Jesuit Mission proves all too flexible

The United States Constitution includes a special catch-all rule known as the “Elastic Clause.” This clause is essentially a blank check; it gives Congress the power to do anything it deems appropriate to carry out its intended duties.

Saint Louis University administrators have found their own “Elastic Clause” in the Jesuit Mission. This ambiguous code should be a cherished set of core values upon which administrators act. In practice, however, administrators hide behind the mission, using it to quickly quell divisive debate.

Whether clear or murky, the mission is often the final word in SLU’s institutional arguments. If something is deemed to be against SLU’s Jesuit Mission, it’s a no-go.

The Vagina Monologues? Against the Jesuit Mission. Rainbow Alliance’s All of Us Campaign? Against the Jesuit Mission. G.A.M.E., last year’s proposed and rejected Gun Awareness and Marksmanship Education group? Against the Jesuit Mission.
The mission is also stretched to include initiatives that are politically expedient-either that, or it is ignored until those measures are approved.

Take the intersection of the Jesuit Mission and Chaifetz Arena. After SLU received $8 million in Tax Increment Funding from St. Louis City for construction of the arena, it was sued in 2007 by the neighboring Masonic Temple, which claimed that SLU was a religious institution ineligible for state funding.

SLU’s defense was that it is not a religious institution-simply an institution based upon a religious tradition.

SLU gets its money, renounces its identity and gets off scot-free. Thank goodness we could sweep away our “Jesuit Elastic Clause” that time.

Consider also the Spring line-up for Chaifetz Arena. Along with events like Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends – Live!, Nelly’s Celebrity Basketball Game and Richard Nader’s Solid Gold Doo Wop, Chaifetz will host Steel City Rumble 5 – Extreme Cage Fighting this year on May 2. Though not explicitly forbidden by the Jesuit Mission, the celebration of grown men beating one another into submission doesn’t exactly reflect the ideals of Jesus Christ or the Catholic Church.

Administrators must keep in mind that every act concerning Chaifetz reflects upon the University as a whole. If it is OK for SLU to ambiguously advocate violence at Chaifetz, why is it not OK to advocate gay marriage or frank discussions of feminism and sexuality?

The Jesuit Mission is a powerful statement if taken seriously, but administrators can’t have it both ways.

They must use it to explain their choices, not erase their mistakes. If exploited or ignored for political expedience, it becomes disappointingly shallow.

Let’s keep the mission as it’s meant to be-the cornerstone of a Jesuit education.