Is Xavier for and with its students?

As a Jesuit institution, one of the values that Xavier teaches its students is the importance of being people “for and with others.” Xavier is committed to engaging students in discussions about social justice and service in the surrounding neighborhoods. Amidst all this, Xavier’s actions, as an institution, raise questions about whether it is actually for and with its own marginalized students.

Xavier’s international student population has been slowly decreasing as fewer international first-years enroll each year. This caused me to ask how the admissions office recruits international students, if it does so at all. During training for Manresa, the orientation team gets a snapshot of the incoming class from the admissions staff, who seem to know everything about the new students, from the top three majors to the most common male and female names.

One of the years I was a Manresa leader, I asked the admissions staff how many international first-years were coming. They didn’t know. They knew how many students were coming from New York and Indiana but not the number of students coming from across the sea. To me, there doesn’t seem to be any effort being put forth by admissions to ensure Xavier becomes a more diverse space where students can be exposed to different cultures, values and ideas. This inadvertently harms the few international students who are here. Case in point: the class of 2021 is made up of only 22 percent of students who identify as racial minorities.

This past year the Manresa Core, the team that plans Manresa, made an effort to recruit a more diverse orientation team. Emails were sent to presidents of clubs like ASA, BSA and SOL asking for an opportunity to speak to club members to encourage them to apply to become Manresa leaders. This approach seems admirable until one realizes that having a diverse orientation team doesn’t automatically make Manresa a more diverse program. Manresa is not designed to appeal to students of different cultural backgrounds.

Real World: Xavier, for instance, is a part of Manresa meant to connect with the first-years by highlighting a variety of issues they may face as students. However, there is not a monologue about being an international student. In addition to that, monologues about race and ethnicity do not highlight the reality of being a minority at a predominantly White institution to the extent that other monologues discuss the difficulty of going through certain issues in a college setting.

The lack of acknowledgement of certain students’ realities contributes to students not feeling like they are seen at Xavier. Manresa is designed to be color blind, which means it is designed to be White, and no matter how diverse the orientation team is, the program will continue to fail to appeal to students of color.

Although I am not privy to how Xavier makes its decisions about funding, having seen the changes that have been made in various offices in the three years I have been at Xavier, I have been able to conclude that Xavier is not for and with its students when it makes decisions about funding.

You are not for and with your students when the Center for International Education does not have enough funding to host events that will enhance the experiences of international students at Xavier.

You are not for and with students when you impose hiring freezes that limit the Center for Faith and Justice’s ability to host retreats and programs that help students build community and grow in faith.

You are not for and with students when Smooth Transitions only has enough funding for its pre-orientation program and has to struggle to keep first-years engaged throughout the year.

You are especially not for and with students when all this happens at the same time a Pizza ATM is purchased.

Xavier cannot choose to tell its students that we should be committed to standing with others and then turn around and make decisions that leave many of those students without the programs that keep them on campus and help them feel like they are a part of a community.

By: Ese Obrimah ~Guest Writer~