Response to the “Suggestion” to leave residence halls
Tyler Wood, Guest Writer
Hello. My name is Tyler Wood. I am a second year and I am hoping to double major in History and Secondary Education with the dream of becoming a High School history teacher. Hoping to do all of that here at Saint Martin’s. So far, I have had a blast. I am not going to lie and say that this university is perfect, and there is nothing better than being a “Saint.” What I will say though is I have dedicated two years of my life here, and I am willing to dedicate the next two because I believe in this university; because no matter what I can find wrong with this university, I always find something that makes it worth it to stay here. The first reason, and funny enough, one of the main reasons that I decided to come here at all were the values that this establishment holds to so tenaciously. And lately, the reason that I have been finding pride in Saint Martin’s University has been the choices and candor this university has made during this COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, the last email from the President and the following one by the Head of Housing has disappointed me, and a great deal of other residents that call Saint Martin’s University home. The decision to displace (and I use that wording because needing an appeal to stay is presenting the choice to stay as a privilege granted to a select few) the resident community is one that shows that Saint Martin’s University is not as hospitable and caring as they wanted a lot of us to believe.
I am just going to come out right now and say it; I am not Catholic, and I was raised Mormon and even then, I am not that religious. That never stopped me from being impressed with the values and standards this school prides itself in claiming to abide by. These “B-Vals” from the “Rule of Benedict,” and the constant push to serve the community that I personally have seen and heard from all departments of this university. The call to suggest that all residents leave, and then tell the ones that need to stay that is up for debate is not at all hospitable. I could see this choice if the university was being shut down by the federal or state government, but on March 20 the resident population that universities had seen as essential were not going to be shut down. This call to displace us comes from a place of choice that the school independently is making. This means that the administration of this school with full autonomy is telling residents to leave. I chose this university because I believed this school when it told me that they felt obligated to offer hospitality to all those who joined the community; that it prided itself in the fact that they cared for the community deeply and were willing to show it. This choice to remove people from the residence halls is not showing that hospitality that I thought was promised to me, and all my fellow students when I first joined this university. At first, though I thought I was, on that same zoom call that was mentioned earlier on March 20, we all heard from many people including the President, “That no one was going to be displaced.” Then three days later we see an email nicely saying, “everyone needs to leave” was disappointing as well as other things. I am not saying that I wish everything was going to stay the same, I knew that staying on campus would come with changes and circumstances were going to get tight, I just always thought that staying would be a choice, not a privilege.
Another reason that asking the residents to leave is neglecting hospitality is the fact that for many, leaving is more dangerous than staying. If students need to stay, and for some, I am sure it is simply that they do not like their parents and they are just trying to avoid that. But at the end of the day, the student who decided to go here thought that his university would be that escape. Now, Saint Martin’s University wants to take that away. For the rest of the students being asked to leave and for those who are putting in an appeal, there could be real serious reasons not to stay. There could be issues of multiple forms of abuse, some parents are turning away kids because they are coming from Washington and do not want to risk bringing them back into their home, some kids could simply not have a place to go back to. For as many reasons someone chooses to attend SMU there could be just as many reasons they can’t/shouldn’t leave. Lastly, asking students to move, right after being told to stay inside is extremely counterproductive. Some students are going to have to visit airports, storage facilities, stores trying to get out of the dorms and that increases the danger that these students are going to be in because of this decision from the university.
I am just one student; I really can only speak for myself. But I am hoping that this essay does a lot of different things, the most important, getting the university to open some sort of forum to hear from the students that they serve. This can be a zoom call, Facebook thing, twitter poll. I do not think it matters, but just getting our voices is what is important. In this time of stress and need, as a resident, I am hoping that the university is going to do what is best for me and my fellow residents, and maybe not the university as a whole. At the end of the day, I feel that the residents should be the first priority for the school, and then help the outer community once the “family” is taken care of. This essay comes with a lot of asking and I know that not everything being asked for will be given. The two greatest asks are, let anyone who wants to stay, stay. Let them know what that is going to look like, and how hard that is going to be, but don’t take away the place they call home. The second big ask is do not let this be the only voice heard, make sure that every student with something to say, says it, and it is heard and thought over. Do that because it is the Benedictine thing to do, do it because it is truly the right thing to do.