When Tania Tetlow began in July at Fordham College, a Jesuit establishment in New York Metropolis, she grew to become each its first lady president and its first president who shouldn’t be a priest.
However it wasn’t the primary time Tetlow has been in that place. She was additionally the primary lady and first lay president in her final job, as president of Loyola College New Orleans, a Jesuit establishment with about 4,600 college students.
Tetlow stabilized a tumultuous funds state of affairs after she started at Loyola in 2018. Fordham, which has some 17,000 college students, is not going through such monetary problem, however Tetlow’s first months there have introduced their very own challenges. The college wants to achieve a brand new contract with adjunct college, and the union representing them protested at her inauguration in October. Fordham additionally has a coverage mandating COVID-19 vaccines, together with boosters, that is sparked controversy.
Earlier than changing into a president, Tetlow was a high administrator and legislation professor at Tulane College. She sat down to speak about current occasions, her plans at Fordham, and what it is like to steer a non secular establishment on the present second.
This interview has been edited for readability and brevity.
HIGHER ED DIVE: What are your priorities at Fordham?
TANIA TETLOW: Long run, I wish to goal us within the course of getting as a lot affect on the world as attainable. College students proper now crave that from us and deserve it, and I believe they will scent the distinction between the performative model of virtue-signaling versus significant function and making a distinction on the earth.
Within the brief time period, it is wrapping my arms across the funds, determining be strategic in how we spend cash, transfer a giant ship slightly extra shortly.
Fordham’s adjunct union protested at your inauguration. What was that have like?
They have been well mannered about it, handing out leaflets at a distance. I truly did not see it from the inauguration, so I frightened about it greater than it was truly a difficulty.
However it’s tough, as a result of what you wish to do is have the form of means to speak the place you get to the proper reply, the place you are not put ready of getting to reward habits that you simply discover problematic — and never being seen to reply to ultimatums. And so, it is difficult to get the negotiations proper, the place you do not find yourself coming to the settlement you’ll have come to anyway, however in a method that seems such as you responded to huge stress.
What I am attempting to get throughout to individuals who do not know me but is the best way to influence me is with the standard of the argument, that they don’t seem to be going to make me afraid. What I reply to is the will to get these selections proper and discovering ways in which Fordham can do a greater job in the next ed marketplace for college that is turn out to be fairly unfair in the way it’s cleaved aside — and that we do not have a alternative however to function in these markets.
It is an unsure time for school funds.
All of us have the steadiness of how to reply to a second of nice inflationary stress on our budgets, inflationary stress on our individuals, who’re feeling it keenly and would really like us to make it as much as them in wages — however then maintaining prices down for our college students.
Are you doing a listening tour in your first yr?
There isn’t any alternative in regards to the listening tour, the taking in huge quantities of knowledge, making individuals know that you simply wish to hear them.
My present, quick precedence is to seek out methods, after years of reactive funds planning in response to COVID, to going again and introducing extra technique within the funds course of. As a result of the funds is a very powerful expression of our values and our technique.
You handled a tough funds state of affairs in your final presidency. Layoffs have been taking place at Loyola proper as you began.
Sure, up till every week earlier than.
What did you study from that have?
A few of that is wanting backwards at Loyola, but it surely issues how shortly you pull your self out of denial and the way shortly you pull the establishment out of denial.
The nice benefit I had with Loyola was, they have been completely out of denial they usually’d made a variety of the painful selections in regards to the cuts that needed to occur, they usually did it in a really cautious option to keep away from impacting college students.
Retention went up, not down.
When there are these sorts of constraints, there’s the flexibility to sort out waste in an absolute method. What’s more durable is at an establishment the place issues are high-quality and there’s sufficient, however there’s by no means fairly sufficient should you do not spend it strategically, persuade everybody of the have to be frugal with out austerity.
Nothing we do is not essential. However should you have been ranging from scratch yearly, you in all probability would not construct fairly the funds that you’ve got or the construction that you’ve got.
