Is LeMoyne Practicing its Jesuit Values?

From the November-December 2012 PNL #819

by Mitch Lucas

Le Moyne College takes pride in its Jesuit foundation. It is a unique feature of the college that I have become more familiar with since I started studying there just over a year ago. The most pronounced feature of the school’s education that I have experienced is its requirement that students take several classes in philosophy and religion, a way to include moral teachings in the curriculum. 

Le Moyne’s campus newspaper, The Dolphin, reported in September that Le Moyne will now provide retirement and pension plans for its staff through TIAA/CREF Financial Services. Participation in this new system is totally voluntary and is open to employees who have previously retired from the college.

Students at UC Berkeley painted images of the Israeli occupation to raise awareness on their campus among students and administrators. Photo: calsjp.orgStudents at UC Berkeley painted images of the Israeli occupation to raise awareness on their campus among students and administrators. Photo: calsjp.orgHere’s the problem. TIAA/CREF holds investments in companies whose products are used by the Israeli occupation in Palestine. It is a target of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) campaign, which urges divestment from companies that benefit from or provide resources to the Israeli occupation. Despite TIAA/CREF’s June 2012 divestment from Caterpillar, whose bulldozers were used by the Israeli government to demolish Palestinian homes, its investments still fuel the Israel-Palestine conflict. Some of the companies that TIAA/CREF covers, like Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions, supply weapons and surveillance equipment to advance Israel’s work in Palestine.

Tenets of a Jesuit Education
“Ignatian Pedagogy” is a key doctrine that explains what qualities both a Jesuit and Jesuit education should exercise. Listed below are some of the values the document encourages. Let’s look at some important ones and examine Le Moyne’s adherence to them.

A Jesuit is someone who is concerned for, who is active against and who looks for injustice, inequality and poverty in the world. In essence, a Jesuit has a strong conscience.
Oppression and injustice are key characteristics of the Israeli occupation. Le Moyne should actively avoid being supportive of the occupation in any way.

According to the Jesuit belief, human costs should always outweigh economic costs.
TIAA/CREF and those it funds are more interested in increasing their wealth than in the lives of Palestinians. Le Moyne does need to provide pensions and benefits for its employees, but not at the expense of human lives. Jack Matson, Le Moyne’s Associate Vice President of Human Resources, is quoted in The Dolphin stating, “we have to make sure that…the college is fiscally responsible with its decisions,” and that “it’s all about balancing the costs…with other competing interests.” These statements show a clear and almost sole interest in the money, not the effects abroad.

Jesuits strive for responsible citizenship and social justice.
This point is the basis of Jesuit lifestyle and education. Being a responsible citizen means being aware of one’s global environment. Although Le Moyne offers classes for its students that include discussion and investigation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Le Moyne administration is not itself engaging in that dialogue.

A moral person acts against what he/she knows is wrong.
A Jesuit acts against what he/she experiences as being wrong in the world. The Le Moyne administration shows that it is either unaware or intentionally refusing to address its investments’ implications by following through with the change to TIAA/CREF. However, employees must also be responsible for their individual involvements with the new pension program, which are totally voluntary, and it is the job of the students to make Le Moyne conscious of its decisions.

Walk the Walk
My conclusion: Le Moyne is straying from the true Jesuit mission by involving itself with TIAA/CREF and should divest from it.

The Alma Mater hails Le Moyne as a “beacon to us all,” a respectable title that risks becoming a remnant of a more venerable foundation. Le Moyne’s students and administrators alike need to actively devote themselves to Jesuit values because they are truly decent and because the direction Le Moyne has recently taken is not acceptable; it is an embarrassing blemish on the school’s record.

Fortunately, Le Moyne has the ability to better recognize its role in the Israeli occupation. Vicarious experience can replace direct experience when the latter is not possible, and Jesuit doctrine promotes this secondary experience – for example, demonstrations or enactments of a conflict – when the first-hand relationship to a problem doesn’t exist. Le Moyne should both reward and endow clubs and individuals who will bring the secondary accounts of world issues to the campus. Students can then become the knowledgeable and socially-just leaders that Le Moyne wants to create and that the world needs.

Le Moyne would more closely align with Jesuit values if it were to identify the consequences of its actions in the world. Other colleges’ students and administrations as well could then more strongly reflect upon the results of their actions. Le Moyne can still preserve the Jesuit mission if it takes into account the tangible effects of its choices when moving forward in the future. 

 

Mitch is a sophomore at Le Moyne College and a PNL intern this fall.

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