A Letter to Lawrence Biondi, S.J.

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Dear Fr. Biondi,

I am writing this to you to discuss not the graduation fee or the plethora of dismissals this summer, but, rather, your comments in the last issue of this paper.

 You commented on how you are a student advocate; you advocate for our needs on a daily basis. I want to say two things in response: I could not agree more, and thank you very much.

My cousin-in-law went to SLU many moons ago, and I have seen pictures. Needless to say, the campus looks better, the quality of faculty and students has improved and the facilities are constantly being made better. While some buildings still need work (Walsh, Clemens, etc.), I am certain those will be looked at in the near future.

No, I respect what your administration has done, not just for the SLU campus, but for the revitalization of the Midtown area through your advocacy. However, I want to charge you with a new task. Let me tell you a story:

Fr. Biondi, you and I met inconspicuously back in April, soon after the graduation fee situation. I am sure you may not remember the experience, so that is the purpose for the story.

I was a student worker in Kathy Hagedorn’s office, and I had just made a delivery in the basement, and rushed to catch the elevator, which you and your assistant graciously held for me. At which point, you went on to speak with her about the angry students, and you asked me if I hated Fr. Biondi.

Curious, I thought, why would he ask me if I hated him? I realized later that you assumed I did not know who you were. We rode to the third floor, where you pelted me with questions about my hometown, high school, even my blood type. We exchanged jovial jabs at each other’s alma maters, and you jokingly threatened my job in the Office for the Vice President of Human Resources.

Now, here is my problem with that course of events. I have no problem with the fact that you did not know who I am. I can not and do not expect you to know every student by name on this campus—that is unfair and unrealistic. Rather, my complaint stems from you assuming I did not know who you were. You are the President of this fine institution; I feel you should assume students do know you, not the contrary.

I am not the president of a university, nor do I pretend to be. I realize your time is in high demand, and justifiably so. Still, in light of the dismissal this summer of two priests students cared for deeply, I ask you—rather, challenge you—to be more visible this year, to be more active. Numerous campus organizations lost their moderator this summer. Take over as moderator of the rugby club. Get in touch with the people you advocate for monetarily on a daily basis.

Perhaps you will be better able to advocate if you have personal relationships with more of your constituents. I understand you are close with the students that work in your office, and the President of SGA, and a handful of others. But, there are many more students to forge relationships with, and in this year of unfortunately potential turmoil, it is a great opportunity for you to reach out.

Take part in Make a Difference Day, show up at Relay for Life, come to the fraternity rush kick-off barbeque, smile and wave at a club lacrosse/soccer/rugby game, make an appearance at an SGA meeting—hell, swing by the University News office one Wednesday night and meet the ed-board. Those kinds of things mean the most to students.

We respect what you and your administration have done for the campus academically and aesthetically, but we’d love to see some visual support at our extra-curriculars; they mean a lot to us. You can’t make it to everything, and I know that, but if kids knew you as more than the President they have seen either walking into his house or driving a golf cart, don’t you think the campus would be a better place?

You asked at a town hall meeting last semester why students felt the need to be destructive towards campus property. I have a feeling a great majority of it stems from drunken stupidity; call me an outside the box thinker. However, to a lesser extent, I see it as a product of students feeling unable to come to you with concerns about their University, and feeling like they are being bossed around by an invisible figure.

 So, unfortunately and immaturely, they lash out against what you have built, since they grow tiresome of their complaints falling on deaf ears. I am not defending defamation of property; it is unacceptable no matter the reasoning. Rather, I am offering an answer to the question you posed last April.

Now, like I said, you will never know all of us by name, and, frankly, I am OK with that. If you did, you may lose sight of some of your other responsibilities. But I hope the next time you want to know a student’s blood type, you will at least know that he knows you.

 

Sincerely,

Thomas W. Delaney