However Fordham is 180 years outdated, so in any long-standing establishment, which our universities are typically, they do not transfer in a short time — for superb causes. We resist the traits of the day and out of doors interference. We play the lengthy sport, we put money into our individuals. How you can steadiness these values with technique is de facto powerful.
How do you strategy being a «first» chief — in your case, the primary lady and lay president of two completely different universities?
As a primary layperson, it issues enormously to essentially perceive the tradition of the spiritual id and spiritual order that you’re serving, as a result of it’s the topic of nice anxiousness for individuals — turning over that symbolic authority.
However it is usually, to place it in enterprise phrases, the model and the company tradition of the place. To be entrusted with that could be a very huge deal, and for anybody excited about that position, they really want to review onerous and know what they’re doing. It’s not a small factor for me to interchange Jesuits who’ve a decade of coaching earlier than they’re ordained.
As the primary lady or first of something, it is a surreal expertise as a result of I simply stay inside myself and I do not understand how jarring it’s for everybody else. However there’s a method you signify seen progress, and I get the loudest applause earlier than I open my mouth, when I’m launched. It’s thrilling for individuals.
You probably did this as soon as and also you determined to do it once more. Have been the firsts an element you considered when taking the Fordham job?
I’ve turn out to be solely devoted to the challenge of Jesuit larger schooling and its virtually 500 years of historical past, so it does really feel like an honor and duty to try this work of transitioning an establishment from seen Jesuit management to a layperson — who reminds everybody that it was already true that we are going to lose this mission if we do not all personal it.
It is a huge alternative, and when accomplished proper it could actually make the establishment much more targeted on mission, as a result of they know we won’t outsource it to the few clergymen on the college. It’s one thing all of us need to personal.
Your father was a Jesuit who left the priesthood —
To marry. Sure.
I convey that up since you talked about understanding the tradition of the spiritual order. Does your loved ones background assist?
I’ve uncommon coaching, not of the formal variety, however of coaching since delivery. My mom can also be a theologian, so dinnertime conversations revolved round biblical research.
It is an attention-grabbing time for Catholic schooling as a result of, very similar to broader society, a battle is happening inside the church. Fault strains are on show at faculties — Fordham’s vaccine mandate has been controversial, for instance.
How do you navigate these fault strains?
A part of it’s ensuring the church and your neighborhood understands what we’re doing at a college shouldn’t be preaching to the choir. Fairly actually, we’re in mission territory. That is the place the church engages with broader society.
Our college students are religiously numerous. More and more secular, as effectively. What we do when we have now broad tutorial debate is essential to the character of a college, and Catholic doctrine completely endorses that.
From my expertise, for probably the most half the church has very a lot understood and welcomed that. There are moments of battle the place somebody in authority would not perceive that, however I’ve discovered it crucial to have these conversations, to have good relationships with the native bishops or cardinals, to warn them if one thing is developing, as a result of they are going to get the blowback with me, and vice-versa.
When you will have a state of affairs just like the vaccine mandate, how a lot do you because the president need to wade into the small print?
These selections have been at all times being made. We have at all times had vaccine necessities, from meningitis to measles. However no, that’s one thing all of us need to be concerned in, as a result of it comes all the way down to elementary balancing of public security, the well being of our neighborhood, our means to perform versus not wanting to limit particular person liberty.
So it issues that we personal these selections and clarify them effectively. On this case, to me, the steadiness has been in ensuring that we have now an utility for exemption course of that does honor individuals’s strongly held particular person beliefs.
These advanced matters typically get simplified to a dichotomy.
That is the place I really feel Catholic establishments have a task. The basic core of our doctrine is the assumption in a typical good and our willingness to make sacrifices for the frequent good. And that could be a elementary American political perception, too, but it surely has fallen slightly bit by the wayside of late.
In a Catholic establishment, the place earlier than I spent a profession at a secular one, that language of values is much simpler for me to entry and extra obtainable for me to make use of.