On March 2, Clayton Votta (C’23) submitted an open letter to the administration of Mount St. Mary’s University. The letter addresses the problems that have faced the Mount over the past two years and calls the administration to action. The letter is titled “An Open Letter to the Administration of Mount St. Mary’s University: A Declaration of Grievances” and it includes a work cited page. Additionally, Votta also published a video on the same date whose purpose is to convert the letter to a visual form. Votta also posted flyers with QR codes around campus in order to raise awareness of the existence of this open letter and to bring attention to the call to action that he has made.
The first problem that the letter touches on is Dr. Joshua Hochschild’s inability to educate students on living a life of significance. Below is an excerpt from the letter: “What does it mean to be an educator at Mount St. Mary’s University? This question is answered by the Undergraduate Mission Statement, created by Mount St. Mary’s University itself. As you know, mission statements are texts that display goals a university has when educating students. An educator at the Mount must encourage and create an environment that allows their students to complete the mission statement. Mount St. Mary’s mission statement proclaims that the school is ‘dedicated to liberal learning in the pursuit of truth’ (Academic). It states that the Mount ‘enable[s] individuals to understand and to challenge or embrace the cultural forces operating on them’ and ‘encourages each student to undertake free and rigorous inquiry’ (Academic). The university wishes to have students ‘live by high intellectual and moral standards… respect the dignity of other persons… see and seek to resolve the problems facing humanity... [and] commit themselves to live as responsible citizens’ (Academic). Dr. Joshua Hochschild has demonstrated in his actions and his publications that he no longer fosters an environment that helps lead students to achieve the Undergraduate Mission Statement.”
Votta assembled evidence from Hochschild’s social media, actions and publications in order to support this case. Being an education major, one piece of evidence struck Votta on a more personal level: “[Dr. Hochschild] argues that ‘rightly-credentialed evidence’ and ‘properly authorized sources’ do not matter. This is coming from a professor with a doctorate. He claims that sources and evidence do not matter when making an argument. This is an outrageous statement for an educator to make. I am ashamed to have an educator that holds this belief teaching at the Mount” (Open Letter).
The second problem that the letter touches on is the Pangborn second floor bathroom incident, a hate crime that was committed on campus in spring 2020. Someone spray-painted a racial slur across the bathroom mirrors. The university opened an investigation into the incident, but it ended as a cold case. The Mount demonstrated incompetence dealing with this hate crime and the community suffered due to it. The crime goes unpunished and the racist, who committed the crime, still walks among us.
The third and final problem that the letter touches on is the Mount’s inequitable enforcement of its own policies pertaining to the Hochschild incident. The administration stated that “they will not take action [against Hochschild] because students and staff have the right to express their views” according to @mountstmarysu and President Timothy Trainor’s weekly email (Open Letter). The administration during fall 2020 contradicted its own statement. Chris Pietrowski (C’21) was banned from in-person classes and from the campus due to expressing his political views on Instagram. The Mount deemed it necessary to punish a student for expressing their political views but not necessary to act against a professor who they stated did the same. One must ask themselves, “Why does the Mount hold a higher standard of their students than their professors?” (Open Letter).
Votta believes that “if the Mount St. Mary’s University’s administration does not act now then the community who has fallen in love with the school, will cease to exist and be lost forever” (Open Letter). The Mount needs change and it needs it now.