Letter to the Jesuit Community From a “Non-Citizen Student”

I have entrusted your community and religious order with the past 7 years of my education. Next year, I will graduate with 8 years of holistic, Jesuit educational background. Over this span, I’ve been incredibly grateful for the numerous opportunities to learn and grow as an individual that the Jesuits have provided to me. Indeed, the Jesuits have opened their doors to millions of immigrant children very much like they did when I was admitted to a Jesuit High School in 2009, and my brother in 2007. The first few years of high school were the most traumatizing to me: I experienced continual shame for dressing differently, constantly had my sexual and gender identity questioned and shunned, and was physically and emotionally harassed on a weekly basis by students (and even faculty at times). Eventually, however, I found community, and was able to cope and finally identify with the Jesuit mission proposed to me from the very moment my parents decided to invest their money in their education. The small community I found of teachers and students all hung out in the school’s Service and Activities office, where I largely involved myself with retreats and the diversity program. No doubt, I was seeing my leadership take off during my latter half of high school, as I yearned to lead retreats like Kairos, went on multiple service missions, and was twice recognized for my commitment to Diversity Excellence during Baccalaureate dinner. I was also named one of thirteen graduates who were recognized as ‘Raidermen’, a distinguished group of students who demonstrated commitment and praxis of the Regis Jesuit mission, and was honored for dedication to social justice in and outside the classroom.

I have never been so glad to name all of the awards and recognitions I received, only because I feel it to be in such an ironic opposition to what I am experiencing now at this school, as I came to Seattle U in hopes that I could follow through on this sense of mission I had to uphold these values that I learned from my Jesuit High School. Indeed, I have not abandoned these values or commitments, yet I feel greatly disappointed and upset by the actions and reactions to some of the horrifying events that have taken place on our campus recently. I’ll begin by stating the obvious, which is when the recording device found in the MRC Coalition office last week was known to be left by a fellow Jesuit that is part of the college.

This intentional placing of the recorder not only violated the legal privacy and security of the students in the coalition, but morally invades your own students’ space wherein they should feel free to express themselves spiritually and emotionally. I am in awe of this kind of behavior, and further upset that no confrontational action has followed between the Jesuit community and the coalition. Where are you Jesuits? Where is your commitment to the emotional, intellectual, and social development of your students that is emblazoned in the Student Code of Conduct? This incident infringed all three of those, and further marginalizes the voices of p.o.c. students, especially womxn of color.

Second, I wanted to address an incident that happened to me last year which might not seem as relevant, yet it is something I have been quiet far too long about. I am also sure that I’m not the first person to bring this to your attention, as this pertains to a member of the Jesuit community who I believe is no longer at SU anymore. Fr. William O’Malley was my professor for my first UCOR theology class in the Winter of 2014: ‘God Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’. I wasn’t as self-aware about my identities when I was in this class, but I did notice how many of my older classmates would react negatively and be hurt by many of his comments. I did not understand until my sophomore year, when a crowd of people were mingling during the intermission of the quarterly school play. Father O’Malley noticed me in the crowd and started heckling me with jokes about being “incompetent” and “in the wrong place”. People around us started laughing, and there were, in fact, many witnesses to this situation that might even be reading this. Fr. O’Malley continued to question my immigration status, and “jokingly” accused me of crossing the border with my family. He asked for my papers, and I was left in shock as people around us, some of whom were my close friends, laughed along to his jokes. This is no fabrication, and is in no way an exaggeration.

As Pope Francis said in his encyclical, a part does not define the whole. However, I repeat my disappointment and true loss of identity that I had with this community as a whole. The community is responsible for the individuals, and we can not be complicit in the face of racism, sexism, ableism, or any other exclusionary act. I can not identify with racist individuals or communities, nor do I suggest others do, and knowing that this person was a part of this community, and continually allowed to say such things for many years confuses me deeply. I don’t expect or want a response, merely to state my opposition to racism everywhere, and to express my full support of the MRC Coalition and their demand for the resignation of Dean Jodi Kelly. Fr. O’Malley taught in the MRC for many, many years, and being met with such explicit and violent racism towards me and my family here at Seattle U is a true embarrassment to this institution and its policies. I know I am not alone.

—A non-citizen student