A Message from University President Fr. Michael Engh, S.J. in Response to the Recent Vandalism of the 43 Students Memorial
Father Michael Engh, S.J.
THE SANTA CLARA
October 6, 2016
As with many of us in the University community, I was saddened and troubled by the recent vandalisms of the memorial of the 43 missing students along the path in front of St. Joseph’s Hall. Such an act violates everything we stand for as a community.
Let me be clear: the denigration of this memorial, and of any aspect of campus, physical or otherwise, is unacceptable and reprehensible.
This act only divides us, harms others and defeats the educational intent of such displays. There is value in these types of public installations: they open us to issues and topics, sometimes controversial, we may have never known previously. When these types of displays are met in this way, their creators are discouraged from continuing them and that is harmful to everyone.
What does it say about us as a community when we treat the work of others with contempt and disregard?
As members of this University community, we have all committed to the ideals of mutual respect and integrity. That means we stand up to injustice when we are confronted with it. It means that we hold ourselves and each other accountable. And it means that we allow all persons to express themselves without fear of retaliation from others.
Some members of the community have expressed the idea that this act is symptomatic of a larger problem surrounding inclusion at Santa Clara. Regardless of motivation, we cannot allow this destructive behavior to continue. The violation of the work, ideas and property of others diminishes trust within our community. Instead, we must support one another in our individual expressions of who we are and what we value.
This mutual support and celebration of one another reflects an important Jesuit goal of social justice: solidarity. We are one community that seeks to invite everyone to participate and express themselves as equals. To realize our potential as an inclusive and diverse community requires that as individuals and as a group we work hard to make this dream a reality.
The student-initiated Unity 4 program exemplifies the hard work that goes into creating a climate of inclusion and mutual respect. Working together with faculty and the administration, Santa Clara students identified the manifestations of systemic injustice on campus and developed specific recommendations to affect positive change.
This collaboration led to the development of Ethnic Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies programs into full academic department status with stand-alone majors, as well as the creation and recent launch of the Diversity and Inclusion Series for each student’s first year.
Such progress must continue, and there is still much work yet to be done to live up to our ideals of inclusion and solidarity. The way forward begins with integrity, integrity in which we hold ourselves and each other accountable for our words and actions. We must all remain vigilant against attacks on open dialogue and civil discourse. We all have a responsibility as members of this community not only to treat others with respect, but to encourage that same treatment from our peers. In instances of injustice or aggression, speak out. To remain silent is to accept these acts as part of who we are.
We also should also continue to gather, reflect and collaborate on further ways to improve the campus climate. One opportunity to do so is the upcoming campus-wide Ignatian Examen on Wednesday, Oct. 26 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., in the California Mission Room.
This reflective experience allows us to contemplate recent events around the country and here at Santa Clara. I invite all members of our campus community to attend and participate.
Also, I encourage you to get involved in campus leadership. Join the dialogue at a Unity 4 open forum; I shall be present at the next meeting, on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. Participate in conversations with friends, classmates, your RLCs. We must continue to work together to make Santa Clara an institution where we all feel we belong and of which we can be proud.
We aspire to promote an atmosphere of inclusion, one in which we celebrate the differences 0of one another in the same breath as our similarities. We aim to facilitate an environment of respect: of ideas, culture, each other, and the physical space we share. And we seek to create a community of integrity and solidarity, where each of us is valued for who we are. To achieve these goals, we must first start with an honest conversation.
Let us engage in dialogue that is not destructive, but constructive.
Father Michael Engh, S.J, is the president of Santa Clara University.