By Steven Pfahning
Community. It was an idea brought up several times at Monday night’s St. John’s Senate meeting. One of the best questions asked was: What is community? This question was partially answered by Fr. Doug Mullin at the end of the meeting when he stated he felt the dialogue present Monday evening surrounding the difficult issues was community.
For those unable to attend the meeting, it was an eye-opening experience for many students. The meeting acted as an open forum for students to voice their concerns to the St. John’s Senate and student body. Most of the stories told involved issues ofracism, sexism, labeling, ignorance, and struggle. Students who can say they always have felt safe on campus or were quickly able to call CSB/SJU home, likely never considered these issues which many students face daily. Unfortunately, these struggles are a reality for many members of our community.
For many in the room Monday night, their perception of CSB/SJU was changed for the worse.
Fortunately, on the CSB/SJU campuses, there are several chances each week to work to change this reality actively. The opportunities to engage with students whose reality and background are different than yours by attending campus club meetings can build the bridges our community needs to obliterate the divisiveness present.
Attending meetings of campus clubs does not traditionally mean simply perusing through an agenda. Instead, club meetings are a time for conversations, stories and relationship “building. These opportunities are not something to simply pass up on our campus which is more diverse than it has ever been. With engagement between groups at CSB/SJU, there is a real chance for the CSB/SJU community to grow.
To those who showed up, spoke up and are now taking action—thank you. You are the individuals who are willing to take up this immense challenge which has no simple solution. No matter how exhausted you may be by the challenges ahead, continue to fight for the equality of all at CSB/SJU deserve. You are the individuals who have heeded President Hemesath’s advice to first-year students at the President’s dinner where he
encouraged students to take risk. Students need to risk being uncomfortable and learning about people with different backgrounds than them to truly grow.
This type of learning is a unique experience which must be actively sought out, not simply given in a classroom.
Personally, I felt the night was one of struggle and triumph. It is devastating CSB/SJU faces these prominent issues of racism and inclusivity on campus. However, individuals taking hours out of their busy lives to share stories of such vulnerability was incredible. It gives me hope for the future of our community to know people are still engaged and willing to fight for equality, no matter how tired they may become.
After being on the Senate for four years, I can easily say Monday night’s meeting was the time I was most proud to be a St. John’s senator and one most representative of the community I believe we can build here at.
This is the opinion of Steven Pfahning, SJU senior