Town hall discusses SLU students’ ethos

In an approximately 90-minute town hall meeting in the Sinquefield Stateroom in DuBourg Hall on Thursday, Jan. 21, Casey Beaumier, SJ, led a presentation, followed by dialogue and discussion, of what is distinctive about a SLU education. The event was part of an attempt by the faculty senate and the provost to develop a vision statement that articulates what is distinctive about a SLU undergraduate education, its roots in the Jesuit tradition and how it might meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Beaumier offered the Paschal Path, or Paschal Mystery, as the model of how a SLU education is distinctive. Just as Christ had to grow in wisdom, age and favor, so do SLU students. This is accomplished by creating spaces and facilitating conversation, and by participating freely and with depth, rather than just going through the motions of daily life.

A SLU student is one who can say with conviction, “I matter. I contribute.”

Beaumier, who lives in a freshman residence hall at Boston College, shared his hope, for all freshman, that they learn to be both assertive and accommodating, where each person is called upon to develop the key attributes for contributing to the common good of humanity. Learning how to relate to others, often entering through another person’s doors, and welcoming of all sorts of personalities and backgrounds are essential skills.

Although Beaumier’s framework is religious, and biblical, he stressed that it is the personhood of Jesus that translates beyond just a Christian vision. The Christ that preached the Sermon on the Mount, multiplied fishes and loaves, and healed surely had a great influence on people. As Beaumier explained, Christ entered Jerusalem “at the top of his game.”

SLU students, too, are meant to have a real impact on others and on public life, he said. Recognizing that such an impact can often be misunderstood, perhaps seen as a threat, and entail anguish, death, or even a tomb-like experience, Beaumier stressed that mental, spiritual, and physical challenges have the potential to lead to new life. Comparing such a challenge and potential for renewal to formerly vacant St. Louis buildings, like the Continental, aka the “Superman,” building, or the Coronado, Beaumier credited SLU with playing a part in Midtown’s renewal, since the time he was a student at SLU.

Beaumier said he believed that the university’s task is captured in the question of how to form people in a way that makes them say, “I believe.” Part of the mission, then, is to tend to others’ suffering because we know that there is life to come.

Just as the intellect is stretched during the college years, Beaumier hopes that there is also a care for the interior life, too, and that there is a fostering of interiority. Beaumier referred to this as the union of the heart and mind of a person, recalling that the motto of Campus Ministry, during his time on campus, was “With you on the Way.” Accompaniment, then, must be a distinctive part of a SLU education.

As a final thought, Beaumier said he believed that the meeting itself that day was distinctive, with all in attendance being in a unique position to contribute.

The presentation was followed with the six, thinking-hats exercise, where facts, likes, dislikes, new ideas and emotions are shared among small groups, and then on to the larger group.

Among the ideas proposed were a new, more extensive faculty-formation program on the Jesuit tradition, facilitation of discussions of Catholic Social Teaching, with an emphasis on its complexity – rather than just a few issues, and finding a way to make social justice more than just a token experience and part of a comprehensive curriculum, which might even include a core co-curricular, like service learning, rather than just core coursework.