The Task Force on Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit Identity, which began about three years ago as a series of conversations and dialogues, released a comprehensive report recommending several steps to increase the role of Catholicism and Jesuits at the university. Appointed in Nov. 1997 by University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., the task force was asked to offer its response to Centered Pluralism, the report of a faculty seminar published during the 1995-96 academic year about the “relevance of Georgetown Jesuit and Catholic heritage” at the university, according to R. Bruce Douglas, Georgetown College dean of faculty and task force co-chair. Centered Pluralism, the product of a series of conversations and dialogues among 45 faculty members, discussed the role of non-Catholic views on campus in light of the university’s position as a Catholic university. Its publication prompted O’Donovan to invite a group of 25 students, faculty and alumni to discuss it and offer recommendations. Beginning its work last January, this task force set out to “reflect on specific practical ways in which ideas which were articulated in Centered Pluralism could be implemented,” Douglas said. The final report and recommendations of the task force are organized around four general themes for improvement at Georgetown: Jesuit Presence at Georgetown, Intellectual Life, The University Community and Governance and Management. Each of the 20 distinct recommendations is geared toward enhancing the Catholic and Jesuit identity of the university in light of Georgetown’s commitment to academic excellence. Recommendations of the task force include the creation of an endowment fund to support both academic and non-academic positions for Jesuits, the creation of a standing Committee on Main Campus Life and a greater commitment to providing full financial aid to all successful applicants to the undergraduate program. The creation of a standing committee on Main Campus Life would help facilitate student-faculty interaction, according to task force member Jared Hendler (SFS ’99). “There are concerns among the student body that aren’t always taken into consideration by the administration as quickly as most students feel they should . This [the standing committee] will give us a legitimate institutional inroad into the administration,” he said. The task force was especially concerned about the feelings of students who might view the recommendations as a university attempt to establish a more dominant religious presence on campus or to exclude non-Catholics from student life. “I think one of our biggest concerns was to avoid being exclusionary,” Hendler said. “I think what the document does is enrich the Catholicism available to students but does not impose any more Catholicism onto anyone than has ever been imposed.” The task force, which met a total of 15 times in plenary sessions, finished its work in early October and submitted its results to O’Donovan. O’Donovan will meet with his executive cabinet and most likely produce a “progress” report outlining the feasibility of implementing any or all of the task force’s recommendations near the end of the academic year, according to Elaine Romanelli, task force co-chair and associate professor in the School of Business. Students will now have the opportunity to look into the recommendations of the task force and continue the dialogues started almost three years ago by discussing what influence the Catholic and Jesuit influence should have at Georgetown, Douglas said. He said students would hopefully help build and improve upon these recommendations before they are implemented. “Student groups are encouraged to discuss this document and offer their thoughts,” Douglas said. “We very much want that to happen.” “I hope the students will take the initiative to say,” Romanelli said, “`Why don’t we sit down and think about this?'” Any student-generated comments concerning the recommendations need to be submitted to the president’s office by March 31, 1999, at which date O’Donovan, in collaboration with his cabinet, will decide upon how best to implement the task force’s recommendations. The full text of the final report and recommendations published by the Task Force on Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit Identity can be found in the Oct. 26 issue of the Blue and Gray.

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