What do you fear more, the Russian government or terrorists?
*Pause for an answer*
You fear terrorism (planes flying into buildings, bombs exploding on the street, etc.) more than an army of Russian soldiers because you are reasonable in this regard. In my three and a half years of involvement at Saint Vincent College, I realized that many persons working for this school fear Russia invading but do not think about or even realize the presence of al-Qaeda.
Let me explain this analogy.
Imagine a young man who simmers with anger any time someone expresses religious or political views different than his own. He believes what he believes very strongly, and he surrounds himself by likeminded individuals who will only reinforce these beliefs. If another person does something he considers wrong, he chastises them in an uncharitable way. Sometimes he invites other to join his church and is so persistent that he annoys these people. He considers immoral many actions which are in fact simply a matter of preference. (He will seriously try to convince you that the music you listen to sucks and that you should listen to his favorite band.)
This young man is the type of student that I believe many administrators and professors fear and work to combat. You are not likely to meet him or anyone like him at Saint Vincent College. This young man is the Russian army.
Imagine another young man. He doesn’t get frustrated over different political or religious views because he doesn’t strongly believe one way or the other when it comes to these types of questions. He doesn’t even think people should be bothered by these topics. He and his friends engage in a number of destructive, immoral activities but they don’t see what they do as wrong. If he thinks a friend is engaged in a bad habit he won’t call his friend out because he tries to avoid awkward situations. He is skeptical of all claims to truth, especially when those claims come from institutions.
This young man is al-Qaeda.
Saint Vincent College through its classes and its Residence Life should guide students away from becoming like either of these two young men; however, if our college doesn’t realize which of these two young men is the real problem then it will waste its energy and resources on fighting a threat that doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, students will continue to leave Saint Vincent College in droves as agnostic, non-practicing Christians immersed in a culture that uses sex, alcohol, honor and riches as an escape to the questions their college didn’t adequately answer: “Who am I and how ought I to live?”
Residence Life could take the first step in defending against the destructive habits, which threaten every freshman who moves into St. Benedict Hall. The higher-ups in Residence Life place much importance on hiring prefects who are unlike the first young man I described. Apparent intolerance toward other religions or races disqualifies anyone hoping to be a prefect and rightfully so. Prefect training stresses “not judging, policing, or forcing your ideas on others” unaware that most hired prefects lack firm moral beliefs upon which they could judge people. Instead, part of prefect orientation should point out the soul-harming debauchery that goes on in the dorm, why these actions are wrong for those who are unsure, and what the prefect’s role is in encouraging virtue. Prefect do have a role in encouraging virtue, right?
Professors exert tremendous influence over students, and at SVC professors generally influence students away from fundamentalist thinking. Kudos. Unfortunately, fundamentalism isn’t a grave threat in today’s post-modern culture. The humanities at Saint Vincent should not only teach us how to think, but what to think about, and, in some circumstances, what exactly to think. G.K. Chesterton, of course, expressed this idea perfectly. “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”
If you believe this letter is devoid of any good advice do me two favors. Both point out the problems with my argument or my tone and give me definitive steps on how to see the situation more clearly, not one or the other.