Student demands focused on “dissatisfaction, traumatization, and boredom,” that is, “the Humanities program as it exists today” which “ignores and erases the humanity of its students and of peoples around the globe.” . . . “We are diverse, with many different life experiences, also shaped by colonization, U.S., and Western imperialist, neo-politics, and oppression under racist, sexist, classist, heteronormative and homophobic, transphobic, queerphobic, ableist, nationalistic, xenophobic systems which perpetuate conquest, genocide of indigenous peoples, and pervasive systemic inequities.”
Students spoke of oppression perpetrated by the Administration: “The first manifest demand is a complete change in the curriculum from a Whiteness-dominated curriculum to a non-Eurocentric interdisciplinary curriculum. If the (MRC) is unable to tackle these requirements, we demand that it be converted into a department so as to be accountable to another college.”
What Students at MRC Seek
If MRC students are seeking social justice and equality for all, if they are to make sense of this complex world, they ought to study the Humanities. If they are curious about how other cultures have learned to develop feelings of compassion, tolerance, respect, empathy, they ought to study the Humanities. If they are curious about how creative other people can be, if students are determined to live in a democracy of free citizens, the Humanities should be studied. Without the Humanities, democracy would not exist.
The Crisis of Higher Education
In this country, we are experiencing an intellectual crisis that has already affected our work force, our politics, and our culture. Western civilization, the human culmination of centuries of learning is under attack by an identity-driven student population exemplified by the protesters at MRC. Whereas many academic leaders fail to uphold the purpose of teaching Western civilization, the faculty at MRC values it. Whereas academic leaders don’t believe that the Humanities have any fundamental influence on their students, the faculty at MRC is invested in it. Shared values—this is what brings the world together.
MRC is not alone in promoting a Humanities core curriculum. Many non-sectarian and private colleges proudly offer a core curriculum around which other subjects are framed. At least twenty-five colleges and universities in the United States offer the Great Books tradition to their undergraduates. These books are part of the great conversation about the universal ideas of cultures and civilizations, always related to ethical and religious values.
Many educators believe that nearly half of college graduates show no measurable improvement in knowledge or critical thinking. They speak and write incorrectly; they do not read. Their constant companions? Electronic devices with accompanying head sets. Weaker academic requirements, greater specialization in the departments, a rigid orthodoxy and doctrinaire views on liberalism are now part of the university’s politics and cultural life.
Clash of Goals
If the demands of these special interest groups—race, class, gender, and disability, were met, MRC would cease to exist. A program of identity studies clashes with the raison d’être of a college named after Matteo Ricci, a name synonymous with the richest of classic studies.
The student protesters are demanding to be extricated from the program that distinguishes itself in the pantheon of Catholic higher education.
(Column continues below)
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Who would be so foolish as to look down on, much less protest, such a rich curriculum that prompts the most influential employers to hire MRC’s crême de la crème?
Let the disgruntled students go elsewhere with their partisan interests and narrow viewpoint. They lose.
Ricci Speaks to College Students
Matteo Ricci has left us several proverbs that can inspire college students. But not just college students:
“Man is a stranger in this world.”
“The virtuous person speaks little.”