Saint Louis University began this year vomiting and hacking with swine flu. That should have told us something; we should have seen that as an omen of the events to come. A dark cloud of pig sickness telling us it was indeed going to be a strange year.
Our provost was gone from the beginning. Joe Weixlmann’s leave, however justified, was shrouded in mystery, and the administration’s hesitancy to comment on it only made the secret happenings in the president’s office all the more shady. It was soon after that, after all, that news came out about the dismantling of the graduate school into various undergraduate departments, as well the splitting up of the provost position.
The clouds were swelling. Faculty bristled against what they saw as a total lack of respect from the administrators who didn’t properly consult them about the changes in advance, and in December they threatened to level a vote of no confidence against Father Lawrence Biondi. Although this didn’t go through, it intensified the tremors of instability that had been besetting the school all semester.
If the first part of the year was eerie, then the second semester was like a David Lynch film. Strangeness pervaded. Flocks of crows descended on students and their cars. Then, right after winter break, a black student was threatened with lynching, and from then on SLU faced mounting racial tensions. These tensions came to a tee again only weeks ago when three student leaders resigned from their positions over a “joke” photo involving a noose that was declaredly “only for white people.”
Days later, a girl was attacked in the Xavier Hall bathroom by a masked, maroon-robed man. Somewhere, the crows were cawing.
Administrative unrest. Hordes of sick students overflowing from the quarantine wards. Hate crimes. Wizard stranglers.
Let us use this summer to reflect, and maybe, just maybe, do a bit of healing.