By Hannah Vail
[Photo retrieved from sbu.edu]
On Nov. 19, almost 100 St. Bonaventure University students, faculty and administrators posed for a picture to stand in solidarity with University of Missouri students of color and allies who recently protested a series of racial incidents on campus that went unaddressed by administration.
The demonstration was met with a deluge of less-than-enthusiastic feedback, mostly from SBU alumni (and the odd troll who never even attended the university). Comments ranged from telling SBU students to “Get a life,” to lamentations of the university’s decline. There was even a declaration from one commenter that she would not hire SBU alumni anymore. (As many current students pointed out, we probably wouldn’t want to work for her anyway).
I could write a piece about why it is important to stand behind Mizzou and other universities protesting racial inequality, but I won’t. I could pen a diatribe about how out of touch older generations are with social and political climates, but I won’t. Instead, I want to talk about Franciscan values.
I am the daughter of one alumnus, the god-daughter of two alumni and cousin to another two, and I know them to be compassionate and respectful. They live in the spirit of the Franciscan values our institution teaches us, and for that I am thankful. But the comments about the gesture of solidarity have me questioning how many SBU alumni have forgotten these Franciscan values, and, by extension, what it means to be a Bonnie.
St. Bonaventure teaches us to pursue knowledge for the sake of truth, not for the sake of knowledge itself. They encourage us to look past the surface of things. They urge us to question the assumptions that shape our lives and our society. In response to the accusation that we are buying into a “false narrative”: we are challenging the false narratives that racial injustice is imagined, and that students of color seek special treatment.
The university mission statement stresses the importance of community, particularly one that fosters caring, respect and mutual accountability, one that aids the poor, the less fortunate and the disadvantaged. It also declares that the St. Bonaventure community extends beyond our campus. It includes the local community, our benefactors and our alumni. So, to the woman who won’t hire any of us: perhaps you forgot that community.
At St. Bonaventure, we are becoming extraordinary. SBU produces leaders: compassionate, respectful individuals who use their knowledge to enact positive change. To the commenter who suggests that we should only attempt to create meaningful change on our campus: why limit us? Why stop us from showing solidarity or leading movements nationwide and worldwide? Why stifle our extraordinary spirits?
If anything, the SBU faculty and students in the picture reminded us all of the importance of our Franciscan values. They made the decision that day, based on their knowledge of the situation, their desire to seek the truth, their need for action and their refusal to accept the real false narratives that are spoon-fed to us day in and day out. St. Bonaventure provides us with an environment that allows us to enhance our lives through knowledge, to seek the truth, to exercise compassion and to stand up for what we believe in.
So, alumni, you may not agree with the statement made, but I want you to remember the values you were taught at SBU. I ask you to recall the way students and faculty come together to help those in need. And I implore you to remember: once a Bonnie, always a Bonnie. Respect, compassion and understanding can go a long way in strengthening our Bonaventure community. That’s the power of a Bonnie.