As I sat next to my mom and stepdad, they fanned themselves with convocation pamphlets underneath the beating sun. It was mid-August in 2018, and there was neither a breeze nor a cloud in sight. People squeezed and climbed over each other’s legs to fill in the empty seats on the lawn. My best friend and her parents were next to us, wiping sweat off their foreheads and necks.
Nerves were high, and some students seemed eager about the future despite the heat. It was the beginning of our new chapter. A formal welcoming from the university — a convocation to begin our first year.
Four gold banners on the stage caught my attention. Against the black curtains, they were hard to overlook.
Excellence, faith, leadership, service.
The words seemed heavy and abstract to me when I first read them, but after the convocation commenced and I proceeded through my first year, I understood their significance.
Through a Jesuit lens, the university shared that it holds excellence, faith, leadership and service as its foundational pillars. To me, the four pillars were something it promoted in its students’ actions and thoughts as well as in their participation in society and existence on the planet.
The values aren’t just something to put on a website or associate with the name “Marquette University.”
The university wants to create a community that reaches beyond 9th and 21st streets. It wants to enact and inspire substantial change in the world. Through its students, the university can be most successful in its endeavor.
This is its mission. This is something it promised students it will embody and exhibit. This is something to which it will hold itself accountable.
The university felt that the promise behind those words was so significant it had to be shared at the very beginning of students’ Marquette journeys.
I took pride in Marquette after my first-year convocation. I was eager to tell family, friends and community members where I attended college so I could praise it for its foundational values. My choice in college was affirmed and supported; I had no doubt I had chosen the right school.
Now, I am skeptical about my decision to attend Marquette.
With recent layoffs attributed to “cost management” review, misleading language in demonstration policies and decisions to restructure the College of Education and Center for Engagement and Inclusion, it is difficult for me to take pride in Marquette.
The university fronts these changes as beneficial to the Marquette community and as a precautionary measure for the future.
The university abuses its administrative powers with the implementation of these changes. It shows its disregard for students with the termination of programs and people essential to student and campus success. As a private institution, it can and did choose to silence our voices on campus property. With the aggregation of conceptually different resource offices, it undermines and minimizes students’ spaces and needs.
These administrative decisions not only infringe on my personal values, but they also fail to uphold the university’s values. If I had known the university would make these decisions, I would not have come to Marquette.
A value and care for the whole person — commonly referred to as “cura personalis” in reference to Marquette’s mission — is not reflected in the university’s recent actions. The administration is sacrificing the well-being of its faculty, staff and students due to premature decisions.
However, this is not to say that every aspect of Marquette is failing to exhibit “cura personalis“ and Jesuit values.
The university provides ample opportunities for students to exemplify Jesuit values through Campus Ministry, community service events and in classrooms and labs.
While these opportunities are beneficial for students, they cannot serve as a substitute for the university’s inadequacy.
Trying to embolden students to “Be The Difference” while at the same time making closed-door decisions that will negatively impact them, such as cutting programming and terminating staff members, does not uphold the values of excellence, faith, leadership and service.
This dichotomy confuses and frustrates me. I no longer feel comfortable identifying as a Marquette student — despite the positive interactions I have with students and staff — because the university cannot commit itself to the same values it advertises.
Transitioning to college is a vulnerable and wonderful experience. Many students feel that college is their second home.
The solution cannot be leaving or transferring to another university. That should not be the standard for dissatisfaction with Marquette. I should not have to compromise my vision because the university is unable to fulfill the promises made to me at my first-year convocation.
The administration needs to change — it needs to realign itself with the ideals it says it values. It needs to reestablish the Jesuit mission in every decision it makes.
It cannot remain complacent in its inaction.
Neglecting to make these changes will create irreversible damage to students and the university. The disconnect between students and the university will continue to grow.
Students will question and challenge their identities as Marquette students. Their educations will devalue with weakening programs.
Students’ abilities to develop into strong and well-minded individuals will be jeopardized.
This is not the image I had of Marquette at my first-year convocation. This is not an image I will accept.
This story was written by Alexandra Garner. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.