Few today recall the time when The Voice seceded from THE HOYA in the 1960s, or The Corp from GUSA a decade ago. Important events in their time, they barely enter our minds today. No one knows of the Philodemic Society’s original peers, the Phileleutherian and Philonomosian Societies. Filed away in the university’s archives, these memories have been cataloged and long since forgotten. Such is the doomed path that many of Georgetown’s traditions travel.
Famous buildings like Mulledy Building, the former Jesuit residence, crumble and old student groups suffer. They hint at what used to be, while newer creations are manufactured by bureaucracy and are wanting in soul.
For 210 years, Jesuit heritage had been the leitmotif of Georgetown’s story. It mandated a love of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. And it created a holistic environment of cooperation that exists in a small community living and working together – one that stands in stark contrast to the administration’s utter mistrust of and detachment from students today.
The direction of Georgetown is no longer determined by the principles of Jesuit education. Our leaders’ choices are guided by public opinion, money, national rankings for our school and our sports teams, and the combative nature of the inept internal administrative bureaucracies. We feel as though we are in limbo between customers and products, not fellow members of a society with a purpose. In short, we don’t feel like we’re at a Jesuit university.
It’s difficult to point to the precise moment when Jesuits at Georgetown began to seem irrelevant. We can say that, whereas Jesuits historically took great pride in speaking out for what they believed to be the important things at Georgetown, their voices have been conspicuously absent in discussions about many of the most important matters to students recently. From hate crimes to the administration’s addiction to hiring defunct politicians, the Jesuits have played a smaller role than (gasp!) GUSA.
And maybe this is what the university wanted. On a symbolic level, Jesuit ideals began to depart when the Jesuits moved from their old residence in the traditional heart of campus to a newer one far away from the center of activities. And their old building was left to rot into oblivion in much the same way the memory of their significance decays today.
The truth is, Georgetown doesn’t need a Jesuit at the helm in order to maintain its Jesuit tradition. Even without a Jesuit president, we think the Jesuits should be consulted on policy changes and asked for their unique perspective to help solve campus problems. The Jesuits should also be consulted more on social issues.
This editorial may seem a little hypocritical after we wrote last week how Georgetown should allow the sale of birth control on its campus – we stand by that claim because we believe that being a Jesuit school hasn’t and will never mean simply “Catholic,” or worse, “conservative.” It means that the Jesuits should be leaders in steering the course of the school, not pushed to the side by administrators and faculty. It means openness to ideas, to thinking and to trust. We think it means remembering to lead reasonably, allowing students to control their destinies without hiding behind confining and condescending regulations. It means recognizing that every activity and interaction is an opportunity to learn about the world and not a reason to form a committee or chance to put students in their place.
aybe the Jesuits didn’t leave. But save for the occasional Jesuit professor, we rarely hear from the group that founded our school. And maybe they do care. We may be dead wrong, but students need them now more than ever. We would certainly love it if the Jesuits would come let us know.