Student Life’s image tarnished by failure to respond to criticism

by Susan C. Fischer

Last Fall Katie van Schaijik wrote and published an interesting article concerning household life at the University. The piece analyzed problems she sees in household living and their relation to the Student Life Office. As an alumna of an FUS household, and a former household adviser, I found the points she raised to be thought-provoking and worthy of discussion. With the arrival of each successive issue of the Concourse I expected to see a reply from some member of the Student Life staff refuting her arguments, defending current practices, or at least offering some explanation that might help mitigate the serious concerns she raised. None came.

Since its inception the Concourse has covered diverse topics relating to Catholic culture and the life at Franciscan University ranging from pop music to the liturgy. I have greatly admired those authors who have boldly voiced their views in their particular areas of interest and expertise, despite the personal and professional risks involved in doing so. I think of Dr. Andrew Minto vs. Attorney Mark Fischer on music, Dr. Stephen Miletic debating with Dr. John Crosby on Distance Education, and alumnae wrangling with professors over complicated economics issues. Other distinguished authors have included Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, Fr. Giles Dimmock, O.P., Dr. John Holmes, as well as students such as Michael Healy, Jr. All of them real people butting up against real people, daring to voice perhaps unpopular convictions, for the sake of helping us discourse toward truth in sometimes difficult subjects. It is noteworthy that this has been done within the milieu of a small community where “opponents” may be fellow students, friends or colleagues, who may belong to the same parishes and meet face to face frequently.

These writers, by participating in intellectual discussions, have embraced the true spirit of a University that is alive with thinkers, male and female, young and old. I am thinking of a University that is not in the business of producing clones, but rather, releasing persons with fully functioning intellectual capabilities. The formal Mission Statement of our University makes a point of proclaiming its commitment to this sort of strong intellectual formation.

However, by not responding to intelligent and obviously well-meant criticism, the Student Life Office is tempting us to believe that they do not operate in the spirit of a lively University brimming with ideas and discussion but, alas, sadly operates in the flat spirit of “no discourse.” It may be easier to deal with students who are placid, docile and non-questioning (a point raised in the VanShaijik article), but we must ask: Is this right for a University? I urge Student Life to the retrieve its image, now tarnished by inappropriate silence, by answering the challenges posed by Katie van Schaijik’s article.

Susan Creel Fischer, Class of ‘84

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