Fordham University, After the Election

In the aftermath of the recent U.S. elections, Fordham President Joseph McShane, S. J. added his name to a list of Catholic educators committed to supporting undocumented students. “We, the undersigned presidents of Catholic colleges and universities,” the statement reads, “express hope that the students in our communities who have qualified for DACA are able to continue their studies without interruption and that many more students in their situation will be welcome to contribute their talents to our campuses.”

In an explanation of the statement to the Fordham community, McShane drew a parallel between the history of Fordham’s founding and our own current political climate. “Because [Archbishop Hughes] was himself an immigrant and the victim of prejudice and discrimination both in Ireland and in the United States, and because he was the bishop of a largely immigrant community that suffered from the same discrimination from which he had suffered, [he] was passionately devoted to America's immigrants. Therefore, when he founded Saint John's College (Fordham University) in 1841, he did so to create a school that would make it possible for the immigrants whom he served to receive an education that would both confound their enemies and enable them to take their rightful place in American society.” In releasing this statement, McShane affirmed Fordham’s position as a place of acceptance. “Our Jesuit identity places upon us the sacred responsibility to treat every student in our care with cura personalis,” he concluded, “that is to say, we are called and challenged to treat every Fordham student with reverence, respect and affirming love.”

In accordance with the release of this statement, a group of Fordham faculty and staff met to discuss the election’s impact. The meeting was organized by Daniel Contreras, Associate Chair of English at Rose Hill. Inspired in part by the upswing of student activism at Fordham, Contreras sent out an email that read, “I am writing to let you know that we are having a meeting to discuss and organize how best to respond to any future attacks on the university from the incoming presidential administration. This comes out of important organizing happening by and on behalf of students at Fordham. We feel it is just as vital that concerned faculty and staff gather to think about how to coordinate our energies.”

Contreras’s objective in organizing the event was to plan and spread hope. Professors attended from a wide variety of departments, and there was a strong showing from Fordham English. They uniformly expressed concern for their students, especially those from groups that are already marginalized and feel even more at risk now. Members of Quinn Library staff also attended to show their solidarity and commitment to information access and media literacy. Many had stories of witnessing increasingly hateful rhetoric first hand in recent weeks. The meeting ended on a note of unity, echoing President McShane’s affirmation of Fordham University as safe space for all students regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or personal beliefs.