PRINCETON, NJ — On Monday, His Holiness Benedict XVI announced his resignation from the papacy, shocking the world and igniting speculation that he may be in the running to replace outgoing Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman.
“Cardinal Ratzinger brings many desirable elements of diversity to the table,” said Mark Alexander, a visiting professor. His class, “AMS 313: The Law of Democracy,” created princetonpresident.com, a website designed to gauge student preferences for Tilghman’s successor.
“[His Serene Holiness, the Sovereign of Vatican City] was born in Germany, which serves to facilitate the University’s long-term interest in internationalization,” said Alexander. “Picking Benedict XVI would certainly allay concerns about having yet another scientist President,” he added.
University Spokesman Martin Mbugua declined to confirm or deny reports that the Vicar of Jesus Christ has entered into private talks with senior administrators.
The Patriarch of the West has long been known to harbor a special place in his heart for Old Nassau. “Being Primate of Italy is pretty sweet, but everybody knows that the Princeton presidency is Joseph’s dream job,” said a close friend of Benedict XVI under the condition of anonymity. “The presidency of an Ivy League research university comes with its perks, like free parking, a big office, and no mounting sexual abuse scandal,” he added.
The Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church visited Princeton last year and conducted a private, off-the-record session with Anscombe Society members. At the session, His Holiness expressed his desire to one day replace President Tilghman and reportedly joked that “just because I was once a Cardinal doesn’t mean that I’d root for Stanford.”
David Petraeus GS ’87 and Lisa Jackson GS ’86, former directors of the Central Intelligence Agency and Environmental Protection Agency respectively, were also floated as potential candidates for the presidency, but critics assailed their lack of experience in academia. In contrast, the Prince of the Apostles has an extensive background in university administration, having served as Dean of the College of Cardinals from 2002 until his election to the papacy.
Although Benedict XVI is scheduled to step down at the end of February, most theologians agree that the former Bishop of Rome would still retain some papal powers that could work to Princeton’s advantage.
“If we’re playing Yale and the referee makes a bad call, President Ratzinger could invoke the doctrine of infallibility and correct the score,” said basketball captain Anthony Hodgeman ’13.
Even so, Benedict XVI is not an uncontroversial candidate. Due to the East-West Schism of 1054, tensions between the administration and Greek life would likely remain fraught should the Pope become President. In addition, several members of the football and men’s hockey teams expressed concern that Pope Benedict would continue his efforts to modernize Cannon law to promote equality of the sexes.
The search committee is expected to make a recommendation to the University Board of Trustees in late March or early April.
– JMC ’16