Seton Hall of Shame?


As a Catholic university, Seton Hall seeks to embody such virtues as honesty, humility, and integrity. It is, after all, named after the first U.S.-born saint, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton. So it's especially unsettling that the school has unwittingly assembled a corridor of shame: Three buildings on its South Orange (N.J.) campus are named for alumni donors convicted or accused of corporate crimes or misdeeds.

There's Kozlowski Hall, named after Tyco's ex-CEO Dennis Kozlowski, who has been charged with running a "criminal enterprise" that looted more than $600 million from shareholders. Across the green is the library, named after Frank Walsh Jr., a former Tyco board member being sued by the company for breach of fiduciary responsibility for receiving a $20 million bonus from Kozlowski without the board's approval. Next to the library is the recreation center named for First Jersey Securities founder Robert Brennan, who was convicted last year of bankruptcy fraud and money laundering.

WHOSE DONATION? Some students are disheartened. "On a campus where many of the buildings are named after saints, is that the kind of image the university wants to cultivate?" asks Matt McCue, editor of the student newspaper, The Setonian.

Seton Hall spokeswoman Robina Schepp says the school has no plans to remove the names. "When we took those donations, we had no reason to doubt the integrity of the people who gave them to us," she says. "The integrity of Mr. Kozlowski is still an open issue. He has not been convicted of anything."

Though Seton Hall officials decline to comment on the size of the donations, Brennan has reportedly given or promised the university $11 million, while Kozlowski's pledge has been estimated at $5 million. In Kozlowski's case, however, it's questionable as to whose money was actually given to the school to get his name etched on a modern, six-story building. On Sept. 17, Tyco disclosed that a $1 million check Kozlowski sent to the university in 1997 was drawn on Tyco's account -- even though he referred to it in an accompanying letter as "my pledge to Seton Hall University."

"STONEWALLED." For Seton Hall, the controversy isn't exactly new. Two years after the university named the notorious Brennan alumnus of the year in 1993, the faculty of the College of Arts & Sciences approved a resolution that called the executive a poor moral example and asked that his name be excised from the building.

"The administration simply stonewalled the faculty attempt to do the right thing," says Robert Allen, a professor of communications who spearheaded the protest. "That name advertises us as either inadvertent or advertent hypocrites. We don't practice what we preach, and we hold up a man like that as a model for our students."

At the university's Stillman School of Business, where Kozlowski spoke to students about integrity and professionalism only last year, Dean Karen E. Boroff says she's now often asked, "So what exactly are you teaching your students?" Boroff is trying to put a positive spin on the situation, even hoping to get an op-ed piece on the quandary published somewhere. She thinks it could be a door opener for graduates seeking jobs. "We're saddened by the situation we're in," she says. "But it has given students a far better lesson in ethics than I could ever give in a classroom."

NO PROTEST. Though some students say they cringe every time they hear yet another allegation lodged against Kozlowski, they haven't been moved to stage any kind of formal protest. Even when Brennan was convicted on a number of criminal charges no student uprising followed. "If this was the best of possible worlds, there would be 1,000 students with signs outside the rec center urging the administration to take down that name," says Allen. "But there hasn't been sufficient shame or outrage."

Even so, university President Robert Sheeran has drafted policy guidelines to address removing a donor's name from a campus building. The school's board of regents will probably take up the issue at its next session in December. The policy isn't expected to apply to the three buildings in question, however. By John Byrne in New York


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