It is undeniable that racism, injustice, and violence have plagued our nation for far too long. The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police while in custody screams at us for action, for justice, and for lasting change. Although an officer was arrested for his murder, lasting change is not born of reactive measures, it is born of proactive ones. So how can we as Celts do our part to really move society forward? We are a Catholic university, and changing society for the greater good is an important part of what we do.
Let’s start with our mission. We commit to instill in our students the core values of our founders, the Basilian Fathers: goodness, discipline and knowledge. That means we form students who will stand tall when faced with injustice. Our society needs change makers now more than ever. Each one of us must be afforded the rightful dignity that comes from being a child of God. Anything else denies that dignity and harms every human person and our human family.
Many areas of UST bring Christian love to life. One in particular is providentially aimed at the injustices we find in civil society. For those who are not already familiar with it, we have developed a new program to help students do just that; Criminology, Law and Society. The degree is designed for anyone who wants to be the change in the criminal justice system for good, and to give students the ethical insight to change the world through social justice. In a world ravaged by racism and hurt by police brutality, now is the time to grow this program, which is also open to current police officers, and I have asked senior administrators for a plan to do that.
Our mission also calls us to foster engagement in a diverse, collaborative community. We often say that diversity is one of our greatest strengths. It certainly is, but only if we make sure that it remains more than a talking point. That “strength” exists because the fabric of our diverse community is woven tightly together. If some of those threads are lost, our fabric weakens, strength is gone. We stand together, or not at all. In order to make sure we truly walk the walk, I have tapped the St. Martin de Porres Society and several other key members of our community to help us create new initiatives designed to strengthen UST’s ties with the African American community. These will be changes that will last well beyond the summer, and for many years to come.
Above all, we must accompany and dialogue with students around these critical issues, and we must do so often. I have been in contact with different areas of student leadership including the Black Student Union, and I look forward to expanding on those conversations. No matter how much we do, it will still not be enough, but we must commit to moving the needle in every way we can.