Letter to the Editor - The Gonzaga Bulletin: Opinion

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Letter to the Editor

Priest compares GU to Dante’s Inferno: where victims are criminals

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Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013 3:00 am

After reading the Bulletin Friday morning, I’m convinced that I’m living in Alice’s Wonderland! Instead, it’s no “Wonderland” – more like Dante’s “Hell”!

Let me explain. The real world, Oct. 24, 2013, at 10:15 p.m.: Two students, Erik Fagan and Daniel McIntosh, are victims of an intruder trying to gain access to their apartment.

They acted, as would any true GU student; they acknowledged the intruder’s humanity by offering him a blanket and some food. That’s not what the intruder wanted. Instead, he intimidated them by revealing he had been in prison six times and showed them his ankle bracelet. 

To protect themselves and others in the neighborhood, the students defended themselves by pulling out a gun (one with a legal permit). Then the students called the police (as any law-abiding GU student would), informing them they had a legal gun with a permit. The police congratulated them on their whole mature behavior and response to this incident. There, the incident should have ended (if we were in the real world).

But, we enter GU’s “Wonderland” or Dante’s “Hell.” 2:00 a.m. next morning: GU’s campus security breaks into the students’ apartment and their bedrooms and seizes their weapons. (The campus security officers do not even know how to handle a gun – the two students’ lives are in danger again.) The campus police report that students appeared to be drunk. Well, wake me up at 2:00 a.m. and see how I react! In the real world, we would celebrate that these students are safe and alive, that no one was killed and that no students were raped. 

Tragically, in GU’s “Wonderland,” these young gentlemen are turned from victims into criminals. Hauled before the university’s disciplinary committee, threatened with expulsion (because they had a gun to protect themselves), they are sentenced “to probation.” Instead of a medal (the real world), punishment is their reward (GU’s “Wonderland”). Curioser and Curioser (Alice in Wonderland, Ch. 2)!

There has not been any statement from the administration with a scintilla of concern or compassion extended to these remarkable students. The administration changed the subject of discussion: “Let’s re-examine GU’s policy on guns.”

What about the cura personalis that is the bedrock of GU’s ethos?  We could have been mourning “Two funerals and a rape” this weekend. Instead, the heroes who avoided such a catastrophe are punished as villains. What a far cry from our Jesuit ethos!

In the Catholic tradition, to which I ascribe, every person has a right to defend him or herself and to use appropriate means to save their lives. Apparently not here in GU’s “Wonderland.” As one of the students said afterward, “I would rather be expelled and still be alive, than dead.”  The Jesuit and Catholic ethos should drive us to ask, what can we do to support these students at this time? An experience like this is unnerving and traumatic. What has GU done to help them through this? Oh … “GU in Wonderland!”

My point is simple. As a Catholic and Jesuit university, we need to make the care of our students our first and foremost concern. Congratulate these two students for their common sense, their presence of mind in the face of danger and for acting like real men with responsibility to others as well as themselves. Exercise common sense and remove the sanctions against them so that they (and GU) can move back into the real world.

At the beginning of every year, I attend the Welcome Mass for new students and their parents. In my mind, it is the highlight of the academic year. I always hear these beautiful words being addressed to the parents: “Thank you for entrusting your sons and daughters to our care. We promise to care for them.” Today, that promise sounds pretty hollow. 

The students living in the Logan Neighborhood are living in one of the most dangerous areas in Spokane. Surely, more needs to be done to provide security for them; maybe then students may find that they do not need guns to protect themselves at night.

Finally, before any new gun policy is enacted, let me suggest that GU’s administrators move out of “Wonderland” and spend a week living in the Logan Neighborhood. Then, perhaps we could draw up a policy for the real world.

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  • Nancy Nemitz posted at 5:57 pm on Thu, Nov 14, 2013.

    Nancy Nemitz Posts: 1

    I agree 100% with Fr. Hartin. He said everything I've written only better. These boys should be praised for their cool and responsible actions. I hope their parents take the disciplinary action to the highest levels. I'm happy there are two students who are alive today because they were responsible gun owners. Campus security didn't work. Neighborhood security didn't work. Talk about it all you want. It didn't work.

  • blue posted at 2:43 pm on Thu, Nov 14, 2013.

    blue Posts: 1

    I always knew I liked Fr. Hartin!