Senate Resolves: USF Controversy Around Father Fitzgerald Statements and Microaggressions on Campus

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Katie Ward
Staff Writer

For the past several weeks, ASUSF Senate has been in the process of trying to pass two resolutions, both addressing controversial topics from the past semester: USF President the Rev. Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.’s public denouncement of same-sex marriage after this year’s San Francisco Pride Parade, and microaggressions on the USF campus. Vice President of Public Relations, junior Raissa Reis is the leading force behind the student body’s response to Fitzgerald’s comments, while junior Shaya Kara, Vice President of Mission, is spearheading the resolution to eradicate microaggressions.

After the San Francisco Pride Parade this past June, and the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage the day before, Matt Nazario-Miller, a co-manager of USF’s official social media for three years, tweeted, “Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage nationwide in the wake of #SFPride #LoveWins.” The following day, Fitzgerald attended the San Francisco Pride Parade alongside many other members from the USF community. Following this, the Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic organization that regularly responds to actions made by USF, made multiple communications to administration, prompting this official quote from Fitzgerald: “The initial social media posting was inappropriate and was posted in error by an inexperienced staff member.”

Reis’s resolution, entitled “Student Stance on University’s Response to Cardinal Newman Society,” will serve as an official response on behalf of the student body, disregarding Fitzgerald’s comments in CNS. The resolution states, “The statement made by Fr. Fitzgerald’s, S.J. does not represent the beliefs of the student body; furthermore be it resolved: the statement was divisive and hurtful, and students want an explanation and a response directly from Fr. Fitzgerald, S.J. addressing the issue and why the statement was made.”

Reis polled student leaders at the 2015 ASUSF Summit (several days after the Student Leadership and Engagement Conference). “I let them [student leaders] know that Senate planned on responding to this by taking the stance that the statements made did not align with that of the student body,” said Reis. 80 percent of the students in attendance said that Senate should pursue the resolution, 8 percent said they should not, and the remaining students were indifferent. For this reason, senators chose to continue drafting their response.

Although Fitzgerald showed initial hesitation towards making a response on the subject during a meeting with Senate President Larry Figueroa, Reis is optimistic about maintaining a relationship with University administrators. “We are standing up for the students who might have felt ostracized by the statements made, not trying to sever our relationship with administration and the Board of Trustees,” she said.

Reis hopes that this resolution will at least begin conversation and awareness amongst the student body, however. “Maybe our resolution will spark a dialogue. I think that would be an awesome outcome, so that students could truly understand where Fr. Fitzgerald and the administration were coming from.” she said.

The resolution addressing microaggressions follows the Student Leadership and Engagement Conference this past September, when student leaders from the University were given the opportunity to directly ask Fitzgerald questions. One student asked Fitzgerald about the presence of microaggressions on our campus, which sparked a lengthy conversation and a multi-part series from the Intercultural Center on the topic.

After Kara also polled her peers at ASUSF Summit, 88 percent of attendees voted to move forward with the microaggressions resolution. “It was at this time that we realized that as the liaison between the undergraduate student body and university administration it was an initiative we definitely needed to pursue,” said Kara. At the ASUSF Mission Forum Series, during Senate’s Mission Week, over 85 attendees also expressed their support and input towards the declaration.

Kara’s resolution “ASUSF Stands Against Microaggressions” also clearly states the student body’s demands in relation to microaggressions. This resolution calls for, “education efforts on what microaggressions are and their impact […] diversity training and education for faculty and staff so that microaggressions can be recognized and prevented […] a comprehensive and secure reporting system for students to report incidents of microaggressions, [and] that University administration, faculty, and staff are held accountable for their actions of microaggressions with comprehensive follow up and repercussions.”

Kara believes that, if the resolution is passed, it will be a successful catalyst for change. “At this point, the members of administration that I have spoken to about the issue fully support [it], recognize its severity, and see the importance for change,” she said.

Both Reis and Kara hope to see collaboration between Senate and administration towards addressing these issues. “We hope that this resolution will be the basis for our next steps alongside administration and that we can effectively address concerns of the undergraduate body. We hope to create a campus climate that promotes learning, acceptance and value of each and every person,” said Kara.

“The statement made [by Fitzgerald] is contrary to the history and efforts of the university thus far. We want to create a culture of inclusion and equality on our campus, because that’s the way USF markets itself and that’s what students want when they come here,” said Reis.

Photo courtesy of McCarthy Center & USF LGBTQ Caucus

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