Dear Unkind Student,
As a member of the John Carroll University community, I must ask you: What are you doing to fulfill your Jesuit values?
When you cowardly tore down the African American Alliance’s list of events from the humble pins, what were you doing for others? Did you aspire in vain to awaken the “misled” minds of community members who dare to believe in the radical notion that all people matter? Did Saint Ignatius of Loyola tell us to be men and women for others or for our self-serving, deeply insecure prejudices? Did Jesus speak of exclusion or of unconditional love? What gave you the right?
I hope that you do not mind, Unkind Student, but I am going tell the JCU community of the root of my criticism. On Sunday, Feb. 8, our university was informed that the poster displaying the African American Alliance’s list of events for the second week of Black History Month had been torn down in the D.J. Lombardo Student Center and was strewn at the feet of the St. Ignatius statue. The Center for Diversity and Inclusion responded with a compassionate, community-wide email, which spoke of the act’s inconsistency with what we stand for as a school. I must agree with the email, Unkind Student. We are better than this. But as a member of the John Carroll community, I am equally as culpable unless I choose to take a stand. Unluckily for you, that is exactly what I am choosing to do.
I must say, Unkind Student, that when I walked by your crumpled act of intolerance that Sunday morning – coincidentally, the day that should remind us to love – I was embarrassed, saddened and deeply disappointed. I will confide in you about my thoughts at the time. How could acts like this still happen? What causes a person to be this way? What good can come from hate? I didn’t have the answers, but maybe you do.
I know what you’re thinking: You are not the only one at our school who acts in such a way. You’re right.
I have heard the biting whispers of distaste when a woman shares a feminist opinion in class. I have seen the tears of LGBTQ students who are disrespected for boldly standing by their identities.
And now, I have seen an act that hit at the core of an entire student organization (and hopefully, also students who feel an obligation to treat every fellow student with dignity and respect).
The brick buildings that enclose us are not responsible for this hypocritical dance of Jesuit ideals and fearful hostility, but acts like this are.
I also know something else that you are thinking: By calling you on your bluff, I am acting no better than you. I must respectfully dissent, Unkind Student. My criticism is not unjustified, nor my disappointment unprompted. My sadness is not hidden by the anonymity of Saturday night actions, but stated concretely before you. Bear in mind that, as I write this, I am merely the mouthpiece for other students who feel the same.
Do not fear, Unkind Student – there is still time to redeem yourself. As a school, we are better than this. As a person, you are better than this. We just have to take a step back. Our Jesuit tradition taught us to forgive, so that I must.
Dear Student that Longs to be Kind,
I am not here to stand in judgment of you. I am here because I love our school and I want it to be better. I am here because I know that people are fallible. I am here because I know that JCU has the ability to become a school where every person, regardless of gender, religion, race or ethnicity feels welcome. I am here because I am disappointed as member of our community, but am hopeful for change.
To quote our Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Terry Mills, I am here because “it is time for all of us to stand up, speak out, and declare with one voice that this is not who we are.”