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Embattled President of St. Louis University to Leave September 1

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The president of Saint Louis University, Fr. Lawrence Biondi, S.J, has announced that he will retire on September 1st, ending a period of great turmoil in the University.

The president of Saint Louis University, Fr. Lawrence Biondi, S.J, has announced that he will retire on September 1st, ending a period of great turmoil in the University which saw several no-confidence votes passed against Fr. Biondi by the faculty as well as student protests.

The University’s vice president and general counsel, Bill Kauffman, will act as interim president while the board of trustees searches for a permanent replacement, according to Saint Louis University.

Biondi had been president of SLU for more than 25 years. He will be named President Emeritus and take a one-year sabbatical.

Most recently, Fr. Biondi had been accused of targeting professors who had spoken out against him by giving them smaller raises than they believed they deserved.

To that, Fr. Biondi took to the editorial page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this month, calling those criticizing him “a small number of dissident faculty members, who obviously lack the stark reality that their profession, like any other, requires them to be accountable.”

He continued by saying, “The past year’s turmoil from these complainers has been self-inflicted, self-absorbed and self-serving, and not in the best interest of our students’ hopes and dreams."

A number of his brother Jesuits took to the pages of the Dispatch to refute Fr. Biondi’s allegations. And just this past week, a number of professors at SLU signed a letter to the editor that appeared in the Dispatch saying, “That Father Biondi would treat his own brothers as collateral damage suggests the final loss of his moral compass. It is past time the board released Father Biondi to his promised retirement and appointed interim leadership.”

Much of the ire focused on Fr. Biondi stems from last year’s proposed changes to the University’s policy on tenure, which would have required faculty to re-apply every few years. Shortly after that, professors delivered their first vote of no confidence in Fr. Biondi, and two Facebook pages dedicated to his ouster sprung up including SLU Students for No Confidence and Fire Fr. Biondi.

Also, last year the University’s law school saw its dean, Annette E. Clark, resign, saying in a public letter, “It is the ultimate irony that a Jesuit university would operate so far outside the bounds of common decency, collegiality, professionalism and integrity.”

Her replacement Thomas Keefe, a trial attorney who had once represented a mother in a “wrongful life” lawsuit, resigned earlier this year.

Although Fr. Biondi had announced previously that he would be retiring, no timetable had been set.

Originally published by Catholic Education Daily on 22 August 2013.

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