Catholic colleges remove clergy names, revoke honors amid sexual abuse scandal
- Roman Catholic colleges in several regions have revoked honors to church leaders who were named in a recent grand jury report in Pennsylvania charging that 300 Catholic clergy had sexually abused children and adults, and that church leaders had covered it up, according to Inside Higher Education.
- Siena College in New York State led the way, deciding on Aug. 8 to take back an honorary degree from Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who the grand jury report found to have sexually abused children and adults.
- The University of Scranton took back honorary degrees and renamed campus buildings that recognized bishops who the report alleges helped cover up the abuse. And at Marquette University, Rev. Robert Wild, who was named in covering up the conduct, requested that a residence hall recently named after him be renamed.
The Catholic church's ongoing sexual abuse scandal is affecting more than colleges. High schools have acted to change their names and cities are considering renaming streets. The bishop of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, diocese called for the names of those cited in the grand jury report to be removed from all church facilities.
The situation, while extreme, is not unknown on university campuses. Many institutions have contended with allegations and charges of sexual abuse by prominent campus leaders as well as administrators' mishandling of the situation. In such instances, researchers say, college administrators are not always prepared to act.
These crises can extend for years, and their impact even longer. That makes a well-thought-out response critical. In addition to sexual misconduct, other prominent issues on campuses include hazing, alcohol abuse and free speech. Team names and controversial actions by students have also caused conflict on campus nationwide.
One study outlines six tasks of crisis leadership, which includes interpreting an issue's complex context, sharing information with stakeholders and constituents about decisions carried out, and documenting the event and response for future reference. Social media — and students' efficient use of it — make it particularly important that administrators plan ahead and act quickly with a truthful, sensitive response.
- Inside Higher Education Revoking Honors in the Wake of Abuse