there is virtue and uniqueness, but that uniqueness should not relegate all humanistic efforts to the one campus and scientific effort to the other.

We recommend in broad outline an administrative structure something as follows: The president of the institution would be responsible to the new Board of Trustees and we feel that responsible to him should be the director of admissions and the director of development. We believe that also responsible to the president in a line relationship should be the vice-president for academic affairs, the director of student personnel services, and the business manager, comptroller, or vice president finance whichever term seems appropriate. We concentrate our attention on the role of vice-president for academic affairs for we feel that the success or failure of this merger with the related preservation of campus uniqueness will fall largely on his or her shoulders. We believe especially that the vice-president for academic affairs should be sensitive to the needs of each campus to innovate, experiment, and conduct indigenous courses and curriculum. To assist him in this responsibility we suggest that there be created an associate academic dean who among other duties might be given a special responsibility for maintaining a vital and dynamic lower division curriculum on each of the two campuses. We are well aware that innovation does require financial resources which might be described as risk capital and we strongly urge that the office of the associate dean be granted a budget which he can use to stimulate requisite innovation and experimentation.

We believe that all faculty members should be appointed not to the individual campuses, but to the new institution and we suggest that appropriate ways of searching and recruiting be developed. We particularly, however, wish to urge that there be created an institution wide personnel policies committee, representing the points of view of both campuses which would be charged with the responsibility of screening all proposed appointments. We feel such a committee is necessary if the desired uniqueness of the two campuses are to be safe-guarded, for we are quite aware of the forces tending toward rigidity inherent in departmental structures.

We believe that there should be designated for each campus a dean who would be generally responsible for the conditions of student life, of religious life, and for the normal administration necessary for a complex physical plant. We believe that this officer can be influential in pointing out to the associate dean for academic affairs curricular needs and interests peculiar to each campus. These campus deans would be responsible to the vice president for academic affairs. In many respects, each campus dean would serve some of the functions normally assigned to a dean of students. We, however, are seeking to make a distinction between the student life, the religious life, parts of student personnel work, and the student personnel service such as counseling, testing, guidance and possibly health services. These we foresee being centralized under the director of student personnel services.

While we have suggested some possible lines of authority we are aware that other possibilities might be appropriate. For example, we could foresee an arrangement by which the deans of the two campuses would be responsible to the president at least for certain matters. There are strengths and weaknesses to each kind of administrative structure. We are confident that the coordinator when ne is appointed can give direct attention to resolving some of these administrative difficulties.

We believe that most often administrative functions normally found in a college or university should be centralized administratively, although located physically on whichever campus has the appropriate facilities. We could, however, foresee a time in the not too distant future when the new institution would create a new administrative building into which all of these functions would be centralized physically. He particularly, however, wish to stress the essentiality of centralizing admissions, development, financial affairs, and alumni affairs. With respect to this last function, however, we believe that the unique interest and concerns of alumni from both institutions be safeguarded through some appropriate assignment to individuals responsible for each group.

We particularly wish to urge that existing personnel agreements made between each of the two institutions and individual faculty members be respected. No person on permanent tenure should fear loss of position. He further believes that every effort should be made to find appropriate positions within the new institution for those not holding tenure. We believe this point is so essential that the sense of it should be communicated to faculty at the time of the announcement of the intent to merge, We believe that the existing special resources of the two institutions such as the Fine Arts Center on the campus of Saint Benedict and the center for Ecumenical Studies on the Saint John’s campus can be exploited not only for public relations purposes, but to add greatly to the intellectual and aesthetic tone of this new institution. And we suggest that the faculties of the two institutions be inventive to discover ways by which these resources can be effectively utilized. However, we wish to warn against over-ambitious plans for expanding new and specialized programs. We feel that in time the new institution can grow somewhat in enrollment and in financial strength, but we would not like to see scarce resources needed for the central educational purpose deployed on what might be peripheral matters. We particularly call into question in this regard whether the institutions can continue to offer secondary school work. It occurs to us that the secondary school of the Saint Benedict’s campus and the Preparatory School on the Saint John’s campus have been a serious financial drain on each of the institutions and we strongly suggest that when the new institution is created, serious thought be given to discontinuing this kind of activity or if not discontinuing perhaps, consolidating the secondary activity in one physical place or the other.

We have sensed considerable lack of long range comprehensive planning on either campus. We suggest that long range planning be given a high priority and that the coordinator when appointed at least consolidate such planning efforts as are now going on individual campuses. We mention specifically the question of potential development campaigns now being planned and new physical facilities now at the stage of architectural drawings. Unless explicit effort is made to consolidate these planning functions, quite inappropriate but lasting decisions could be reached to the detriment of the new institution.

