Redeemers of the Mission

I cannot stomach the thought of attending one more debate about what was recently termed the “Clock Tower Accords.” I will explain why.

As a lifelong honor-roll student, I was ecstatic to be accepted to Saint Louis University in spring 2012. SLU was my first choice university, even though I had been offered full-ride scholarships to three other prestigious universities. As someone who has always aimed to be an advocate for social justice, I was amazed that SLU’s mission was in sync with my own; at least, that is what I thought.  I was duped.

Ever since the protests took place last fall, I have been consistently disappointed and disheartened when listening to and reading students’ and faculty and staff members’ objections to President Pestello’s handling of the situation. Various groups on campus that preach the importance of “living out the mission” and “aiding the marginalized of society” have either remained silent out of confusion; hosted frustrating debates about whether or not students should agree with the protests; or been too self-involved to address the fact that the mission itself is being called into question. I wonder if the members of those groups have even read it.

I now ask you to consider the following query: Why are some of us opposed to the very mission we agreed to heed the moment we accepted our admission to this university? Remember, as part of its mission, SLU strives to “foster programs that link University resources to local, national and international communities in collaborative efforts to alleviate ignorance, poverty, injustice and hunger.”

It is not a question of whether or not you agree with the protests that happened in October; it is a question of whether or not you are truly committed to SLU’s mission. Why are some of us refusing to acknowledge the fact that this institution needs to evolve in order for its actions to once again be in sync with its own mission statement?

Frankly, we should be embarrassed at the fact that it took people who were unaffiliated with SLU to show us how incredibly complacent we have become in the fight against social injustice. And no, I do not consider community service, where students “travel” to North St. Louis to paint buildings or faculty members teach prisoners to read, to be effective ways to rectify social ills, although most of you will likely disagree (which is a large part of the problem). As the new generation of intelligent thinkers, should we not too be learning the accurate history of this community in order to challenge why North St. Louis looks the way it does and why black and brown people are incarcerated disproportionately?

For students, faculty and staff members at a Jesuit university, fighting against social injustice should mean stepping outside of our own comfortable existences to see the world through someone else’s eyes. It means seeing through the eyes of Mike Brown, or the college-educated protesters many of you saw as “thugs,” or the black woman sitting next to you who was responsible for writing this.

It also means confronting the privileges that were provided to you at birth, and becoming aware of the fact that many citizens are not provided with those same privileges.

You should not feel guilty about the color of the skin you were born into, the schools you attended or the neighborhood you lived in – for we would all be forced to feel guilty about something. Rather, you should acknowledge your privilege and utilize it to the best of your ability to promote true social justice and accurate knowledge, for that is how lasting change is made.

Although I realize most of what I have written has already made many people feel uneasy, I want to leave you with some things to ponder on as we near the end of this academic year.

Would you, as an unarmed American, want to be killed by the people paid to protect you?

Do you now realize the significance of the Clock Tower Accords?

If these questions make you uncomfortable, perhaps it is time you reflect upon what you have just read. Our mission is still attainable at this incredible university; we just have to be ready to see what “living out the mission” should actually look like. When we are once again committed to fixing the causes of social injustice, not just to helping ease its virulent effects, we will be forever regarded as the redeemers of the mission.