Monk's 'View' sheds light on higher education
By CHARLES SKRINER
Scene Book Critic
"Monk's Reflections: A View from the Dome" is an outstanding book comprised of Notre Dame President Father Edward "Monk" Malloy's views on certain issues in higher education, as seen through his own experiences, primarily those at Notre Dame.
In other words, the book presents "Monk's Reflections" as seen from "A View from the Dome," and that happens to be the very appropriate title of the book. Malloy organizes his book into three parts: "The University President," "Academia and the Life of the Mind" and "The Collegiate World." In each part, Malloy examines different aspects of higher education both in a general sense and more specifically at Notre Dame.
Malloy opens with "The University President" by examining the process by which one becomes a university president. He explains there is no preferred course for one to take in becoming the president of a university and often, the process "seems to be as much serendipity (or providence) as anything else." Malloy emphasizes that each president's path is unique, and he takes the reader through his own experience that led him to assume the title of president of Notre Dame on July 1, 1987.
Malloy then allows the reader a rare glimpse at the day-to-day life and experiences of a university president in the chapter entitled "Presidential Roles and Responsibilities." Malloy details the large number of responsibilities that fall on a president's shoulders. For example, as the most visible member of the administration, a president's presence is often required by the media, and due to its visibility, the presidential office is often made the subject of student protests.
A president must constantly work to raise funds. Malloy writes of his own experience that "in one sense I could say almost all my dealings … are connected with fund-raising."
Finally, the president is the primary administrator or decision-maker of a university. With all of the pressures and responsibilities that come with the job, it can be easy for a president to become filled with discontent or anxiety, but happily, Malloy reports, "I can honestly say that I've enjoyed my time as president — it has allowed me to play a significant role in an institution in which I believe deeply."
Part two of the book is devoted to "Academia and the Life of the Mind," in which Malloy examines the professorial responsibilities of teaching and research and explores his own love of reading. In the chapter devoted to the subject of teaching, Malloy offers his opinions on all aspects related to the art, from how an administrator relates to a university's teachers to the different teaching methods and styles that appear in today's university.
Malloy then turns his attention to "Research and Scholarship," which make up the other portion of a professor's responsibilities to the university. Malloy carefully explains the entire process of moving from graduate student to doctoral candidate to collegiate faculty member doing scholarly research, a process that is probably quite unfamiliar to the reader who is not a college professor. For this reason, this chapter is one of the most interesting and enlightening in the book.
In the final chapter of part two, Malloy explores his own love of reading as an activity to enrich "the life of the mind." Malloy calls this chapter "the most personal in the book," and accordingly, he reveals a few things about himself related to his passion for reading. For example, Malloy relates how his parents fostered his interest in reading and how he currently reads about five newspapers a day and enjoys completing crossword puzzles.
In part three, "The Collegiate World," Malloy looks at some of the issues in higher education that are not strictly related to academics in chapters entitled "Residentiality," "Intercollegiate Athletics" and "Religious Mission and Identity." The topics covered in these chapters probably hit closest to home for most undergraduate students.
"Residentiality" covers such familiar issues as alcohol, drugs, race and coresidentiality. In "Intercollegiate Athletics," Malloy looks at his own experience as a college athlete, one which was, surprisingly, somewhat negative. He also examines current issues and topics such as the NCAA, booster clubs and Title IX.
Finally, "Religious Mission and Identity" explores the Catholic character of Notre Dame, including a discussion of the recently debated Ex Corde Ecclesiae.
"Monk's Reflections" is an excellent book for completing and enriching one's understanding of higher education in general and Notre Dame in particular. Malloy's writing style is very readable and friendly, making the book accessible to the general reader who is not directly involved with higher education.
For the Notre Dame undergraduate student, "Monk's Reflections" is essential in that it summarizes the current state of affairs in higher education at Notre Dame and provides a closer look at the man who presides over the University during one's time at Notre Dame.
Four out of five shamrocks
All Scene Stories for Monday, November 22, 1999