Don't give up on struggling students for the sake of "boosting retention numbers"!

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By now, a lot of Mount Saint Mary's alumni have probably read The Mountain Echo's article on President Newman seeking to improve retention rates by dismissing 20 to 25 first year students.

“My short term goal is to have 20-25 people leave by the 25th [of Sep.]. This one thing will boost our retention 4-5%. A larger committee or group needs to work on the details but I think you get the objective.” --President Newman

They've probably also read President Newman's response, as well as the Board of Trustees response.

Absent from both of these responses is any promise or affirmation that Mount Saint Mary's University won't still pursue this approach in the future.

The Mount absolutely should not attempt to "boost" its retention by having struggling students leave early. This is nothing short of simply "fudging the numbers".

Is removing struggling students to make the college look better truly in line with The Mount's principles as a Catholic University?

"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." Matthew 6:24

The Mount, as a Catholic University, should focus first and foremost on helping as many of its students as possible. I am not Catholic, but I am Christian. Jesus taught to help people, especially those who have already taken the first step to help themselves. The moment a student submits an application to Mount Saint Mary's, they have signed a document that they have faith the Mount will provide them the education they are looking for. Shouldn't The Mount put faith in them, and help them on their path, instead of shunning them for under performing?

Is it right to give up on students who are struggling?

As a commuter student who had to pay for part of my education by working while attending class, I struggled. I'm not proud of it, but at one point in time, my semester grade point average was below 2.0, I was unable to join clubs or participate in activities, and I had a large amount of stress and financial woes. I had stopped attending class because of personal issues in my life at that time.

However, I did not give up, and The Mount did not give up on me. Through the help of my teachers, my family, and my friends, I was able to press forward, graduate, and go on to lead a successful career, applying the Computer Science degree I earned at The Mount in my daily work.

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

Because The Mount did not give up on me, I did not give up on myself.

Now, President Newman comes from a business background, so it is only fair to attempt to understand his approach. It is always wise, from a business perspective, to "cut your losses" early with under-performing investments. When a student enrolls in a college, the student is making an investment in the college, and the college is making an investment in the student.

However, the fact of the matter is, college students are not a commodity, or a stock market investment to be traded, bought, or sold. They are not merely enrollment numbers on a ledger. They are living, breathing, thinking human beings who deserve more than an apology and a boot out the door for under-performing. They deserve help from the college they invested in, and put faith in! They have after all chosen Mount Saint Mary's!

Instead of promising not to pursue these borderline-fraudulent retention boosting activities, The Board of Trustees then went on the offensive towards The Mountain Echo, Mount Saint Mary's Faculty, and alumni.

"We found incontrovertible evidence of the existence of an organized, small group of faculty and recent alums working to undermine and ultimately cause the exit of President Newman. ... As such, the university will hold those individuals accountable for these actions." --John E. Coyne, Chairman

"In this instance, the misuse of our Mountain Echo by a small group of faculty violated those rights and obligations and they embarked on this effort solely to advance their own personal agenda." --John E. Coyne, Chairman

As an alumni, that the Board of Directors would attack alumni of the college, this breaks my heart. Calling legitimate concerns of faculty and alumni "personal agendas" is a blatant attempt at misdirecting the reader into thinking this is all part of some grand conspiracy. As a recent alumni, I can assure you that I was not aware of this issue until now, but it was not the initial article which upset me, but the terrible response by President Newman and The Board of Trustees.

Let me be perfectly clear, this is not a petition for the removal of President Newman or The Board of Trustees. This is a petition for an affirmation that The President and Board will uphold the values of Mount Saint Mary's which we hold so dear.

As such, we, the petition signers, request the following from President Newman and The Board of Trustees:

1) Release an affirmation that no student shall be dismissed from the college in any effort to increase retention numbers, and that all students shall be provided equal opportunity to continue enrollment in Mount Saint Mary's. Furthermore affirm that struggling students will be helped as much as is feasible to assist them in staying enrolled in the college.

2) Release an affirmation that neither faculty nor students involved shall face any disciplinary or discriminatory action against them as a result of The Mountain Echo's article. Furthermore, any disciplinary actions against faculty or students shall be reversed and permanently removed from any employee or student records.

3) Release an apology to the Mount community and alumni for ever considering such a heinous method to boost retention numbers.


Ken Buckler, Class of 2006

On behalf of The Mount Saint Mary's Community and Alumni



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