in the spirit of St. Augustine


C. Applications - All too schematic

Practically speaking, what difference can it make to talk about Augustinian leadership at Villanova?

Villanova has undergone many changes over the last couple of decades. I often hear people talk positively about the direction that the university is taking in terms of the sense of community and regard for others; others speak less positively about the financial and corporate basis for decision-making that diminishes the focus on education and leads to increased administrative burdens on faculty and diminished communication. Much too often, the real problem is both a serious lack of engagement engaging “the other” position or person and too few ways to address fears and criticisms in everyday ways.

Since the Augustinian spirit is at the core of what Villanova ought to be about, it may also provide a way to get people talking together about the direction of Villanova’s development, making sure that people’s thoughts and feelings – both positive and negative – can be expressed in ways that are effective and trusted. The fact that so many people are unaware of the burdens that others are carrying is problematic. If left unappreciated, there will be a growing gap among staff, faculty and administrators. [A friend who worked at St. Joe’s said that after the blow-up on that campus not too long ago, the university turned to the renewal of its Jesuit mission to begin to heal the problem. At Villanova, there is every reason to turn to our Augustinian mission before any outbreak of feeling over who-knows-what future issue.]

A potentially significant attitude that seems to be in the spirit of Augustine is to talk about everyone as a leader, each in his/her own area and way. Augustinian leadership, in other words, is meant to increase responsibility and accountability in ways that favor reciprocity at every level. That way of framing the challenge has the advantage of higlighting the personal in a community oriented way. It steadfastly refuses to be content with general terminology like “community” – not because of any problem with that word, but because it is a word whose wonderfully positive meaning can also mask developing problems. “Community” is a word that we need and cannot do without, but it is also a word that loses its value when left unreflected or unchallenged.

So ... do these qualities of Augustinian leadership help to identify exemplary experiences/actions on campus, thus providing a way to improve others?

What inspires or fails to inspire when it comes to:

  • campus “climate”
  • trust in one another's leadership
  • willingness to recommend/criticize without fear
  • decision-making as supporting the educational mission
  • generous dialogue among staff, faculty and administrators
  • and what else ? ... 

      Allan Fitzgerald, O.S.A.                 
The Augustinian Institute