Feeling Excluded by Pestello

Nathan+Rubbelke
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Feeling Excluded by Pestello

Nathan Rubbelke

Nathan Rubbelke

Nathan Rubbelke

Nathan Rubbelke

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Like many here at SLU, I have been encouraged by the visibility of Dr. Pestello over his first few months as president. He seems to be at every event, interacting with all groups on campus- with a perpetual grin on his face. I hope this enthusiasm doesn’t wear away in his time at SLU.
Despite that enthusiasm, I still have my reservations with Dr. Pestello’s decision-making. For me, the process of his decision-making thus far has been similar to the complaints of his predecessor – quick, rash, and without input from all corners of campus.
One such example is the Clock Tower Accords – the thirteen initiatives that came out of the Occupy SLU movement. I agree with the majority of the initiatives set forth by the agreement and tasks undertaken by Dr. Pestello and the University, but some of them give me concern. Initiatives like the establishment of a K-12 bridge program, a community center, a special assistant to the president and an academic center for community and economic development could come with a hefty price tag. This price tag could be a major consequence of Dr. Pestello’s quick action.
Major university decisions that come with large financial promises deserve serious, campus-wide debate. They deserve student input, not just by those who make the demands. I have spoken with many students from different backgrounds and political leanings, who also have reservations about the price tag that could accompany the Clock Tower Accords.
Many of these students have agreed that initiatives like a K-12 bridge program or a community center are great ideas, but not ones SLU should solely pay for or take on itself. Instead, they agree SLU should provide its vast array of resources to such projects, instead of taking them on itself. This could be done through collaboration with local non-profit and community groups. Ideas, such as these and many others, could have come out of months-long or even a year-long discussion and debate among the entire community concerning what SLU’s role in such initiatives should entail.
Just recently, the University is once again facing demands from members of the campus community. The vice president of the Rainbow Alliance recently issued a list of demands to the University after the group protested a recent conference, hosted on campus, that advocated strongly for traditional marriage. A University official has promised the group funding for an event of inclusion and diversity, but is also considering the demand for a, “task force headed by President Pestello to oversee future groups and speakers coming onto campus.”
I fear such a task force could potentially limit the access to free speech at SLU, and stifle the debate of ideas and beliefs on campus, which is essential to a Jesuit university. The decision to set up such a task force should not be made hastily by the University administration. It deserves debate and input from all students on campus.
I could be wrong about the hefty price tag that could accompany some of the Clock Tower Accords. They might be the right initiatives for SLU to undertake.
A longer discussion and consideration of the accords could have allowed Dr. Pestello to assure me, and other skeptics. Instead, the accords were decided upon in closed-door meetings as students were taking their midterms and heading home for fall break.
The administration has an opportunity with the recent demands presented by the member of the Rainbow Alliance. If a task force for campus events is seriously being considered, the decision shouldn’t be finalized quickly or without a range of student voices and input. Now is the time for Dr. Pestello and his administration to set the tone about how it will go about making the major decisions the University must face.
Dr. Pestello hasn’t been shy about making his face visible around campus in his short tenure here. It’s time that same face is visible to all when the big decisions have to be made.