Conservative Franciscan graduate shares his concern and disillusionment
I have debated how to speak about the recent controversies involving Franciscan University and sexual misconduct for some time now, owing to the complexity of my relationship with the University. For a few years, I worked in local government in Jefferson County, and my position made it inappropriate for me to publicly delve into the issue. Nor am I someone who has any level of expertise in the fields that deal with these problems. I also have many friends still attending Franciscan or who are part of the campus’s fabric. That said, I have ruminated long enough that I think it necessary to say the following:
Anecdotally, I can confirm that the issues outlined in Jenn Morson’s National Catholic Reporter article do exist and that they were, in my time, inadequately addressed. It is not just female graduates who are concerned. My wife and multiple women I knew during my studies were stalked or otherwise sexually harassed, reported it, and received little in the way of a serious response– and police involvement was avoided. On at least one occasion, I found myself being asked to fill in the gap and bring a man in for a Come to Jesus moment. Unsurprisingly, it changed little. I also know of one incident in which a homosexual student was not adequately protected and the powers that be were more concerned about the homosexuality than the allegations. On that one, I say no more, for reasons of privacy. A common thread in these situations was that the administration’s response seemed to misdiagnose the problems as of a spiritual, rather than juridical, psychological, and security, nature.
In my time as a student, the university’s approach to sexual misconduct was unimpressive. Students were mandated to watch an online informational video on their own time, and then respond to basic questions to ensure they watched the video. Using a video that someone can turn on beside their Netflix and breezily answer easy questions to is not likely to solve much of anything. It is a bad policy; I mocked it as a student and my opinion has not changed. As well, the content of the video itself was embarrassing. I will never forget the line uttered by one actress when her boyfriend asked her to have sex: “No! That’s against Church teaching AND University policy!” I’m still cringing.
Mixing Church teaching on sexuality with preventative and remedial information on sexual harassment and assault makes no sense, serves no real purpose toward preventing said behavior, and does little but emphasize a viewpoint that the world will be rosy and bright as long as someone doesn’t drink, go to parties, or “ask for it.” None of the women I mentioned were drinking, at a party, or in any way “asking for it.” They were harassed on campus, in broad daylight, around other people. They did nothing wrong.
As close friends already know, Dr. Stephen Krason’s article defending Roy Moore and Moore’s sexual history broke my heart. I studied political science under his tutelage for four years. I would not have predicted that the typically methodical and well-researched man who helped so instrumentally to form my education (focusing on the value of natural law and Catholic Social Teaching) would publish such a—to be frank—strange, cobbled, inane, misguided, and rambling, attack on #MeToo. It pains me to say that my respect for my former professor was severely diminished upon reading that article. I know that he is capable of far better, and his usual erudition in critiquing the problems of modern society from the standpoint of Catholic Social Teaching were notably lacking.
My respect for Franciscan University was smashed by its of sharing such content, its failure to adequately deal with the just outcry that followed, its “apology,” and the fact that women bringing forward their stories of sexual harassment (some even involving professors) were summarily deleted. I hope that such allegations were looked into, but I have seen nothing to show that that is the case. That article and its aftermath have continued to torment me, and likely will for some time. I simply cannot make the puzzle pieces fit, and it hurts me on a level that controversies usually cannot reach.
All in all, my frustrations continue to grow and my hope dims. I prayed that the administration and public relations team would have listened to victims’ calls for improvement and restitution, as well as learned from the American Church’s mistakes in past scandals. I wish that the University would engage this issue honestly and forthrightly. Instead, there has been a doubling-down and downright dismissal. For me, it is not a proud time to be a Franciscan alum.
Joe Dantona is a ’16 Franciscan alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He now lives with his wife and daughter in northeast Ohio.