Be the Difference: A Marquette Myth

Responsible.

This is the adjective used to describe my culpability in two student conduct violations: failure to present identification and violation of published policies. For some reason, the choice of this adjective stings more than using “guilty.” Guilty accounts for due process and the concept of innocent until proven guilty. Responsible indicates that the decision was made before the hearing even began.

Somehow I was deceived by this institution. For two years I soldiered on at this university, believing I was more than a number and thinking I was valued. In my junior year, I received a glimpse of such devaluation and three months into my final semester at Marquette University, I feel as though administrative autocracy, resentment, and apathy have engulfed me at every angle.

I graduate in four weeks from a university that has recently worked hard to suppress me. Despite outrage from students, faculty, staff, and community members, Marquette has stayed the course.

Image for post
The day I committed to Marquette University, standing in front of the Joan of Arc chapel.

At the hearing, the two administrators reassured me that the conduct process was supposed to be educational.

It is clear that for me alone, this process is retributive and punitive.

In the decision letter, the administrators wrote that the hearing was “needed to answer… [my] personal responsibility” concerning the violations. However, I was assured that the administrators would take into account several factors:

Nature and gravity of the incident

The motivation underlying the behavior

My disciplinary history

Precedent in similar cases

Developmental and educational impact of this incident and any hoped for lessons from an assigned outcome.

Despite the fact that I was assured these would be taken into account, they were not. These violations were for technicalities and formalities — clearly not grave in nature. I have no disciplinary history, my disciplinary and academic records are spotless. Students who have held similar demonstrations have not been charged, therefore these sanctions demonstrate the arbitrary and thus unprecedented enforcement of the policy.

The administrators said it was my responsibility to have the student conduct code memorized, which is partly why I am being charged with the violations. No one on this campus has that thirty point conduct code memorized… I asked administrators where in the conduct handbook this was and they could not even tell me where these stipulations were, essentially enabling and directly causing the subsequent violations.

Perhaps the most ironic part of this outcome is that clearly the administrators ignored the requirement for them to take into account my motivation. This institution advertises Marquette students to “be the difference,” “be men and women for others,” etc. And yet, when I stand up for the core of Jesuit values — academic excellence, serving others, and cura personalis — I am found to be in violation of the conduct code.

Image for post
In front of Joan of Arc chapel during my junior year.

The only thing I have violated is Marquette’s pomposity and callousness.

I have actively voiced dissent against administrative evisceration of Jesuit values and pedagogy on this campus. In situations like these, where Marquette administration cannot positively spin a story and gain public praise, they expect students to “be the indifference.” They want us to stay silent while they destroy everything this university stands for.

My punishments for my “inappropriate behavior” are as follows:

A copy of the letter will be placed in my file and may be taken into consideration if I engage in further inappropriate behavior.

I am to write a 7 page essay. The essay must accomplish two things. First I must review existing demonstration/protest policies at similar institutions, considering both schools with Jesuit backgrounds and other private universities that are similar to Marquette in size. After reviewing and researching these policies, I must suggest the adjustments I believe that Marquette could make to improve their own demonstration policy. Second, I must explain how I think violations of the demonstration policy should be applied in the future.

Failure to fulfill any one of these outcomes… will result in your being placed on University Probation.

These punishments exclude me from further participating in demonstrations against Marquette’s administration in the future. They also ask me to do their work for them. I am four weeks from graduating. I have exams to worry about, a thesis to write, and a job. I should not have to be concerned with fixing Marquette’s demonstration policy by compiling comparanda from other universities.

On November 10th, I participated in a “Coffee Chat” with Provost Ah Yun. A hundred other faculty, staff, and students were present. When Ah Yun called on me to speak, I began presenting IPEDS data about Marquette’s percentage of total expenses spent on instruction.

Ah Yun proceeded to interrupt me and tell me I was wrong, shutting me down and continuing on to the next question. When others present in the meeting expressed outrage, he let me speak.

I asked him to stop infantilizing me and others who were voicing opinions in the meeting. I told him that I pay fifty thousand dollars a year to attend this university and that I wanted transparency and a voice. I embarrassed him in front of his colleagues and members of the Marquette community. Two days later, I received these harsh punishment for two technicalities.

There is no doubt in my mind that upper administration advocated for and forced these sanctions and harsh punishments.

Amidst this outrageous behavior on behalf of Marquette administration, my education has reminded me that I am not the first to be martyred for their values.

I think of Antigone and her desire to give her brother a proper burial, a decision which she paid for with her life. Antigone was steadfast in her values and Creon was confident in his unyielding commitment to absolute legality. Antigone’s fidelity is viewed in opposition to the advancement of the state, rather than in conjunction with it.

My pursuit of and commitment to Jesuit values, and consequently to the future of diversity initiatives and futures of my professors and students at Marquette, are in opposition only to the ill-conceived and despotic plan for this institution.

Like Antigone, my actions were born from filial piety owed to those who have significantly impacted my academic and personal futures.

I think of Socrates, whose commitment to virtue and bettering those around him resulted in his death. It is from Socrates that I have learned to question unashamedly and to dissent when administrative plans and decisions are incongruent with the values that anchor the institution.

Like Antigone and Socrates, I will admit that I am culpable of only seeking truth and virtue and acting out of fidelity and staunch commitment to the values the professors and staff of this university have been tasked with instilling in me.

I will be punished for misbehavior. But my behavior is only inappropriate to those who wish to suppress freedom of speech and opposition.

I will leave this university disillusioned but I will not stop fighting. I will continue to fight for those who the administration is trying to steam roll in order to cover its own fiscal mishandling. I will fight for the future of this institution, because those entrusted with this task have refused that responsibility and instead preferred to be silent and act only when it advances their checkbook.

But I, along with so many others, will engage in the hard and gritty work, the work that keeps me up at night burning the midnight oil. This is the work of a Jesuit-educated student. This is the work of a steward. This is the work of being a woman for others. This is the work of cura personalis.

I need not compare myself to Joan of Arc, the Catholic martyr to whom the chapel located at the center of this campus is dedicated, for her presence speaks loud and clear. A martyr for Catholic and Jesuit values is at the literal and physical center of this campus.

I stand with her.

Image for post
Me recently in front of the chapel.

Written by

I am a current senior at Marquette University majoring in Classical Languages and History.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store