On Friday, October 27, a community meeting was held in the Fourth Floor Boardroom to address the concerns of a petition on change.org regarding the office relocation of Saint Xavier’s President Laurie M. Joyner into the administrative wing of the McDonough Chapel.
The change.org petition has launched by a group of Peer Ministers in the department of Campus Ministry and has 5,510 signatures as of Wednesday, November 1.
The move of the President has sparked tensions within the SXU community, particularly with students involved in Campus Ministry. Students claim the main cause of frustrations has been the lack of communication between Administration and the student body.
Mike Sennett, Peer Minister for Quest Retreat and the Senior Retreat, explained that students involved with Campus Ministry were not informed of the move by Administration. Instead, they heard from other faculty members and rumours from fellow students.
Sennett said, “I first found out about the Conference Room in the middle of September through a staff member.
“She had asked for emails so we could tell President Joyner how we felt about the move. She said she would give the emails to President Joyner, which she did, but Joyner never contacted us back.”
Yet, Joyner moving into the Conference Room brings more than just a new face into the Mercy Ministry Center. The staff of Campus Ministry, including Religious Sister of Mercy, Sister Carol Mucha, will be completely moved out of the Center, and relocated somewhere in the Warde Academic Center, although no specific place has been decided just yet.
Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Anthony Campbell, says that moving Campus Ministry into Warde will allow Campus Ministry to be closer to students, giving them the ability to “infuse our Mercy values and Campus Ministry programs with other programs on the University.”
With the move, Campbell says that the planning of things like Women’s History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month can involve Campus Ministry and the Sisters of Mercy. With the planning, Campbell states, “We can talk about the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy and how that fits into some of the work being done…”
In spite of Administration’s argument that moving Campus Ministry into Warde will help bring the Mercy Values to the forefront of University activities, Therese Bueno, a senior who helps plan the liturgy and music, says she doesn’t quite understand this idea.
“To me,” Bueno said, “given the number of people coming into the Chapel, the number of relationships here in the Chapel, the number of people coming in to go to those offices…and the home that we’ve made there, I don’t understand why that was necessary [to move the Campus Ministry offices]. It doesn’t seem like anything has to be improved.”
The move will be made to bring the Mission Statement of Saint Xavier to the forefront of the University.
“Saint Xavier University is a mission-driven university,” Campbell states. “As such, if you look at our Mission Statement, our Mission says it is a ministry of the Roman Catholic Church. So that makes the President the Chief Mission Officer of the University, and the one who is responsible for our heritage.
“This move,” Campbell continued, “will create an opportunity to align the President with our Catholic Institution’s mission. It combines a visual: The President, the Chief Mission Officer, and Ministry are all in the same building, and it really makes a powerful statement, that we really do live our Mission.”
In living this Mission, Campbell also emphasized that this move will allow the President to be more accessible to students, an idea that Peer Ministers say is ironic.
“That reason wasn’t even given to us until we asked. Nothing was brought up to us at all until we decided to approach Tony [Campbell] and Administration.” Sennett claimed. “But, I think it’s very contradictory when she wants to remove the students that are already here.”
Genesis Garcia Fisher, a junior and Peer Minister for Spring Break Service Trip and Mercy Careism, explains why relocating members of Campus Ministry is such an issue.
“There is a community within the Chapel.” Fisher said. “The Chapel is the walls and the roof, but it is also the community inside of it. To remove it [Campus Ministry] from the Chapel is taking that community away.”
It is the thought of losing this sense of community, the sense of security, that spurred students within the Ministry to create a change.org petition. The petition asked those within the SXU community to support students fight against the Administration’s decision to move Joyner into the Conference Room of the Mercy Ministry Center.
Upon seeing the petition, members of the SXU community came together to show their support of Campus Ministry. Within the first day, the petition had more than 1,000 student, faculty, and alumni signatures. Some of these alumni have even threatened to pull funding should the University continue forward with the move.
When confronted with this possibility, student leaders in Campus Ministry stated that is not what they want at all. In spite of that, Fisher says students cannot, and should not, be held responsible if these donors follow through on their threat.