We are not prepared at this point to suggest the details of a faculty organization. However, we are quite convinced that there should be one so that the curriculum and related matters can be clearly responsive to faculty professional opinions. To this end, we suggest that during the next academic year, some faculty groups be asked to give serious consideration to what sort of a faculty organization should be put into effect when the merger is finally completed. And it would be possible for such an organization to go into operation even before all legal and financial barriers have been overcome. The development of a constitution would appear to be essential.

If the substance of these recommendations is accepted and an announcement is made concerning the merger a coordinator appointed and an advisory committee for the coordinator appointed we assume that the work of the present committee on interinstitutional cooperation would be ended. However, we would counsel that this committee be retained in existence until it is replaced by an advisory committee for the coordinator. For we do foresee a number of details requiring attention even” during the summer of 1968.

We believe that the present auxiliary boards of the two institutions can be of considerable value during the next several years and we suggest that they be kept fully apprised of the developments toward merger. We recognize that when a new board of trustees is actually created that it will wish advice from something similar to these presently existing auxiliary boards. However, we would suggest that such a device not be named a board because of the possibilities of confusion. We would anticipate that a new advisory group would use many of the members of the presently existing auxiliary boards and we would also anticipate that the rosters of those boards would be scrutinized carefully to identify potential members for the new Board of Trustees. Especially will the existing auxiliary boards and some future advisory body be of assistance in the much needed development effort. As a word of caution, we suggest that auxiliary board members be informed that as a quasi-corporate body they will cease to exist once the merger has been completed.

We are quite aware that Boards of Trustees are responsible for their own by-laws as are institutions responsible for the type of governance which prevails. However, we are also aware of much study and number of good examples of such a Board of Trustees by-laws and systems of academic governance. We would urge as high priority, once the new institution has been created, the preparation of appropriate by-laws and the publication of rules regarding academic governance, student affairs and related matters. We call particular attention to the documents developed in connection with the reaction of a new Board of Trustees for Saint Louis University (appended to this report), and suggest several of those-as possible models.

We of course would not presume to instruct a future Board of Trustees regarding the person to be selected or even the type of person to be selected as the new president. However, we would suggest that in view of the greater involvement of the laity in the conduct and governance of religiously related in situations, and in view of a rather pronounced trend, for lay as well as religious individuals to be associated at top levels as collegiate administration, the new board in its search for a president would be wise not to overlook the possibility of a layman as the first president.

We are aware of just how essential it is in as complex an undertaking as a merger that all interested publics and constituencies be as deeply involved as possible: We would suggest for example that the faculties of the two institutions not only be kept apprised, but be intimately involved in working through the details. We also feel that students have many concerns and interests, which they should express. We are convinced that a major tendency in American higher education is for students to be increasingly involved in various facets of governance and institutional planning. We would therefore suggest that beginning in the fall of 1968 students from both campuses be given opportunity to make recommendations and to assist in working through the many details, which are bound to arise.

We need not belabor the obvious fact that the two institutions possess some magnificent physical facilities. The Abbey Church and the Fine Arts Center are just two examples. We do however venture to suggest that an intensive study be undertaken regarding regional needs with the expectation that such facilities as the Fine Arts Center could be utilized year round. Indeed properly programmed the Fine Arts Center as well as the center for liturgical studies and for ecumenical studies could be the nucleus for an intellectual and artistic center similar to that being developed in Aspen, Colorado. Such a suggestion is predicated on the prior determination of what the regional needs are and what resources are available to support such an effort. We as educators are profoundly aware of the major contribution which religious orders and denominations have made to American higher education and we assume that that commitment is likely to continue into the fut.ure. If this new institution which we are recommending does come into existence, we would hope that it begins as auspiciously and nearly debt free as possible. We note the existence of the center for ecumenical studies and recognize the great potentiality that has. We would assume that this same spirit would provide the undergraduate educational program and that efforts would be made to obtain in the future much greater heterogeneity in the student body. Not only should students from states other than Minnesota be sought, but also students of different religious persuasions as well.

Although we have repeatedly urged that the uniquenessess of the two campuses be preserved, we are still persuaded that neither campus need cater exclusively to a single sex, as we could envision in the years ahead men and women  both occupying residence facilitate on each campus.

We wish you well for we believe what you do will affect not only your institutions but similar sorts of institutions all over the country.

Lewis B. Mayhew
Louis Benezet
Stephen Wright
Rosemary Park
Paul Reinert, S.J.
Alan Simpson