By Noelle Ullery, Staff Writer
The phrase “a small change makes a big difference” usually has a positive connotation — but not in this case.
Within the last month, the Xavier student body was informed by the Dorothy Day Center of Faith and Justice (CFJ) that it would be moving divisions. While the CFJ was originally housed under Student Affairs, it is now moving to the Center for Mission and Identity.
This might not seem like a big deal on the surface; after all, the CFJ plays an important role in furthering the mission and values of the Jesuit tradition. It almost makes sense for them to move divisions, right?
Here’s the thing: The CFJ’s approach to enhancing the Jesuit mission is rooted in what I argue is the greatest asset on campus. The students.
By requiring the CFJ to be housed under Mission and Identity, its intended — or official — purpose is not necessarily to serve students but to outwardly demonstrate the university’s mission and identity.
This mission and identity is shifting from enhancing the Jesuit mission to promoting a Catholic-first identity. In other words, the administration is attempting to juxtapose Jesuits and Catholics as if they are separate.
Except they are not really separate. The Jesuit order is indeed Catholic. Sure, the Jesuits may not act or hold the exact same beliefs as typical “Catholics,” but I like to think of it similar to any given family.
Each person in your family has their differences. You might have a lot of similarities, but the differences you have from your family members — however big or small — are what make your behavior and decisions your own. That doesn’t make you any less part of the family, just like being Jesuit doesn’t make us any less Catholic.
By moving the CFJ to Mission and Identity — in which its mission and identity is significantly changing — the administration is trying to change the essence of the CFJ.
To continue with my analogy, parents should never change the essence of their own child. They can help to foster growth in their child, but the desire to change their core involves self-interest, control and power.
Currently the CFJ’s website states the following: “We are an office that has grown out of what used to be three separate centers — Campus Ministry, Peace & Justice and Interfaith Community Engagement. By building community together, we create dynamic spaces for you to grow into who you are called to be.”
The CFJ has always been special compared to other Jesuit universities because it isn’t a campus ministry, but rather provides a space for students to engage with others, regardless of faith or religious background. The CFJ creates a welcoming environment where students are encouraged to discover, learn and grow — all of which follow the Jesuits’ mission. It prioritizes students by offering experiences and resources to help us better understand our world and the role we play.
Most of all, the CFJ is a group of people who simply want students to discover who they are and to celebrate that ever-evolving process.
Making the CFJ function more like a typical campus ministry creates a loss of diverse backgrounds — whether it be race, gender, culture and, most of all, faith (and perhaps lack thereof). This powerful decision from the administration targets a specific demographic that, frankly, has generally always had a space on campus. This change makes it more difficult for all students to feel they have a role in the Jesuit Catholic mission; it will unintentionally deter non-Catholic students from participating in CFJ activities.
Now, I acknowledge my extremely limited knowledge and understanding of all that the administration does. As a student, I only have a grasp of what administration supposedly entails. And I recognize the administration has dealt with very difficult situations and decisions.
I also know that the administration is not stupid. The people behind these decisions, including this division change, know exactly what they’re doing. Just because you can does not mean you should.
What I ask is that students stay aware. Use your Jesuit education to question, challenge and speak up when things just don’t seem right. Acknowledge your mistakes and what you don’t know, but never ignore your intuition.
In recognizing that this decision won’t be changed, know this: The CFJ will always be a place for students. It may not be their “official” purpose, but it is at their core. And after four years of fond memories and experiences with the CFJ, I know that core will never be sacrificed.
The name might eventually be (forcibly) changed to “Campus Ministry,” but the CFJ is named after Dorothy Day, who took a stand against unfair systems to benefit humanity. She saw injustices and worked to improve them because she saw more value in people than money.
In a world where money seems to be the root of all evil, I recognize the game higher education institutions have to play –– profits over people is sadly the name of the game. But you’re never going to win if your players, your people, don’t follow your lead.
People over profits. That’s something all of us can reflect on in our lives. And luckily for us, reflection is a value Xavier celebrates.
So long as we’re Jesuit.