In his exhortation to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on the Catholic identity of educational institutions Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said the following.
“First, as we know, the essential task of authentic education . . . is not simply that of passing on knowledge, essential as this is, but also of shaping hearts.”
The University of Dallas has a special role to play in the modern academic realm. As a Catholic liberal arts university, it provides an education that is essentially different from that of other state or technical universities.
It has a fantastic body of astute faculty who dedicate themselves to preserving the Catholic and liberal arts traditions, even when their salaries are not great. The faculty who have been here for decades know the university best, because they truly understand the richness of studying and teaching the Western tradition. Their dedication to this approach to academia communicates the value of the Core.
Many colleges do not enrich the experiences of their students with a core set of classes that tie together all the different components of their education. Most only require a basic English class and maybe a sociology class, as well as language classes on occasion.
The value of the Core lies in the foundational formation that it provides to students of all fields of focus, and more importantly, to students as human beings. The virtues gained by studying Western history, philosophy, theology, literature, art, politics, economics, a foreign language, math and the sciences apply in a multitude of cases.
Additionally, the interdisciplinary nature of this type of education stretches students’ minds to make their own connections and form their own beliefs. It molds their minds, providing them with a more meaningful schema through which to view and interact in the world.
This university attracts people from a variety of paths. UD may not be the most diverse campus, ethnically or in terms of beliefs, but there are differences to each person’s UD experience. For example, some do not go to Rome. Others may not be Catholic and so do not participate in that facet of UD’s identity. Still others may be athletes, transfer students or commuters.
The one aspect of UD that ties this diversity together is the Core. Everyone takes the same classes that comprise this great groundwork. Through the Core, all students read the same great texts and encounter the same great thinkers, authors, and artists.
If it were forfeited, compromised, or amended, what would unite the university? A new group of students, pursuing a degree at UD without the Core, would be cheated out of the benefits that come with studying the liberal arts.
Let’s work to strengthen who we are and do what we do well. There are changes that can be made to make this education more accessible for more people, such as managing the budget and lowering tuition.
We must be humble enough to recognize our faults, but we should not compromise our identity.