In a lengthy response to a string of controversies and negative media coverage over the last two weeks, Father Lawrence Biondi, the embattled president of Saint Louis University, sent out a campus-wide message defending his recent actions and saying, "We cannot forget that we share a common goal."
The number one goal, however, of the faculty and students who are protesting on campus right now is that Biondi step down -- immediately.
In his message, which was sent out yesterday to faculty and students, Biondi says, "As I have stated before, I believe that if we can all work together collaboratively, I am confident we will move forward in the best interest of OUR University." And the university, in a written response to today's demonstration, says that the march is a "counterproductive effort" and an "unwarranted attack" perpetuated by a "small group determined to undermine the leadership of Father Biondi."
Students and faculty staged a protest for this afternoon after a series of events that critics say have only increased pressure on Biondi to step down.
Most recently, the president of the faculty senate criticized Biondi and the chairman of the board of trustees for announcing last-minute that they would not be attending a much anticipated final faculty senate meeting of the year. The university offered a response, which we published in full, arguing that the board of trustees is focused on finding a new chair and continuing to review a "university climate survey" and thus could not attend as originally planned. The trustees' executive committee is looking to reschedule, the university said in its statement, which also characterized the criticisms as a "personal attack against Father Biondi" and "disrespectful."
Since an overwhelming faculty vote of no-confidence in Biondi last year, the president has fought off a wave of controversies and resignations in protest of him.
"His decision not to attend the faculty senate meeting has really riled people up," Paul Lynch, an English professor who is out protesting this afternoon, tells Daily RFT by phone. "How can he lead us if he refuses to talk to us?"
He adds, "We would like to see the board of trustees announce after their meeting on Saturday that Father Biondi is retiring. We are really hoping...that they see the writing on the wall."
Of the president's latest message, Lynch adds, "He just doubles down."
A university statement sent to Daily RFT this afternoon, says, in part:
As demonstrated by today's gathering, these individuals were not hindered in their right to voice their opinions; just as the University has the right to say that this is all being done for show and to further this small group's narrow agenda.
The fact is, the University is moving forward in many positive ways, and there are collaborative efforts taking place all across campus to ensure that SLU continues to provide its students with the best educational experience possible....
It should be noted that the vast majority of the Saint Louis University community did not participate in this staged event. SLU is a community of 20,000 students, faculty and staff, and the overwhelming majority of these individuals are attending classes and doing their jobs today.
Continue for more on the protest and the full message from the president and university response.
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