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Community Means — and Requires —Everyone

By Eric F. Spina

What does our oft-stated commitment to community really mean?

It’s as simple as respecting the dignity of all people, as defined by their identity, their background, and their beliefs.

That’s a basic concept, as uncomplicated as God’s commandment to love one another. Yet, in practice, sometimes we stumble and other times we take actions — even in our special campus community — that belie who we believe we are, that are inconsistent with “community.” When that happens, we need to repair the hurt and work to make our community even better and more inclusive.

This fall, our collective UD community has been harmed by a spate of bias-related incidents that are incompatible with our Catholic, Marianist values.  I’m proud of the students who have courageously spoken up in the face of disrespectful actions and rhetoric, but it is troublesome that they have to bear these extra burdens, in addition to the pain those actions inflict on them.  We become a stronger, more loving University when we stand together in the face of such bias, discrimination, or negativity directed at members of our campus community *and* learn from these incidents.

Whether it’s stealing Pride flags. Or tearing down and writing graffiti on pro-life signs.  Or telling our students of color on Instagram that they don’t belong here when they explain why it is harmful when alumni and fellow students call the student neighborhood “the ghetto.” Or other active or passive means by which we disrespect or degrade people who are different from us or who think differently than us.  All of these actions are wrong because they are hurtful, demeaning, and upsetting to members of our caring community, essentially our brothers and sisters.  These are disrespectful actions intended to silence, make invisible, or exclude people who have every right to be here, every right to express their opinion, every right to participate fully in the UD community: this is their University too, they have a right to their identity, and their opinions have validity as well.

We are better than what is indicated in these and other hurtful actions that have occurred this semester. I know that we all want everyone in our campus community to feel safe, supported, valued, and respected. We want our campus community to be a model for how to respectfully and empathetically work across differences, valuing the person and treating them with respect even if they are offering a different perspective. We can achieve these aspirations, but we all have to work together to do so.

We can do better, and we must. When we make a commitment to community, we make a commitment to one another. It starts with respect for others, which is grounded in faith and love.

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