To the editor of the Troubadour, in response to Clement Harrold’s most recent Vice Column, “Toward an academic culture,” from the March 11, 2021 issue.
I would like to address the following quote: “I am firmly convinced that to the extent that Franciscan fails to inspire its students in their academic pursuits and instill in them a love for truth and wisdom, it is letting them down and preventing them from reaching their full potential.”
I beg to differ. It is my firm belief that Franciscan does indeed inspire us students toward academic excellence. I admit that I am extremely biased, as I spend 98% of my time on the chemistry wing of Saints Cosmas and Damien Hall (with the best of the Franciscan best). But due to our required core classes, I have had experience in theology, philosophy and the like, in addition to being part of a most remarkable and academically diverse group of friends.
Thus, with nearly three years of Franciscan experience under my belt, I maintain the following: not only does Franciscan inspire success in academia, it produces it.
With adequate time and space, I would happily list a dozen faculty and classes that have changed me, but let me ask the following: what does it mean to “inspire in academic pursuits?”
Does this refer to initiating discussions about course material outside of class? If so, I would mention classmates as early as my freshman fall sitting in an Egan hallway to discuss Dr. Hildebrand’s catechism challenge-question.
Maybe this alludes to encouraging student collaboration, in which case a stroll through Cosmas and Damien with glances at white boards will quickly convince one that this also occurs; in fact, just ask one of Dr. Greenly’s engineering students.
Could it be a question of instilling perseverance? One need only turn to Stafford Hall for prime examples of repeatedly overcoming great odds in classes such as Dr. Harris’ medical surgical nursing.
It is possible that “inspire academic pursuits” means opening the door to outside formation. In this case, I would direct one to the various internships our students hold or have held.
These only scratch the surface; what if I were to elaborate upon the fascinating ethical debate I had with a friend upon his return from Austria? Or if I pointed to a literal patio window covered in organic chemistry reactions from one classmate’s study for a final? I would argue that these arise only from students who are inspired in their academic pursuits.
The point I hope to make is this: Franciscan does not lack in its presentation of opportunity for immense academic growth. I dare to suggest that if a stunted academic environment exists, it lies at least partly upon our shoulders — us, the students.
If we recognize a “party” approach to college, that does not immediately indicate that Franciscan is doing something wrong. Likely it is related to our neglecting to do something right.
Do we take the challenge of college seriously and encourage our peers to do the same? Do we realize that it is our job to pore over, think through, question and learn each class’s material, and to do so thoroughly?
Unlike high school, very often we are no longer being taught, which is why we have “professors” and not “teachers” (cite: Dr. Christopher Payne). Our responsibility in college is to teach ourselves the material (think of assigned reading or homework problems) and then attend class with questions and for explanation.
I recognize this may not apply to all classes, but it applies to the majority of classes I have taken and it is only successful insofar as I have been “inspired” to put in the effort.
With the above in mind, I honestly agree with Mr. Harrold that work can be done at Franciscan to change how college is viewed and academia approached, but I think that is the case for university life at large.
Many of us do not appreciate the opportunity we have, and I fail at this recognition repeatedly. But I maintain that it cannot be traced solely back to an academic failure of our school.