The student body of the Mount has been in an uproar since a College of Liberal Art tweet promoted an article titled “Once Upon A Presidency” published in a conservative magazine “The American Mind” by Professor Joshua Hochschild.
Hochschild’s semi-autobiographical article about attending the Jan. 6 Capitol rally as well as tweets from his personal account supporting his stance and defending his article show his bias and privilege. Additionally, he believes that his tenure would protect him from expressing his heavily coded racist, misogynistic and undemocratic opinions. According to one of his tweets, he was confident that his tenure protected him for expressing his speech and ideas. The professor could be in violation of clause 6.13.1 of academic freedom in the faculty handbook because he did not identify that his beliefs were his own and not that of the Mount.
Andrea Martinez (C’21) said that she was upset by how the Mount tried to backtrack by saying the university is not affiliated with the article but promoted it through its official social media account/s (and later deleted). This started gaining traction when Brea Purdie (C’21), an International Studies major, broadcast the information, along with other related matters, on Instagram Live on Feb. 23. The video has thus far garnered over 12,000 views.
Purdie also launched a change.org petition that has racked up over 1,700 signatures demanding the resignation of the professor embroiled in the controversy. Some students believe that the Mount has refused to acknowledge the history of racism at the institution and it is not properly and directly addressing the issue. Time and again, the topic of racism and racial incidents on the campus are sugarcoated by bringing up Catholic social teachings and/or ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Although minority students have complained about professors and reported them for microaggressions and blatantly-racist speech and behavior. Forget any action being taken against them, they go on to get tenure the following year. Students, especially students of color, feel as though their complaints always get pushed under the rug. Purdie believes that students should continue to spread awareness on what is going on at the Mount and demand a real change instead of lip service and finding a quick fix. She also encourages professors and alumni to come together to stand against racism on campus.
“We need to develop a stronger alumni network that connects them to students, especially a BIPOC alumni network. Student evaluations must include any experiences of racism and microaggressions,” Purdie stated. She has made it clear that her activism is not anti-institution. Having contacted an alum, who attended the Mount a decade ago, attested that the Mount is still experiencing the same problems it did years ago.
Students refuse to let this situation fizzle out this time. Eden Arouna (C’21) expressed that she is tired of all of the talking. She wants actual action and states that students should support one another. All those involved directly and indirectly in this cause are fighting not only for themselves but also for students who will attend the Mount in the future. They hope that all forms of explicit and color-blind racism be eradicated or lessened for minority students in the coming years.
A few students have bonded together to boycott the Café, bookstore, food truck and the grocery section in Patriot along with refusing to attend the events planned for Exploration Day. They also want to clarify that this movement should not be confused with the “cancel culture;” it is about holding faculty accountable for their actions.
Several students have voiced their concerns in the comments section of Purdie’s Instagram Live. These students, who wish to remain anonymous, due to the fear of retaliation, believe that the Mount must take it very seriously and address this matter head on. Others believe that the university has lost the essence and implications of Catholic social teaching. One student shared that they don’t like it when people hide behind “Catholicism.” Christ fought for those who were oppressed, and doing so should not threaten someone’s conservative, Christian identity. One cannot simply try to pray racism away instead of taking solid action.
Current students and alumni who are posting on social media mention that the Mount has a history of prioritizing its white donors over the quality of life for students of color. Additionally, a handful of minority faculty members should not have to bear the burden of questioning and dismantling racism that is ingrained in Mount’s culture. Majority of black students believe that the culture of the Mount is the root cause of this issue.
Those affected by this incident expect the university to appoint an accountable team to examine institutional racism at the Mount. It cannot rely on making Dr. Paula Whetsel-Ribeau, the only black woman administrator, the lynchpin of all things D&I.
Students also feel that those in power are too focused on doing damage control instead of preventing the damage in the first place. The reactive, rather than proactive, approaches lead to one racial incident after another, followed by a rally here, a D&I task force there. Within a few weeks, it is all forgotten, and everything is back to “normal.”
“Mount’s culture enables instances such as these. It’s a system that enables students of color to feel uncomfortable. The student body is demanding change, and they’re demanding it now!” asserted Purdie.