Post Classifieds

Renewing Dialogue

By Chris Dobbs
On January 17, 2012

I think the recent uproar about the Crosstown Shootout, and especially the student response to the mandatory reflection sessions, is a good illustration of one of the points Donna Szostak and I have been getting at for the last few weeks.

Free and open discussion should be easy to achieve on a

liberal arts campus. Dialogues are a basic component of anything related to higher education – Socrates reached his conclusions on justice, remember, only by talking with other people. A liberal arts university that can't reach dialogue, I think, should reconsider its identity as a liberal

arts establishment. I have never seen Xavier students

more fired up than I did in the hours after the e-mail about

the mandatory reflection sessions was sent. People were

organizing protests, signing petitions and posting

e-mails and phone numbers at which to leave complaints.

People were united behind one cause. What was that cause? Of all things, it was a call to stop dialogue. Shut

down the means of communication. Don't talk about it. Every call to "put the fight behind us" is literally a call

to stop thinking. That, I think, is the biggest red flag those of us worried about the liberal arts tradition at Xavier have

come across. This isn't a movement by the administration to shut down X, Y or Z Core program. This is a call from the students themselves to shut down a thing that, as liberal

arts students, they should be more than happy to undertake

— discussion. There is more of Xavier, a school we all claim to love, in a civilized discussion between peers than there is in the entire basketball program. The unwillingness

of the student body to engage in that civilized discussion is a critical signpost along Xavier's road to all things business and buildings and business buildings. Xavier has brought in students that are not interested in learning

about the liberal arts. Every one of the movements that Donna and I have decried in these articles has been either cheered on or ignored by the majority of the student body. The Honors' Villa was torn down, Academic Service Learning Semesters were defunded and the school was overwhelmed with too many new students because the student body didn't care. The administration is at fault for bringing students in that don't care about the liberal arts. It's a reflection of their indifference towards the state of the liberal arts at XU and a sign that they are, because of our lack of a strong endowment, at the will of the students' tuition dollars. Students, especially ones that are here in spite of the liberal arts and not for them, are not experts

on how a school should be run. Administrators and teachers are, or at least they should be. The school, instead of keeping basic principles of a liberal arts education in mind, has fallen to the tyranny of the student and alumni's dollar. "The student body doesn't want a reflection session? Better not do it then, they may not donate as much as alumni." Xavier — we think it was a mistake to build Conaton Learning Commons and Williams College of Business 2.0. They're symptoms of larger movements away from a liberal arts base and towards an institution built to keep the source of money (students) happy with state-of-the-art glass buildings and impressive advertising campaigns, just as a business

would. We think a way to fight this tendency is to invest

in our endowment — to build up some buffer room between

the ever-changing, unguided demands of alumni and the basic educational principles that should remain at the core of our school. There's still time to maintain our image as a school where "passion meets purpose." We came here because the administration told us this was a school where they would train us in the skills and foundations of

the good life. We think it's time that we abandon the business of basketball promotion and constant construction and reinvest in the Core — a thing that

represents the height of our potential. If any member of

the administration is willing to publically back that renewal of our liberal arts mission, I ask them to please reply to Donna and I in the Newswire. If we're going to figure anything out, we have to be willing to talk about it.


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