Like a proper Catholic school-boy, Villanova University has played it safe for far too long. Coddling its image, stepping in line with the status quo, and holding its tongue, it has created an institution of learning, but Villanova has yet to IGNITE CHANGE. This school needs more than a slogan to awaken the ember of self-awareness, individuality and activity within its student body. It needs diversity, it needs venues for free-spiritedness and it needs to address the discontent of the minority of its students.
I don’t think anyone will protest the idea that diversity is where change begins. How else do we understand our place in this world if we do not understand others to have a different place? A student body with different experiences, thoughts and ways of expression is a student body that learns to question and ultimately learns to think. Unfortunately, Villanova has been passive about our festering diversity issue despite claiming that it fosters “academic excellence” by creating a “diverse community of scholars.”
To be fair, Villanova has many obstacles that affect its ability to foster diversity. Foremost is the fact that it is a Roman Catholic institution. This, no doubt, makes it challenging for Villanova to attract religious variety (outside of Christian denomination). But more than that, it is no secret that the majority of Roman Catholics tend to be white. Add to this the understanding that we are a regional university (drawing about 70 percent of our students from the northeast), and our unattractive label, Vanilla-Nova, might as well be a tattoo. I would comment on wealth, but given the absence of statistics, I think it would be dangerous to comment solely on student clothing, cars and trips to Campus Corner. What we do know is that Villanova’s tuition is exorbitant—more evidence that it has chosen the path of the many, rather than blazing its own path of change.
The effect of our seemingly uniform school is that Villanova ceases to be able to challenge its students in a substantial way. According to Unigo, a college-resource website, Villanova’s students rated its campus as being a four out of 10 for arts and culture, a five for political activity, and a six for intellectual life. This is compared to being a seven for alcohol use and an eight for public safety. A student named Austin summed up the Villanova experience as, “Easy transition for those who want to stay the same as they already are when they arrive,”
But I wouldn’t chalk up this extinguishment of change exclusively to lack of diversity. Villanova has also been weak at tapping the free spirit of its students. I mean, let’s be honest. It’s safe to force parties off campus and to invest in a campus that looks nice—too nice to corrupt with student art-work, student protests and clothing that wasn’t purchased at King of Prussia. Additionally, why should Villanova invest in a student recreation center that actually has functional ping-pong and billiard tables? It’s tucked away, out-of-sight.
Plus, students should be studying and doing community service so that they interact with people of different backgrounds at some point in their lives. Don’t even push your luck with a music program. I’m sure someone who wants to learn piano will be fine with settling for a church vocal group or the marching band.
The bottom line is that Villanova’s playing it safe has led students and outsiders alike to view the school as boring. Probably one of the more interesting events on campus, a performance workshop held by gay artist Tim Miller, was cancelled due to alumni protest. Remember students, you can ignite change as long as it doesn’t affect the bottom line or your reputation!
The good news is that we have a growing, vocal minority on campus even if Villanova is hard of hearing. There are people who want to see indie bands filling our auditoriums with Philadelphia flavor instead of big-name-artist-ballyhoo. There are atheists and Buddhists who would like to see clubs founded on a mutual respect for philosophy and reason. There are even environmentalists who want Villanova to move past the superficiality of green-roofs and fancy toilets—people who want to actually see recycling bins in every classroom. And don’t forget the students who aren’t part of a church group or a fraternity or a service organization. These people need their place, and they don’t want to dish out money going to the bars or underground parties. Maybe they want a 1960’s dance party or a game of Humans vs. Zombies.
The Villanova minority needs a face. They can only achieve this status if we dedicate ourselves to more diversity and expression. What is a group of two Pacific-Islanders or a mottled collection of spiritual wanderers? How can we learn from them and understand them if they are so few and so limited?
Villanova, there is so much you offer us. I dare say our teachers are the best in the country. But goddamnit, let’s ignite some change!