Biondi's Retirement Brings Relief to SLU Students Sick of Campus Drama

Article excerpt

The mood among St. Louis University students on Sunday the day after the Rev. Lawrence Biondi's surprise announcement of his retirement as president of the university was one of relief and optimism after months of campus strife.

"We all thought that he was going to be too stubborn to do it, that he would never give in to the pressure," said junior Chintan Shah while on his way to his job at the campus library. "I guess he finally reached his breaking point."

Biondi announced his decision at a Saturday evening gala at the Chaifetz Arena celebrating his past 25 years as president. The event was attended by about 800 supporters at $1,000 a ticket. Outside the gala was "The Alternative Gala" organized by students celebrating the next 25 years, hopefully under new leadership.

It was the sort of divisiveness that many students say they are looking forward to putting behind them after a year of no- confidence votes by faculty and students, surveys showing support for a new president, confrontations between Biondi and faculty and more student protests.

Rumblings over what critics describe as Biondi's brute management style as well as the university's drop in national rankings, sluggish endowment and demolition of nearby historic homes and buildings all came to a head last August when Biondi's administrators proposed changing the way the school handles tenure. That month also saw the resignation of the dean of St. Louis University's law school over accusations of dishonesty by administrators and funneling money away from the law school.

Despite all the discord, Biondi had appeared steadfast, and students saw no end to the strife.

"Most people are shocked," said senior Hannah Cain as she headed to the recreation center in drizzling rain. "But they are excited that there will be change."

Maureen Landgraf, also a senior, said she suspected Biondi realized he must retire in order for the university to thrive. "He's done a lot of great things for the SLU community, but if staying would've kept things divided and kept all this tension up, it wouldn't have been worth remaining as president," she said.

Biondi, 74, said after his announcement that he made the decision to retire during a March trip to Asia when he "had a lot of time to think away from everything."

In a statement released by the university, he said: "Just as I helped lead SLU's transformation when I arrivd here more than 25 years ago, I know it is now time for the next transformation to begin."

Shah said he wished Biondi had made the decision sooner, as discussions about the drama would often overtake classroom lectures. …