Campbell says he first heard of the petition at mass on Sunday October 22. “A student told me about the change.org petition. I’m actually glad to see students taking an interest in what they’re doing. The important part of all of this is that students had a message they wanted to work out with us.”
When asked the same question about donor threats, Campbell responded, “I think the University should do what the University thinks is best in terms of mission and heritage.”
It was the popularity for the petition that Fisher says drew Administration to begin communicating with students.
“Tony [Campbell] had tried to reach out to us on Tuesday [October 24], the day after the petition had started…but I believe it was to shut down the petition because of how fast the support was. But we said we would meet on Friday [October 27].”
The meeting on Friday, October 27 saw Campbell face a plethora of students, faculty, and Sisters of Mercy in the Fourth Floor Boardroom.
Noticeably absent was President Joyner, who Campbell says was off campus “all week” for meetings.
Campbell opened the meeting by thanking everyone for showing their interest and engagement in campus affairs, but he also made an important clarification.
“We are not taking away the Chapel,” Campbell stated. “It is a sacred space. We are not taking away Campus Ministry…we want it to be a more vibrant part of campus, to be in all areas of the campus.
“I wanted to hear what you students had to say,” Campbell continued. “I want to understand how you feel.”
And students did not hold back, inundating Campbell with questions and accusations.
First to speak was an emotional Sister Carol Mucha, who was to be moved from her office in the Mercy Ministry Center and into the Student Organization Center in Warde. In an interview on Monday, October 30, Campbell informed The Xavierite that Sister Carol would remain in the Center.
“These past few days and weeks have been hard for me, for us,” Sister Carol said on Friday, October 27. “I agreed to work cooperatively with Tony [Campbell] willingly, because it was my way to continue working with you.”
Sister Carol’s speech was met with a round of applause from the student and faculty lining the walls of the Boardroom. The applause ended quickly as student after student stepped forward with emotional stories of their time spent in the offices of the Chapel.
Bueno explained that without the supportive community and sanctuary of the Center, she would not have been able to grow. Fisher announced that in spite of Sister Carol’s willingness to work with Administration, the students would continue to demand the goals in the petition, one of which was to keep Sister Carol within the Center.
Hohman told Campbell that she believes the students were underestimated. Moreover, Hohman expressed the idea that the fight for the Conference Room was one that affected all past, present, and future members of Campus Ministry. She stated, “We stand for the Ministry of the past, who laid the foundation for us. We stand for the future generations who deserve a chance.”
And although those of Campus Ministry kept the discourse peaceful, others were open with their anger.
Campbell faces phrases like, “continuation of poor leadership on this campus,” and “separation of church and state” followed closely by questions of the President’s silence on the issue.
Student John Shannon explained to Campbell, “It’s about the principle of the issue: the lack of consultation and feeling that we are having a space stripped away from us, coupled with her [Joyner’s] shady past at Wittenberg. If this is what her first month is like, I pray for the next few years.”
According to Campbell, Joyner “is very informed about what is going on. She understands what is going on.”
However, when asked if the President will be issuing a statement in the near future, Campbell admitted to not knowing.
Although renovations are being completed in the soon-to-be new Presidential Office (renovations Campbell says are “minor”), Campbell says that nothing is finalized just yet.
In an interview on Monday, October 30, Campbell informed The Xavierite that he has spoken to President Joyner and they, along with the Senior Team, will be meeting to discuss both Friday’s meeting and the issue as a whole.
In his closing statement to The Xavierite, Campbell said, “Just remember – we are not trying to hurt Campus Ministry, we are trying to expand it. Campus Ministry will not be turned into an RSO, it will remain as a department, a very important department.
“Our Catholic and Mercy heritage is very, very important and we will do whatever we need to do to maintain that importance. We really want to encourage students all over campus to participate in our Campus Ministry programs. We want to infuse the values of our Campus Ministry program, our Sisters of Mercy, our Critical Concerns, and the University values into other RSO programming.”
While the President herself has refused to comment so far, local news organizations have picked up the story; the petition continues to gain signatures each day; Campus Ministry continues expressing their unhappiness and frustrations on the issue.