Villanova Isn’t Inspiring Much Student Pride

The university can't stand criticism, but isn't college where you go to learn to criticize everything?

A few months ago, I wrote a piece for the Philly Post about community service at my college called “Villanova Gets Student Volunteerism Wrong.” The article reflected conversations I had with many students, faculty and staff. When the post was published, most people in the Villanova community who approached me told me they agreed with the essence of my argument—that securing volunteer positions should not be competitive, which in many cases here at Villanova it is—but some vehemently disagreed with me. I overheard one of them in the library discussing what an “ignorant journalist” I am. Students sent me emails (some agreeing, some disagreeing), and one person left an anonymous note on my door saying, “If you hate Villanova, why are you still here?” It’s worth noting that nowhere in the article did I say anything about hating Villanova even a little bit. I adore Villanova; however, I believe it is perfectly within reason to voice criticism occasionally, especially considering I was speaking on behalf of many students I’ve spoken with throughout my time here. I only hoped to shed light on an issue I saw and ignite some change.

I heard through a few different sources that the Villanova administration found my article online extremely disturbing because it gave the university “bad publicity.” This is incredibly ironic, considering all of the recent bad publicity Villanova brought on itself after canceling an event with gay artist Tim Miller. Of course, if Villanova gives itself bad publicity, it must be acceptable, right? The voice of the administration is much stronger than one junior, naturally.

It’s also very ironic that the same students who criticized me for “attacking” Villanova and “hating the school” are now critical of university president Father Peter Donohue and the rest of Villanova administration for choosing to cancel Miller.

Complaints from parents, alumni and the Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) flooded Villanova after word began to spread about Tim Miller and his art. True, his performances do not sit comfortably with Catholic teachings. However, the crux of the controversy is that Miller was not coming to Villanova to perform. His sole purpose was to teach a solo performance workshop for students. Some alumni found out about Miller’s presentations from the CNS blog, a fundamentalist site that grossly contorted facts in an article about the artist and his work. A quick read through the comments section gives you a good idea of the kind of alumni that wanted this event canceled. My personal favorite is the line “Diversity is code word for homosexual.”

Pressure also came from students’ parents, which is even more ridiculous. College is the time for independence and self-sufficiency; why are these parents attempting to control what happens in the lives of their children and their peers? I left home to evade my parent’s rule and now I’m dealing with the wishes of my peers’ parents. Nevertheless, a flood of emails from alums and parents was enough to have Miller’s invitation revoked—again, despite the fact that Miller was never going to perform, which is what people were upset about.

The decision certainly makes Villanova look inferior in comparison to other schools. DePaul University (an equally Catholic institution) allowed Tim Miller to appear there with much less controversy. And the administration seems to value the alumni and parents more than the students—students who wanted Tim Miller here. They seem willing to sacrifice the public perception of the school and the respect of students to pacify alumni and parents.

But one tiny student-written article from my internship is worth the rage of the administration because of the “bad publicity”? There are some obvious issues with priorities here. I disagree with the cancelation (especially because it was based on non-student criticism); I wish my school would value the opinions of current students more. While my small concerns about volunteerism were left unanswered, alumni complaints were recognized and valued. What’s more, the students’ complaints about the Miller cancellation also went unappreciated; as of yet, Tim Miller has not been rescheduled, although Father Peter did attend a discussion forum with students this week about the incident.

Don’t get me wrong here—I love Father Peter, and I think he’s a great president. One comment on the CNS blog says, “Doesn’t this just say it all?” and links to Father Peter participating in a flash mob. I think it does say it all; Father Peter is very in touch with his students.

So I ask, Don’t those students deserve a voice?