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Notre Dame fires administrator who opposed honor for Obama

September 03, 2010

Citing “restructuring,” the University of Notre Dame has fired Bill Kirk from his position as associate vice president for residence life. David Solomon, a university philosophy professor and the founder and director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, linked the firing to Kirk’s public opposition to the university’s decision to award President Barack Obama an honorary degree in 2009. Kirk worked for the university for almost 22 years.

In addition, Kirk’s wife served as faculty advisor to the pro-life club and to NDResponse, the student group that opposed the honor for the president.

Some charge that “Bill Kirk’s enforcement of Notre Dame’s disciplinary code was too harsh and that his insistence that Notre Dame athletes be subject to the same rules as other Notre Dame students was responsible for our repeated failures on the athletic fields,” notes Solomon, who has been at the university for 42 years.

“The larger role played by Bill Kirk and his family at Notre Dame and in the local community also raises questions about the wisdom-- indeed, the fairness-- of severing him from this community,” Solomon adds, noting:

At the time Bill took part in the NDResponse rally, many people commented on the courage it took for him to stand with his wife and other witnesses to this protest of Notre Dame’s decision to award President Obama an honorary degree. I personally discounted these worries, believing that the Notre Dame administration would admire him for his principled stand on a matter so close to the Catholic heart of Notre Dame, even if they disagreed with his particular action. The administration welcomed President Obama’s sharp dissent from and attack on central Catholic teaching on life. It seemed only reasonable that they would equally welcome dissent from university policy by such a loyal Catholic and member of the Notre Dame family as Bill Kirk-- especially when his dissent was made in the name of the Catholic principles at Notre Dame’s heart and in the company of his bishop. Perhaps, alas, there was reason for Bill Kirk to be worried about his participation in NDResponse after all …

It is, however, the callousness and the brutal insensitivity with which Bill and Elizabeth Kirk were effectively severed from the Notre Dame community that has had the greatest impact on those of us who regard them as personal friends. And here I must speak very personally. The Kirks’ house has been an oasis of hospitality for faculty, students and administrators at Notre Dame, as well as for their countless friends and acquaintances in the larger South Bend community and from around the world. It is perhaps their own penchant for hospitality and welcome that makes their treatment by Notre Dame seem so appalling. The parents of two young adopted children, Bill and Elizabeth Kirk were in the process, as Bill Kirk’s bosses well knew, of adopting a third child at the time he was fired.


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Show 7 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Sep. 03, 2010 9:30 PM ET USA

    Notre Dame's actions simply further diminish its already tarnished image. God bless the Kirks for their courage and reverence for the lives of unborn children. They stood as our Lord did - with the children.

  • Posted by: sarsok8679 - Sep. 03, 2010 8:49 PM ET USA

    Like other secular liberal universities the only descent that is tolerated is descent from authentic Catholic teaching. Otherwise, there is no toleration. Notre Dame is going to hell with Georgetown, etc.. etc., etc.

  • Posted by: Defender - Sep. 03, 2010 5:34 PM ET USA

    Why should Notre Dame be any different than other colleges and schools, including Catholic ones? I've seen it far too often where a diocese or Catholic school rewards all the time, effort and money spent working in education by showing someone the door. At-Will contracts, lower pay, long hours, etc, etc, and you're shown the door despite the NCCB's call for fairness in the workplace.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Sep. 03, 2010 2:30 PM ET USA

    Right, singer. But we somehow don't expect Catholics to be martyred by other Catholics.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 03, 2010 11:58 AM ET USA

    The number of martyrs for the Faith has swelled so much in the last century. Many of them, like the Kirks, are living martyrs.

  • Posted by: elle - Sep. 03, 2010 11:00 AM ET USA

    This is totally disgraceful. The Culture of Death vs Culture of Life...we know who wins, but pray for The Kirks

  • Posted by: KL Flannery - Sep. 03, 2010 10:21 AM ET USA

    As the Solomon article says, William Kirk was an employee for 22 -- not 42 -- years. (Bad enough!)