I believe that this letter is long overdue, but I feel that I must not keep my disappointment in Xavier magazine silent. After all, how else can one improve oneself? First of all, I was dismayed several months ago to see a feature on [Hamilton County, Ohio] Sheriff Simon Leis [“An Army of One,” Spring 2003]. As a Cincinnatian of 20 years, I am well aware of Si Leis as a public official who frivolously spends taxpayers’ money and widely discriminates against individuals both inside and outside of his own department. I am slightly ashamed to see the name of Xavier University, an institution committed to the Jesuit ideals of St. Ignatius of Loyola, attached to Sheriff Leis.
Secondly, I was disappointed when I read the article concerning President Graham’s visit to Managua, Nicaragua. As a student who studied in Nicaragua this past semester and spent much of the week with Fr. Graham, I am dismayed at the inaccuracies in this article, including misspellings and incorrectly named service sites. Were any of the actual students ever contacted for information or interviews?
My next criticism is purely a personal opinion, but I thought it would have been nice to see the article shed a little more light on the students, who spent not only that week, but the other three months in Nicaragua. This is a program that I feel fully embodies the ideals of Xavier University, a Jesuit institution (see the University’s mission statement, the new academic vision statement, and Fr. Kolvenbach’s speech at Santa Clara University in 2000, a founding document of this University, as appointed by President Graham).
As a student who cares deeply about Xavier University, I welcome any comments and correspondence. Thank you for your time, and I will continue to read, anxious for articles discussing issues that are happening on campus.
Class of 2005
Having just finished Greg Schaber’s fine article on “cheating” [“Beating Cheating,” Fall 2002] by students, (I began to say college students but these remarks may apply equally in secondary school) I am moved to comment. The article is very justifiably distressed about plagiarism in papers by students. But a basic problem is not addressed at all, or even recognized. That problem is how much original research can be done by students? In some fields—physical sciences, marketing, psychology, perhaps even chemistry or physics—such research may be possible, although often not very sophisticated. Even in some areas of social science, original research is possible but likely to be sophomoric (or disdained) and not really what the teacher wants. In some other heavily literary fields—history, literature or classics—it is going to be extremely difficult; so demanding of student sophistication to be beyond most students’ courage. I trust they may have the imagination and abilities but do they have the self confidence to stand the criticism? Only a very few can successfully pull it off.
Classic research by many students will be so full of quotation marks and references to literature and sources, it will be nigh unreadable. (Always there is the genius, but how much “scholarly” research is truly readable unless it only skimpily admits whose original ideas the writer is elaborating upon?)
Exams are a different matter—it is what the student knows. He or she doesn’t have to give credit. He can say 4+2=6 without giving a citation to [who] first “published” the concept. Education and scholarly endeavor are closely related but not identical. This is a pedagogical problem with which only students and academics have to deal. Outside the academy, knowledge is the problem and plagiarism is for patent lawyers. A college must deal with the question—but its alumni magazine comments have to recognize that originators are entitled to credit and where monetary rewards are involved. But “knowledge” is common property. Intellectuals are not tradesmen. Once known, something is known. What are Plato’s royalties?
Class of 1957
Regarding John Feister’s article [“Branching Out,” Spring 2003], he remarks: “In past eras, attendance at Mass was mandatory. Today, Mass is voluntary—and more widely attended.” Granted, Feister holds master’s degrees in humanities and theology from Xavier, but this doesn’t give him authority to change dogma of the Catholic Church. Where “in God’s name” did he ever get this idea, and why wasn’t it caught before it was allowed to appear in your magazine? Please, please tell me that Xavier doesn’t teach this falsehood. Even Catholic elementary schools know better. Feister also says that “the weakest theology we taught was in the period of 1940-1960. It was all too frequently catechism instruction with more notes.” May I say it was through the catechism that children learned “and memorized” what we Catholics need to know about our religion? It is now, the present time, that many Catholics don’t know what the heck their religion teaches, as is proven by Feister’s article. [And] on the cover of your magazine [it states], “While adapting to new ages, Xavier still holds true to its Jesuit mission, keeping the faith.” Are you saying that it is the Jesuits and not the Pope who constitute Catholic dogma? When did you take over? I wasn’t aware of it.
