Questions unanswered and things left unsaid

Here it is: The end of another academic year. From the 2008 Presidential elections to the 2009 Student Government Association elections; from the Billiken’s 100th birthday to a 24-hour library; and from a roving guinea fowl to the threat of swine flu, vital events have transpired since last August.

Academic generations repeat every four years. Students’ institutional memories ebb and flow with each graduation; the traditions and scandals of one collegiate dynasty are washed away and replaced by the next.

As the class of 2009 drifts out into a job market hiring 22 percent fewer graduates this spring, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a cadre of questions remains unanswered. Who will resolve SLU’s housing crunch? Who will extend SLU dining hours? Who will encourage SLU administrators to finally define the Jesuit Mission?

Future generations of students must remember the issues that pop up perennially yet remain unresolved. Consider:

1. Is SLU a business or a University? The short answer is, both. SLU is an institution open during business hours with sometimes business-like efficiency. Eateries are mostly closed during evenings and weekends. The library is just now considering expanding service to student-amenable times. But the question remains: Are undergraduates students or customers? If they are customers, what services must the University provide to abide by good business practices?

2. Are SLU students engaged or apathetic? Fifteen years ago, SLU was essentially a commuter school. Now, it is a thriving community with a well-decorated campus. Does that community have meaning? Does it have a memory? Must SGA create traditions for students, or will students independently regard SLU with a sense of pride?

3. Is SLU a Catholic university or simply a University based on Catholic traditions? This issue was officially settled in a 2007 lawsuit against the University, but the Jesuit Mission is still used to justify University decisions.

4. Will administrators communicate with students or ignore their concerns? Attempts at administrative openness have improved with town hall meetings and student representation on the President’s Coordinating Council. But who holds the power at SLU? Is it a democracy, an aristocracy or an oligarchy?

Every end is a new beginning. Next year’s academic beginning must respond to the monolithic questions raised before it. Only generations that acknowledge the past can fathom an effective future.