The Core Curriculum Committee condemns racism

By The Core Curriculum Committee

Members of the Canisius College Community,

It is vital that we, the members of the Core Curriculum Committee, speak out about recent events on campus.  Our Core Curriculum reflects the Catholic and Jesuit mission, identity, and traditions of Canisius College.  This mission centers on ideals such as care for the whole person (cura personalis), striving for what is of higher and greater value (magis), and, crucially, both education for justice and action against injustice.  As a former Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., said, “To be just, it is not enough to refrain from injustice.  One must go further and refuse to play its game.”1 This mission is reflected in the explicit inclusion of the attributes of Diversity, Ethics, and Justice within the Core Curriculum.  A subsequent Superior General, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., also emphasized that “we aim to bring our students beyond excellence of professional training to become well-educated ‘whole person(s) of solidarity.’”2

On Tuesday, November 8, a series of events occurred on campus involving a black baby doll, initially left in an elevator and later hanged on a curtain rod in a residence hall window.  Images of the doll in both locations appeared on social media, including memes involving the hanged doll.  This occurred against a backdrop of other acts on campus, including the defacing of posters advertising a Black Lives Matter event.  In many members of the campus community, the images of the doll evoked memories of lynching, one of the most disturbing legacies of our national history.  As one might expect, many at Canisius College, notably African American community members, reacted strongly.  A range of emotions was expressed: anger, fear, sadness, and disappointment chief among them.  It is not lost on this Committee that the recognition of cultural symbols, such as lynching, and their power to harm is one of the lessons we, as an institution, aim to teach through the Core Curriculum.  It is in this spirit that we call on the campus community to recognize the harm done through these symbols, the historical wounds they reopened, and the present-day injustices that still exist.

The community’s response has been strong, swift, and unambiguous.  On Wednesday, November 9, the campus community came together to speak out, to listen, and to show solidarity.  First, the Division of Student Affairs coordinated an informational session in the Grupp Conference room.  There, students spoke freely, openly, and candidly about their experiences with racism on campus, their goals for a better Canisius, and their desire for concrete action against injustice.  Later, students gathered again in the quad for a peaceful demonstration of their will to act against injustice.  This is an important lesson that the Core Curriculum teaches: when events lay bare the wounds of injustice, we are morally obligated to act in solidarity against injustice.         

The Core Curriculum Committee strongly condemns racism in all forms.  In addition, we applaud the response of the campus community.  The decision to come together, to listen to each other, and to protest peacefully against injustice is in concert with the College’s mission and the purpose of our Core Curriculum. It echoes the words of Fr. Arrupe: “… We cannot, then, separate action for justice and liberation from oppression from the proclamation of the Word of God.”3   We stand in unity with, and in support of, you, the students who have chosen to organize and take peaceful yet forceful action against racism.  You embody the principles of Canisius College, the spirit of our Core Curriculum, and the heart of Jesuit education: to strive to be men and women with and for others.

The Core Curriculum Committee

1 Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., “Men for Others,” Tenth International Congress of Jesuit Alumni of Europe, Valencia, Spain, July 31, 1973  

2 Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education,” lecture at Santa Clara University, Oct. 6, 2000. See also Kolvenbach, “The Jesuit University in the Light of the Ignatian Charism,” unpublished lecture from the International Meeting of Jesuit Higher Education, Rome, May 27, 2001.

3 Arrupe, “Men for Others.”

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