With the recent news of the University of Dallas climbing higher in college rankings and the likelihood of further ascent, some students have expressed concern for the future of UD’s Catholic identity. As they see it, rising prestige will attract students to UD for its academic strength rather than its Catholic identity. Along with this influx of irreligious minds will naturally come the dilution of our treasured identity as a Catholic university.
Though laudable in their concern for UD’s character, these students present an exaggerated and perhaps even unfounded view of UD’s future as a recognized institution. This exaggeration stems primarily from the assumption that as UD’s overall reputation increases, prospective students will only consider its academic standards and ignore its Catholic identity in admission decisions. In this case, UD students underestimate the prominence of this institution’s Catholic identity. Daily Masses are well attended, crucifixes hang in our classrooms, and there are always students in the Blessed Sacrament chapel filling their shifts for adoration during the school day. Moreover, priests, seminarians and religious teach in our classrooms and mingle with students on the Mall. In fact, our school is so Catholic that it occasioned an article in this section last week criticizing our “close-minded” religious views.
When attending Odyssey Days, any bright prospective student who was solely interested in academics would quickly catch on to the peculiarly Catholic flavor of this institution. Though perhaps awed by our unique program, such a student would hardly be able to set aside the Catholic tone of UD in making his final decision. And unless he wanted to be a part of this environment or felt very comfortable in it, he would probably turn in his prospie name tag and catch the next flight to Notre Dame or Fordham.
Rather than attracting students who are interested in academics but not Catholicism, this added reputation combined with our conspicuous Catholic identity would likely draw students who are deeply interested in both. As my own personal experience, and likely that of many others, attests, quite a few Catholic students either do not consider UD or turn it down, instead pursuing Fordham, Notre Dame and Boston College. Why? Because to many, UD seems like a professional dead-end, a quirky, no-name college in Texas. These students all value Catholic identity to some extent, but they also want a degree with broad-name recognition.
With a little extra reputation, UD could offer a competitive choice for these students. Instead of being forced to choose between authentic Catholic identity and overall reputation, they could opt for both. And these students, rather than diluting UD’s Catholic identity, would eagerly join and maintain it for the future students who want both reputation and religion.