This piece was published in the October 2015 issue of the Prep News and was co-written by Ciaran Molloy and Eli Pittman
“I think students can be very open about what they think. Now, we have to understand that not everyone will agree with your stance, but opinions will always be respected.” Senior at Rockhurst who is the president of the Patriotism Club and very vocal about supporting the troops. He believes that Rockhurst allows students to be very open about who they are. “I have never had an issue expressing my opinions, as they’re something I, as well as the rest of the club, am proud of.”
“When people experience change, it can be seen as unsafe because we’re safe in our own way of doing things.” Sophomore at Rockhurst who introduced a new idea for the Global Studies Club. He believes that Rockhurst provides an environment in which students can present new ideas and have them be acknowledged, though they may not always be accepted. “And when change comes, it’s new and it’s scary.” “I think once people accept what’s going on in society, things will work out.”
“Bernie Sanders really prioritizes the environment and education, like making college free. He also wants to tax the wealthy, which I really support about him. Senior at Rockhurst who is considering volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign. He believes that Rockhurst is a place where he can say what he believes to be true in regards to the political landscape of the U.S. “When we talk about these issues, I think the class is open enough that I wouldn’t be afraid to say what I believe.”
“Rockhurst really pushes ‘men for others,’ but on other things like animal rights or the health of the people and other things that are clearly really important, they could do a better job of pushing an agenda.” Senior at Rockhurst who is openly and unabashedly vegan. He feels that this is the best way to live and that it is healthy for people. However, he receives many disparaging remarks from classmates regarding his veganism. But, regardless of these remarks, he remains true and steadfast to what he believes is the best way to live. “I know a lot about health, more than probably any child at my age knows. So whenever someone asks me a question about why I am a vegan, I can give them a logical answer.”
“Rockhurst must be a Pro-Life school. If we are a Catholic, Jesuit institution, we must hold the beliefs of the Church, which is to be Pro-Life.” Senior at Rockhurst who is incredibly involved in the Pastoral Ministry and a staunch defender of the Pro-Life movement. He believes that the stance of being Pro-Life is a non-negotiable when it comes to discussions at Rockhurst, but understands that opinions counter to his exist in our world. “The amount of pro-choice students are clearly outnumbered here at Rockhurst because over 80% of students are Catholic. Do all of the 80% agree with the church’s teachings? No, some do not. However, the pro-choice students’ opinions are theirs and they are reserved to their opinion.”
“[Institutionalized racism] affects where I live, it affects the options that I’ve had. It’s affected almost everything from my family views to interactions with the police and with people of authority.” Junior at Rockhurst who is involved in the MEET Club and very interested in racial problems and the racial history of the United States. He believes that it is very difficult to see an issue from a perspective that is not your own. “The solution to any racial problem isn’t to stop talking about it, and any healthy race conversation isn’t to shut off white people either. The most important part is to actually have the conversation.“
“I remember freshman year, there was a senior and he was just so openly homosexual. I loved it. I just thought that ‘At least a gay kid can survive here.’”
Jack is a junior at Rockhurst who is openly homosexual. He believes that there is a possibility of a gay student to improve and excel in Rockhurst, but he also believes that it is a difficult environment to be open about it. “I think the situation definitely could be better. I think a possible solution is people just being more careful about what they say.”
The spectrum of identities that Rockhurst students hold allows them to constructively challenge certain perspective of their peers. These differences, along with the discussions that expose students to different viewpoints other than their own, is a crucial part of what keeps Rockhurst “open to growth.”
With the clear mission to spread and encourage the Catholic faith among their students, many people attending Rockhurst feel very comfortable sharing their opinions. This is especially true with students who have beliefs that fall into Catholic teaching. “We do not have any issues expressing our beliefs at Rockhurst,” Andrew Gansner said. “Our beliefs fall in line with the mission of our Catholic faith. I have never had an issue expressing my opinions.”
Martin Radosevic believes that at Rockhurst, the teachers handle these complex issues the correct way. “They are entitled to their opinion, but the school must stress that they are wrong,” Radosevic said. “Mr. [Luke] McLellan did this very nicely in philosophy. He acknowledged student’s opinions, but he told them why their beliefs were false and defended the Church’s stance.”
However, this can present issues for students whose identity may fall outside the majority at Rockhurst. Jack West has felt this way due to actions taken by both teachers and students. “Some teachers have certain strict beliefs and, I mean, students are just going to naturally side with them,” West said. “When you’re the only person who disagrees, it can be very hard to voice your opinion. And when it feels like everybody else is against you, it can be isolating and very lonely.”
The biggest issue between the disparity of support for mindsets is the support for leaning towards one side rather than the other. West believes that Rockhurst’s dedication to the past is causing it to be blind to progress. “So much of Rockhurst is tradition, and part of those traditions can be looked at negatively, especially when those traditions are so old,” West said. “I think a lot of what people see as Rockhurst tradition, or the ideal Rockhurst person, is a wealthy, white, straight, varsity football player. And if you’re not that, then that’s kinda weird.”
But tradition isn’t the only factor when it comes to being comfortable when expressing an opinion. Change can also be a factor when it comes to people’s responses to new ideas. Will Tampke experienced this when introducing a new idea to the Global Studies club. He proposed that there be an open forum on current world events that actively engage the students involved in the club, which is most recognized for its participation in Model UN conferences.
“The only reason I was able to do this [new component of Global Studies club] was because I thought the community would be open to the idea. I think once people start to be open and exposed to new ideas, that definitely helps. But there’s certainly a backlash at first for a change because of the safety aspect,” Tampke said.
He identified that there is a certain reluctance to partake in new ideas because it’s outside the realm of comfort for so many people. But he also talked about a way to combat this fear and discomfort. “I think when people experience change, it can be seen as unsafe, because we’re safe in our own way of doing things. And when change comes, it’s new and it’s scary. But I think once people accept what’s going on in society, things will work out,” Tampke said.
Diversity is playing a role in the variety of opinions that become part of the Rockhurst community. “I think Rockhurst is expensive, so you’re gonna get more of one side of any issue. But I also think Rockhurst does a good job about teaching men for others,” John Santner said. While Rockhurst is overwhelming Caucasian and upper-middle class, the influx of cultural groups is growing, as the Class of 2019 has 25 percent of students who identify as non-white. With this cultural diversity, an unprecedented array of ideological beliefs is inevitable.
But with this new mix of opinionated differences, Rockhurst must accept that they are present and consider the opposition they may face on important issues. James Patterson stresses that this responsibility not only falls upon the administration, but also upon the students. “When somebody comes from a background that isn’t necessarily Catholic or white or wealthy, I don’t think Rockhurst does a good job of incorporating them into the community. And I think that comes from both the administration and the students,” Patterson said.
No matter how Rockhurst and the students go about discussing these important questions, this most important thing they can do is create the discussion itself. Will Bresette believes in order to properly talk about any serious issue, it is imperative that we consider the viewpoint of both sides.
“I think seeing the pros of cons about these important issues is important,” Bresette said. “I also think that we should be talking more about the issues that affect every single person. The main topics that should be talked about on a regular basis are ones that affect the fitness, thoughts, and/or emotions of all students.”