The Prospector (Helena, Mont.) 1916-2015, April 07, 2004, Image 8

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Two-Thirds By Brent Northup Communications Department The Tuesday forum (March 23) on campus ministry was a won­ derful moment in Carroll history. Hundreds of students, faculty and staff gathered to discuss - some­ times calmly, sometimes through tears and anger - the future of campus ministry. As one who believes in consen­ sus governance - with the board, students, faculty and staff all guar­ anteed a key decision-making role in all major decisions - I was delighted to see the campus join together to talk. I particularly commend Lois Fitzpatrick for her sensitive moderation of the event. Lois wisely let the discussion con­ tinue until only silence remained. “Are we done?” Lois asked, at quarter past the new day. “Are we done?” she asked again, like an auctioneer inviting one more bid. No one responded, and so we were done. And thus ended the first true campus-wide dialogue I have experienced in my 15 years here. While I celebrate the conversa­ tion, I was distressed that this dia­ logue was happening after a deci­ sion had been made, rather than before. In a manner that has become all-too-typical of decision-making at Carroll, decisions are made first (with select, minimal input) and discussed later - after being announced to the campus at large. Dialogue is then sometimes invit­ ed “about the decision that has already been made,” a cynical ges­ ture that would be more sincere if that dialogue took place before a crucial campus-changing decision had been made. We experienced this style of “announce first, debate later” gov­ ernance when the Guad dorm “all freshmen” change was announced, again when the “all sophomore” changes to St. Charles wfere announced and yet again when changes to campus ministry were announced. The pattern extends throughout my 15 years here, including the evening that Carroll announced that ROTC was joining campus, and that the campus was now invited to “discuss how we can make this work.” To state the obvious: citizens of the campus are being diminished when they are invited to discuss a of student voting against FOCUS “We humbly request that FOCUS leave so we can heal.” decision they cannot change; they are empowered when invited to discuss a decision that has not yet been made. The difference is more than one of timing - it rep­ resents a crucial difference in gov­ ernance philosophy. And a corol­ lary: Conflict is reduced by having a heated debate earlier rather than later - after- the-fact debates are inflamed not only by the issue, but by the delay in consult­ ing those most affected. On Tuesday, the Kirchen minis­ ters asked why they weren’t con­ sulted BEFORE the pastoral changes were made. A month ear­ lier students swarmed administra­ tive offices to ask why they weren’t consulted BEFORE the housing changes were made. At the meeting, a faculty member asked pointedly if future decisions would be more “collaborative.” The answer to these cries for empowerment in decision making tends always to be the same: 1) decision-makers claim there was some conversation with select people, 2) they assert that the changes are good for you, 3) and they ask all of us to learn to live with them. Even if the changes WERE good for us, cannot those making the decisions realize that being disenfranchised from the decision­ making process is NOT good for us? The end does not justify the means - an old truth finds a new application. And, of course, even after consultation the decision may still disappoint the citizens of the campus - but, having been consulted, the citizens feel respected and empowered. I hope the loud, instantaneous reaction of the campus to these recent changes has taught Carroll a lesson about the value of debat­ ing first, deciding later. But there is more to say about the Tuesday night forum. I ’d like to forward my view of why the proposed changes are unwise. Let’s start here: Removing Christine is like removing a part of our soul. I’m not sure why the communi­ ty turned out in such large num­ bers Tuesday, but I’m betting many of the participants were there, in great part, as a show of support for Christine Perrier and what she has done for our cam­ pus. Her role at Carroll goes beyond the good work she’s done in helping with Search, coordinating Headlights and assist­ ing campus ministry. Her role at Carroll has been deeper than that: she is a servant in the spirit of Mother Teresa who radi­ ates unselfish concern for others - and anyone who knows her picks up a little of that loving spirit in every conversation. Asking her to leave rips at the heart of the college and, for the record, makes me personally very sad. From my perch, the decision to change our pastoral mission seems to have been a theological one, not meant to be personal. But it IS personal - it gives an angel her walking papers. And, for the record, if she leaves, she’ll fly, not walk. But even if Christine leaves, her position must be continued. The work she did must be nurtured, and new outreach COLUMN programs con- m r n r m » ^ .. ceived. tion. I would propose that next year should be a trial year without FOCUS. Clearly the conflict has arisen since their arrival, spurred on by plans to change campus ministry. Can we not see the link between the changes being pro­ posed and the pain on campus? After the healing, then we can gather again in a community forum to discuss if and when to invite FOCUS to return - and we can do so together, as a unified community. If there was one argument on Tuesday that disturbed me, it was the suggestion that “funds forced us to reduce campus ministry.” First, that’s not true - a value judgement was made to fund FOCUS instead of Christine’s position. Second, Carroll - a Catholic diocesan college - should NEVER place spiritual growth on the budgetary chopping block. Never. It’s akin to MIT saying we won’t fund engineering. Or Julliard saying we won’t fund music. A Catholic college ALWAYS funds matters of the spirit. Period. My personal preference remains to have a year without FOCUS, to ^ — let us heal and talk. But whatever the decision, let it never be driven by the lack of funds. Finally, concerning the large issue of the presence of FOCUS on campus, I believe that the campus, overall, is sending the college a loud message: Most of us did not invite FOCUS. Its presence is dividing us. We humbly request that FOCUS leave so that we can heal. More than two thirds of the students voting sent that message. The packed room for the forum sent that message. The sad stories of student encounters with FOCUS sent that message. Granted, the message is not unanimous. Fully a third of the campus disagrees. But when was the last time any of us can remember the campus caring so much about an issue that they would attend a forum that lasted five hours! And many stayed to the very end! Father Turner suggests next year should be a trial year with­ out the associate director’s posi­ We are a Catholic campus, embracing students and faculty of many faiths. The college years are a time when students struggle to find their faith. Even those raised in strong Catholic families often struggle to decide whether they will embrace their parents’ faith as their own. College is an ideal time to engage in such soul-searching. We must support the spiritual struggle of all our students. We must support students with strong Catholic faith, with weak Catholic faith, with a disillusioned Catholic faith. We must support students with no faith, with a Muslim faith, with a protestant faith, with a frac­ tured faith. I want to be part of a Catholic campus that nourishes spiritual growth on all levels. The Forum taught me that the students are hungry for us to enhance our spiri­ tual mission and to reach out to them. So let’s do so. Keep Christine. Keep the faith. W E W A N T Y O U R T H O U G H T S A N D O P I N I O N S ! QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS ABOUT THE PROSPECTOR? Please send all “Letters to the Editors” by email to WEDNESDAY, APRIL 7, 2004 VOLUME 87, NO. 6

The Prospector (Helena, Mont.), 07 April 2004, located at <>, image provided by MONTANA NEWSPAPERS, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana.