Integrity & Faith
By Stef Socher, Photos by Unsplash & Marymount University
“Integrity. A central value here at Marymount, one that students are supposed to model to other students. Transparency. A quality that falls under integrity.”
But, in enacting a new housing policy that requires students to live on campus for the full four years of their undergraduate degree, who has been transparent with us? The email notifying us of the new policy said that the decision was “prompted by input we have received from students…,” but a petition against MU, Dr. Becerra, and Dr. Bisset – which has received about 750 signatures (more than we have students living on main campus) – asked for rescinding the new housing policy. I would say that the student input is clear.
The reasoning behind the decision for a 4-year on campus living requirement is questionable. “To offer a unique living/learning undergraduate experience…,” states Dr. Bisset in his email. But, I am asking, how unique is a living/learning experience without a Dean of Students – the person designated to advocate for students and hear their concerns – on campus? How unique is this experience with an understaffed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Center? The MU administration boasts about us being a Hispanic Serving Institution with a significant international student population, but why are the offices working for and with our diverse students so short-staffed and under-resourced? Faculty, staff, and students are picking up the slack in the work that an understaffed center cannot do. One part-time employee for such an important matter? A member of the MU administration recently asked me: “Why do you need a DEI center?” I explained why calmly and thoroughly. What kind of question is this to ask in the 21st century and after all the violence against marginalized groups we have been through especially in the last year? What does this show us about how MU’s higher-ups care about us?
So, was the 4-year housing policy really made for the success of the students? Or to relieve Marymount’s financial burdens? I have heard from faculty and staff that the administration is severely worried about money and that we are knee-high into debt with the Rixey building. On the other hand, I was told that, yes, we are in debt, but it’s ok. Well, I highly doubt it, because the $95 million Rixey cost speaks for itself.
In the open SGA meeting with Dr. Bisset and Susan Boyd, we were told how the university plans to renovate residence halls and increase staffing at Marymount to accommodate more students living on campus. With what money? The Office of Student Living was understaffed and, as I was told, could have benefited from another staff member, but there is no budget for this. Now, just a few days later, the position of the Associate Vice President for Student Living and Engagement, Susan Boyd’s position, got eliminated without any notice. This leaves me wondering what plan of restructuring the administration has in mind. For now, just another staff member for such an important office, and advocate for us students is gone.
The same person who asked me why we would need a DEI center also told me to have faith in the process and accept change. I love Marymount’s dedicated faculty and staff. As an international student, this campus is my home. I want to have faith and live up to the values of this institution, but how am I supposed to model the values when those values are not modeled by the administration? The administration’s lack of transparency shakes my faith in this institution to a point where I have recommended a friend NOT to come here.
This article has been updated at the author’s request as of 10/22/21.