Mary Ann Scheel
Regarding “Education of a Republican” [Winter 2003], the article reinforced my belief that a Xavier education only produces right-wing politicians. Whether it is [John] Boehner, [Jim] Bunning or [Ken] Blackwell, they all represent a group of Xavier-educated politicians whose primary concern is to protect the rich and ignore the poor. Recently, both Boehner and Bunning supported legislation that gave huge tax breaks to the wealthy and no help to the poor. They also both supported the Iraq war which led to the deaths of many innocent people. Ever since I read the article on Boehner, I have been trying to figure out why Xavier produces such extremist politicians. Then Xavier magazine glorifies them. Could it be that the vaunted Jesuit education fails to produce students and politicians with a social conscience?
Class of 1965
Recently a friend loaned me a copy of Xavier magazine, Spring 2003. You publish a professional, top quality magazine, in some respects. I would like to comment, however, on some negative aspects of this issue. I was appalled at seeing the cover. I hope it does not reflect the views of the entire Xavier community, as your masthead declares. At first glance, one would think this was just another “tabloid-type” magazine. Using the chest of a female to show the crucifix is in poor taste. Why not on a young man or a young couple? Your art director designed this image to draw attention downward to the open shirt of a young woman. I find this to be shocking, appalling, provocative and, frankly, very disheartening.
In one article in the magazine, it states that the priests on campus today do not wear any clerical garb and cannot be distinguished from anyone else—leaving the impression that this is a good trend. But then we are to admire the wearing of a crucifix by a young woman. There is a double standard here. Wearing a crucifix to remind ourselves of our salvation is a good thing. I personally would like to see priests showing some such identification. But if priests do not want to identify themselves as priests, why do you admire a woman who does? Let us not be naive. The manner in which that cross is worn is not for religious purposes. If it were, it would have been done in a more modest manner.
One of the magazine’s articles speaks of having to be “engaged in contemporary culture” to spread the Gospel, but that does not mean joining into or approving all that the secular society does. We certainly need our Catholic universities, and I appreciate much of the work you do to keep the Catholic faith alive, but we, as Catholics, must lead the way to what is moral, right, just and tasteful, and discard what is not. It means we must be very discriminating about how we choose to adapt to popular culture, and to have the courage to just say “no” when warranted.
In the article “Branching Out,” you speak about the Catholic identity of Xavier University as having “taken themselves in new directions, but beneath the surface they’re still rooted in the Catholic tradition.” New directions—yes, but why is our Catholic identity a “beneath the surface” matter? Evangelizing calls for us to make our faith open and inviting to others, not vague and secretive.
On page 27, the caption under the photo is misleading. It reads, “In past eras, attendance at Mass was mandatory. Today, mass is voluntary and more widely attended.” Was the author referring to Sunday Mass or daily Mass? That should have been made clear in the caption. We as Catholics still see attendance at Mass on Sunday with our communities as an obligation for observing the Sabbath. And could it be that Mass attendance is up due to greater participation by the laity, for the Mass being in English, as a result of the terrorist attack of September 11 or the war in Iraq? Many things contribute to the result of greater attendance.
Again, I wish to state that I think your cover is in very bad taste, and I hope your editors will be careful in the future as to how you depict living our faith. Thank you for your attention to my letter. God bless the good work that is being done at Xavier University.
Mary A. Schilling
South Bend, Ind.
Words of Praise
Words of praise necessarily fall short of a desired goal as this note of praise comes to all of you from this grad (M.A. ’55) for your Summer issue 2003 (Xavier magazine). Diversified and well-written content within professional design/layout combined are superb!
Of special poignancy to me as a (St. Xavier High School) grad of ’44 and associate of Frs. Ed Bradley, Bill Topmoeller and Ted Thepe during the 40’s and early 50’s was the sensitive portrayal of Ed’s life and death. Words of praise here are by no means intended to detract even the slightest from excellence in any of the remaining content.
I marvel at how you people accomplish your task—each edition seems to outdo the quality of the previous one. Keep up the good work!
Fr. John Donnelly