Last month, Pope Francis declared this year to be the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, otherwise known as the Year of Mercy. For the Roman Catholic church, it is a period of remission of sins and pardon, with this year focusing particularly on forgiveness and mercy. Pope Francis chose this year as a time for personal reflection, as well as designating it.
As we enter into a new year and semester at Fordham, the Pope’s words seem particularly fitting. After a semester which saw multiple racial and religious bias incidents, as well as sexual assault allegations, the atmosphere on campus has been tense for several months. Racial slurs were etched on student’s doors and university property. Students reported stories of harassment. The university witnessed what quickly proved not to be a series of isolated incidents, but a disturbing trend of intolerance on and off our campus, sparking protests, vigils and dialogues on racial justice and diversity and capturing the attention of the Fordham community and administration.
Students, faculty and administration have made definite progress in addressing these issues. The Undoing Racism Collective held a full-day teach-in in November to educate the community on a myriad of racial issues.
The Zero Tolerance for Racism campaign produced armbands and stickers worn by student athletes during their games. Student organizations have been outspoken in their efforts to raise awareness to what underlies these issues.
Following the latest account of racial and sexual bias incidents, Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, condemned the acts as hateful, while expressing his “firm conviction that in the long term we will build a community of greater compassion, respect and genuine affection.” This sort of community cannot be created from roots of bitterness and long-term grudges.
By no means are we condoning the actions of the students who committed last semester’s offenses. The acts may not reflect the views of the student body as a whole but they certainly point to a pervasive issue on our campus. It is therefore imperative that the student body stays mindful of last semester’s circumstances and the campus climate.
However, we see this year as a year to grow as people and as a community. While this by no means is an excuse to ignore and pardon the incidents of last semester, it is a chance to put those New Year’s resolutions to the test.
In light of recent events, it is easy to be cynical about the start of the new year. There is no telling what the future will hold. However, we at The Fordham Ram feel that the Year of Mercy allows for us to acknowledge past injustices and move forward as a university. Regardless of religious affiliation, we believe it is healthy for the student body and administration to show compassion, charity, kindness and humanity in the face of bigotry.
It may prove difficult to balance our need to forgive the acts of racial vandalism and sexual harassment that were committed last semester and remain resolved to combat these issues with all the resources available to us. But, as a Jesuit university, we must try to be merciful, for the sake of our own community.