Narrow-minded Students Fighting Losing Battle

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Narrow-minded Students Fighting Losing Battle

On Thursday night I attended an event for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week on Main Campus. In addition to the Sleep-Out there was a “Faces of Homelessness Panel” where men and women who were formerly homeless spoke to a group of Villanova students about what it’s like to be homeless in America. They educated us by sharing their stories in an attempt to breakdown negative stereotypes that exist towards the homeless in our society. The event was well attended and the students showed a deep desire to listen with open minds and compassionate hearts to these men and women who, at one point in their lives, went through incredibly tough times, but in most ways were not too unlike ourselves. During the “Faces of Homelessness Panel” there was a wonderful sense of solidarity and appreciation for the opportunity to learn firsthand about the struggles that America’s homeless experience daily.

However, as one of the panel guests was telling his story, we began to hear yelling from a residence hall across from where we were gathered. At first it was difficult to understand what the students were saying, but as the yelling persisted we all soon realized that these students were yelling offensive, slanderous remarks at the formerly homeless panel that was now visiting our campus. The insults continued as the speaker remained focused and told his story.

I went over to see where the yelling was coming from and discovered that it was from a dark window on the second floor of Austin Hall. The students in the room had their lights off in an attempt to be inconspicuous. However, they were also attempting to make our panel guests feel unwelcome and unwanted on our campus. These students in Austin Hall were attempting to perpetuate negative stereotypes about Villanova University. They were attempting to say that this is not a place that embraces all who come here or that celebrates differences in thought, opinion, or creed. The students tried to reinforce false labels that pin Villanova University as a place that only accepts people who look and think exactly alike.

However, the greater majority of Villanova students and I know better. We know a different Villanova University. We know a University that fills its church on campus before break trips to bless hundreds of students as they go out all over the world to spread messages of peace, tolerance and love. We know a University where students meet weekly to tutor children in some of Philadelphia’s poorest schools and invite mentally handicapped adults to come on campus and enjoy the generous hearts of our students. We’ve seen a University where students Sleep-Out on cold November nights so they have a better understanding and greater empathy for the struggle of our homeless.

The students who were yelling insults are the smallest minority on Villanova’s campus and they are fighting a losing battle. They know their cowardice and ignorance isn’t accepted by the greater student body on Villanova’s campus. That’s why they wanted to remain anonymous. However, I pose a couple questions to these students. What is so threatening about three people who have experienced homelessness coming onto campus to share their stories? Why is that so frightening to you? So, I leave you with an invitation to dialogue about this, but unlike you I’ll tell you where I can be seen. You can find me in the Campus Ministry office (basement of St. Rita’s Hall), however my lights will be on and my door is open.

Justin English Campus Ministry Intern