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EDITORIAL: Pilarz’s new position raises questions of honesty

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Illustration by Ellery Fry / ellery.fry@marquette.edu

Illustration by Ellery Fry / ellery.fry@marquette.edu

Along with the Office of Marketing and Communication, the Rev. Scott Pilarz offered a smattering of reasons for his abrupt departure from the position of university president in September. Most prominently, Pilarz noted his desire to realign with responsibilities directly within his role as a Jesuit.

“After 10 years as a university president,” the university quoted Pilarz as saying in an email Sept. 20, “I believe the time has come to consider other apostolic opportunities for me as a Jesuit priest. I have made this decision after much prayer, discernment and conversation with religious superiors, my spiritual director and others whose counsel I have sought over the past three years.”

Pilarz reiterated his feelings in his letter to the Marquette community Sept. 25: “I have decided to do more and different things as a Jesuit,” he said. “For example, I desire to do more pastoral work than I have been able to do as a president. I also want to do more teaching, research and writing.”

On March 11, Pilarz accepted the position as president of Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland. It appears he will focus on administrating and fundraising at Georgetown Prep, tasks similar to his job description at Marquette, rather than the pastoral work he offered as the impetus for his move.

Perhaps Pilarz reconsidered the reasons for his decision only after he left Marquette, deciding to take on a position very similar to the one he held here. Otherwise, it seems Pilarz and OMC misled the community with their statements surrounding his sudden departure.

These comments raise questions now that Pilarz took a presidential position at a new institution, a job with responsibilities much more closely related to his role at Marquette than to the apostolic opportunities he and OMC claimed he would seek by resigning. In his letter, Pilarz also said he “(believes) that Marquette needs a president who is willing to commit to working wholeheartedly on a comprehensive capital campaign over a five to seven year period.”

“Given my other hopes and desires,” he said, “I am not in a position to do that now.”

Had Pilarz not chosen to take on another administrative position, this reasoning would not seem misplaced. But the job description for president of Georgetown Preparatory School explicitly states candidates should “excel at and enjoy the role of fundraiser” and “properly steward (the school’s) endowment.”

The discrepancies between what Pilarz and OMC told Marquette and Pilarz’s new position generate confusion around the administration’s dealings and suspicion of its willingness to share accurate information. Pilarz’s departure was mishandled from the beginning, and his new position continues to mystify the events of last fall.

When an administrator at such a high level leaves Marquette, the administration must be as forthcoming as possible with the community. The need to minimize a departure’s impact cannot come before truthfully informing interested parties of truthful information.

If Pilarz sought to leave the university for reasons other than the pursuit of apostolic opportunities, more academic work or to be closer to his parents, those reasons did not come across in the letter in September. Something seems to be missing from the big picture of the departure, and that is due in part to both Pilarz and OMC.

Moving forward, the university should disclose valid reasoning to the community rather than glossing over the not-so-picture-perfect circumstances, especially in the case of Pilarz. Marquette’s students, faculty and staff deserve candor.

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