Santa Clara University

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The Faculty-Staff Newsletter, e-mail edition
Santa Clara University, October 2, 2006, Vol. 7, No. 2


University Convocation - 2006
Paul Locatelli, S.J.

I add my welcome to all of you, and a special welcome to new students and faculty and staff.

This Convocation is a time for the entire University community to celebrate our legacy of Jesuit education and our hopes for a new year of learning, growing in friendship and understanding among people of all walks of life.

Today I want to focus my comments the importance engaging in our community and as citizens of each of our countries and of our world.

Because the People in a community are important, I want to acknowledge one change. I want to thank Denise Carmody for serving exceptionally over these past six years.

On October 2, Dr. Lucia Albino Gilbert will become our new provost, but she is with us today. Lucia comes from the University of Texas at Austin where she was the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies. All of us look forward to working with her. Please give a warm welcome to Dr. Gilbert. [Dr. Gilbert stands] Thank you, Dr. Gilbert, and welcome to your new community.

Resources: I am happy to say we have surpassed our $350M fund raising goal for the current Capital Campaign. But we also need to continue our momentum to raise funds for programs, faculty, and student scholarship aid while concentrating more sharply on raising the needed funds for the new Learning Commons and Library and the new Business School.

Facilities: The new Jesuit Residence has opened, a move which led to the conversion of Nobili Hall to a student residence and study areas for students during the construction of the new library.

The demolition of Orradre paved the way for the beginning of construction of the new Learning Commons and Library. This is an exciting project with a projected completion date in Spring 2008 and opening by Fall of 2008. Information on current facilities and services is available on the website. Many thanks to the staff who have made this transition so smooth and transparent.

Planning is underway for the new Business School Building. If fund raising goes as intended, we hope to break ground for this new building in Spring, 2007.

We are a community in quest for learning excellence and so we work constantly to improve the quality of a Santa Clara education. That’s the aim of discussions about the University Core Curriculum and our next accreditation review by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). You will be hearing more about them. When asked, I hope you participate in these discussions because it’s about your education – scholarship, teaching and learning.

More and more, we are being recognized for our excellence in a number of ways.

Among comprehensive universities, we are again ranks second in the west by UNSWR We are in the top five nationally for freshman retention rate and academic reputation/quality. And the top three nationally in graduation rate – all signs of a good learning community.

The Sunday NY Times on July 30 featured Santa Clara in an article – "20 colleges worth a trip," and Princeton Review placed us among the best 360 colleges and universities in the U.S.

Athletics Polls/National Rankings: Women’s Soccer #3; Men’s Soccer #7; Women’s Volleyball #8; and Men’s Water Polo #18.

All of should be excited about the success of our teams and, as fans, we should model for all what it means to be a respectful, educated and humane community.

Learning goes hand-in-hand with engaged citizenship. As St. Ignatius of Loyola envisioned, the well-being of the whole world depends on the education of young men and women. He saw civic virtue as a key purpose of education. Let me share a recent story which helps us see the importance of engagement for the public good. I was in Europe for a meeting when President Bush was reelected to a second term. A citizen of another country turned to me and said, "I should have had a chance to vote in your presidential election."

Puzzled, I responded by asking whether I should be able to vote in the presidential election of his country. He said no. Even more puzzled, I said, "Why not?" His response was that the president of the United States is the only position in the world that affects global relationships and politics – and can create order or havoc in the every part of the world.

That, I suggest, is a sobering thought and responsibility not only for the President of the United States, but for every person in this country. The president and legislators of the United States have, for good or bad, a global impact on such areas as global warming, the AIDS pandemic, debt relief of poor countries, international relations and global stabilization, especially in the Middle East.

And they have a national impact on U.S. citizens by the attending or not attending to the growing national debt, to health care and education for Americans (a record 45.6 million Americans had no health insurance in 2005 – almost 16% of the population), to the growing dependence on oil and high gas prices – and particularly to problems of hunger, poverty, homelessness, and disease not only in the U.S. but in the world.

According to one national poll, 64% of the American people now feel our country is headed in the wrong direction. If the European citizen that said our country is now the key player for world politics is right, is not our world also headed in the wrong direction?

From another recent national survey released by The Panetta Institute, here is what college student think about a number of key issues regarding the public (political) good.

In response to the question of whether our country is on the right track 33% said yes, and 53% no – a significant change from a year ago when only 38% felt the country was on the wrong track.

54% indicated dissatisfaction with the quality of the country’s leadership, and President Bush’s approval rating dropped to 29% among the students surveyed.

In general, students perceived our nation as not living up to stated American ideals well. For example, 77% of students said the country is doing a poor job of assisting those in poverty; 72% believed the US does a poor job in providing health care. Only 43% felt we are doing a good to excellent job as a symbol of democracy to the rest of the world. And only 33% believed the government was doing a good to excellent job in representing the best interests of its citizens.

On a positive note, students’ commitment to help others is on the increase: 74% report having been involved in activities to help their communities. So, you want to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, the surveyed students reported little interest (only 38%) in trying to "fix it" by being politically engaged or running for office.

I’d like to urge you not to succumb to the temptation of blaming or praising those in public office – from the president to local politicians – but to accept the responsibility for our democracy and for making the public life of our community, country, and world better.

Making democracy work in this country can become an example for it to work around the world: making the world more humane and just for poor and rich alike will happen only with our responsible involvement.

Yesterday, September 17, was the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.

Our constitution guarantees our freedom to worship God as we wish, to speak as we wish, and to participate in the political process and to vote as we wish. Too often we take for granted these freedoms, especially to vote our conscience. But these freedoms demand responsible involvement by all of us.

I encourage you to study and debate the issues, to pay attention to current events, to take the time to inform yourselves so that you can vote wisely. I urge you to be intelligent, engaged citizens who understand the principles of democracy and democratic decision-making, of constitutional and civil rights.

I encourage all of us to be registered to vote – and then to cast informed ballots.

I hope all of you students will practice on campus now what you should and will do for our country and the world in the future. I encourage you to participate in student government and student publications, in intramurals and the arts like drama or music, in campus ministry programs, the Arrupe academic program, and your RLC projects – I encourage you to vote for your student representatives.

The Santa Clara, Jesuit educational ideal of becoming leaders and citizens of competence, conscience, and compassion means you also learn to become engaged citizens of this community, of the country of your birth, and of the world – and then you will make the world a better place for people of all walks of life.

Thank you all for being a part of this community and commitment to fashioning more humane and just communities and the global village.

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