Fordham Opens Westchester Campus; Questions About Marymount Closure Arise


Fordham Westchester is said to be a “state-of-the-art” facility surrounded by woods and “natural beauty.” (Craig Calefate/The Observer)

Published: October 2, 2008

Fordham University began the 2008-2009 school year by introducing its newest campus in Westchester County.  The new school, located in West Harrison, NY, was officially unveiled Sept. 9, just over a year after the controversial closing of Fordham’s Marymount campus, which left many professors jobless, according to a 2007 Observer article.

Fordham Westchester, a three-story building at 400 Westchester Ave., is being billed by Fordham as a “state of the art, full-service commuter campus.” The building houses a dining hall, a library, student and faculty parking and 26 classrooms that are equipped with smart-board and videoconferencing technology, according to an official press release.

The press release also states that the campus will contain the adult undergraduate program, as well as the graduate schools of Business Administration, Education, Religion and Religious Education. In addition, the Graduate School of Social Service and a number of their centers, including The Bertram M. Beck Institute for Religion and Poverty, the Children and Families Institute for Research, Support and Training and the Ravazzin Center for Social Work Research in Aging will also call Westchester home.

Ron Jacobson, associate vice president for academic affairs at Fordham, was named academic director of programs at Fordham Westchester.  He said he feels that the new campus will be an asset to the Fordham community. “With our academic programs and our institutions, I believe Fordham will become even more value-added to our neighbors in the business, government and non-profit sectors,” said Jacobson.  “Our new Westchester campus has been designed for the 21st century,” he said, adding that the campus also boasts natural beauty—it is “surrounded by the woods.”

According to Peter Vaughan, dean of the Graduate School of Social Service, “Fordham has continued its commitment to the people of Westchester County and the neighboring areas. This is a campus we can all be proud of. Our school has done a fair amount of research and training, and now we will be able to expand that, because we’ll have capabilities we had not had before.”

The opening of Fordham Westchester comes just over a year after the closing of the university’s Marymount campus. A 2007 Observer article stated that the closing was met with opposition from some of the full-time faculty and  it left many professors fighting for their jobs. At the time, faculty and administration disputed the future of Marymount’s staff. According to the same Observer article, out of the 42 full-time faculty at Marymount, at least 30 were not offered a new placement.

The article stated that Fordham administration maintained that they did everything in their power to place faculty in open positions. Many professors, some quoted in subsequent Observer articles, disagreed, stating that Fordham’s termination of their contract was unwarranted.

The Marymount closing was rumored to be due to the desire of Rev. Joseph McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, to revamp Fordham’s image as a top Catholic university. According to an Observer article published at the time of the closing, some staff claimed that McShane was more interested in the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses than the campus at Marymount. McShane was contacted for this article, but was unavailable for comment.

Fordham’s official statement cites expenses as the sole cause for the dissolution of Marymount. According to a statement released by Fordham in 2005, Marymount would close in 2007 because “it was no longer academically or financially feasible to continue to operate Marymount as a separate university.”

In another press release, published at the time the decision was made to close Marymount, financial reasons were again cited. “[Marymount’s] large size relative to the university’s needs and attendant overhead and costs are impossible to justify.”  The press release went on to state that Fordham incurred “millions in expenses since Marymount College became part of the university.”

Jennifer Hoertz-Mulcahy, Fordham College at Marymount ’93, said she was “shocked” to hear about the Westchester campus. “The reason [from McShane] about the sale of Marymount was that Fordham could not afford to keep it open, yet they can afford to purchase and develop a new property…it would have been a nice tribute to Marymount to simply make it a Fordham school at the Marymount Campus.”

Bob Howe, director of communications at Fordham, put the difference in cost between the two campuses into perspective. “Fordham Westchester is a completely new facility with a life of more than 20 years; at [Marymount] the university was investing more than $2 million annually…just to address critical maintenance issues.”

“The new campus is more scaleable to the number and types of programs Fordham plans to offer in Westchester,” Jacobson said.  “The more accessible location and the new facility are both conducive to positioning Fordham as a current and future leader in providing Jesuit…educational services to the region,” Jacobson said.

Leyden Rovelo, FCLC ’09, takes classes at both Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) and Westchester. “I prefer [Westchester to FCLC]…because it is quiet, conducive to study, not crowded and the classrooms are lovely.”

Claire Colmar, FCLC ’11, saidthat she thought the money spent on the Westchester campus would have been better spent on the existing schools. “I’m not so concerned with the new campus, but [with] the money it will draw away from my own [campus],” Colmar said.