Letter to the Editor: Rebecca Breves, MSM Class of 2012

To the Faculty, Staff, Administration, and Board of Trustees at Mount St. Mary’s University:

This is a response to the message emailed to the alumni and posted on msmary.edu by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, John E. Coyne regarding the actions of President Newman and the new “retention program” at the Mount.

  1. Why the secrecy surrounding the so-called retention program?  If it were in fact a retention program, the purpose of the survey should have been made clear to the students.  Also, the reason freshmen are placed in small freshmen seminar classes is so that they have access to a faculty advisor who is to help them access resources and guide them in the discernment process.  Creating a class wide survey seems redundant.  Who was to review the results?  What metric would be used to determine at risk students?
  2. What is the retention program?  Is it this survey?  The seeming duplicitous nature of the start-up and implementation does not seem to be consistent with the Mount’s Catholic values.  Great intent is not a factor in determining the value of a program.  Many politicians use this excuse when their policies fail.  It is an excuse and as such is without value or merit when the courses of young lives are at stake.  Any retention program should be vetted in full, reviewed and approved by the faculty members who will be administering it, and be clear in purpose and method to the students.  The fact that this “program” had start-up issues is testament that President Newman may not be qualified to run a higher learning institution such as the Mount.
  3. President Newman’s “inappropriate metaphor” comparing freshman to bunnies and suggesting that they be drowned or shot with a glock before they fail out of school is callous and honestly alarming.  Regardless of the context or privacy of the conversation, such a metaphor is ill-suited for the President of the second oldest Catholic university in the United States.
  4. The Mount’s admissions program absolutely needs work, if the administration is hastily putting together a retention program that had the possibility to dismiss students before the required reporting date.
  5. I suggest the Board carefully consider the words and actions of the faculty and alumni.  They, along with current students, are what make the Mount home.  The fact that some of the faculty met together to write the article published in the Mountain Echo is proof of the seriousness of what they and many alumni are seeing as negative changes at the Mount and their conviction to act to prevent damage to our beloved Mountain home.  These are not immature adolescents that are taking rash action.  These are well-educated, published, and respected professionals.  If they show concern in the path the Mount is headed down, everyone should listen to what they have to say.
  6. Perhaps the resistance to change coming from the faculty and recent alumni comes from the alarming reports about President Newman, as well as from his background which is completely bereft of education or non-profit experience and shows no previous interest in being involved in higher education.  After reviewing his profile on Forbes, one must ask why President Newman is involved at the Mount at all.

The following are the desired responses following this message:


  • A message from President Newman explaining his vision for the Mount’s future especially in regards to the Mount’s image, Catholic identity, marketing to prospective students, and retention
  • An explanation from the Board of Trustees on how President Newman was selected and what qualifications they considered.
  • Inclusion of the description of the retention program in the student catalogue or handbook.
  • Publication of all minutes of meetings of the Board of Trustees.

The actions of the Board show their understanding that the Mount alumni are a valuable source of funding for the Mount that they are afraid of losing.  While I have yet to be able to give to the Mount, I certainly plan to in the coming years.  I can say with certainty, that if I do not agree with the actions of the administration or the course the Mount is taking, that plan will change.

From Rebecca Breves (formerly Rebecca Oney)

Class of 2012

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