The long road to a home at Xavier

It took me a while to realize that choosing Xavier was incidentally fantastic.

I started the college search as any other senior in high school would — narrowing down my preferences. I knew a small liberal arts school would rock, but a Catholic school? As far as little high school Heather was concerned, that just meant most students had worse sex education than me and the professors could recite every Pope. I didn’t even know the word “Jesuit” until I visited this campus.

I agreed to go to an X Day to placate my parental units who wanted me to consider universities closer to home. There didn’t seem to be anything special compared to other schools at first. It was my current academic program that eventually wooed me. Little did I know that Xavier was a better fit for me than I had imagined.

Contrary to my overly-preparing nature, I failed to look up “Jesuit” before orientation. When I arrived for Manresa, the buzzwords of diversity and tolerance finally alerted me to the liberal inclination of the Society of Jesus. My especially conservative friends back home were alarmed. 

They reminded me that private universities, according to some media platforms, brainwash their students. To them, Father Graham’s remarks about the Charlottesville riot in his welcome speech to the class of 2021 and his letter to the Xavier community concerning the DACA decision were boldfaced indoctrination. Perhaps, they suggested, I would be better educated at a university where fewer professors talked about alleged systemic racism or gender wage gaps during class.

Against my well-meaning friends’ better judgment, I stayed at Xavier. I have considered leaving since. Anybody’s first few semesters of college can feel exciting when you’re trying new things, but before the start of my sophomore year, I had become disenchanted. 

After temporarily losing confidence in my program, I went as far as scheduling college visits. It turns out that there are plenty of other small liberal arts universities with loads of professional connections, exciting clubs, and political science/philosophy programs. Some colleges are around lively cities with quality public transportation and guarantee on-campus housing. 

I still didn’t leave. The other universities were impressive but felt… off. At first, I couldn’t figure out why, other than not wanting to leave my friends.

After scrupulously comparing the literature on rival college’s websites with Xavier’s for clues, I felt really dumb. Xavier had been practically shoving the answer down my throat from the first glossy postcard they sent me: the core values. I had naively assumed every university prioritized these values like I did. 

Where many universities create inclusion offices to appear benevolent, tack on  “feel good” marketing points in promotions or throw in a line about benefitting the world in commencement speeches, Xavier takes these ideas seriously. 

Universities can advertise that they value community service, but they don’t have the Eigel Center that focuses on engaging and uplifting communities through volunteer work. Mandating gender and diversity credits or having a version of the Center of Diversity and Inclusion is becoming a norm these days, but also having an Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, a Working Group on Slavery and creating an additional Title IX position because of three student’s summer research project is not.

Pamphlets can claim students are formed into caring, conscientious individuals, but they do not have solidarity, reflection or service to the greater good upheld as founding elements of their core curriculum. 

Ironically, what motivated Graham and professors to “indoctrinate” us students is the reason I’m still here. It wasn’t a red flag of political bias after all but a sign that we’re in training to be men and women for and with others. 

Xavier is no utopia. These attitudes are not universal among staff, professors, alumni or students. We will not be on any “Top 10” lists at a national level in the next few years, and students can contest to what extent our values are pursued or lived out. But as students and faculty continually challenge themselves and each other to truly be all for one and one for all, I see how Xavier is the place for me.

Heather Gast is a sophomore Philosophy, Politics and the Public major from Cincinnati. She is the Campus News Editor for the Newswire.