On March 1, 2017, the SGA senate voted to “take back” the Oath, in response to its alleged misuse by university administration. In particular, the authors of the bill objected to its use in marketing materials and asked that non-student use of the Oath be subject to SGA approval.
Forty eight days after that bill was passed, SLU’s Diversity Leadership Cabinet held its first Oath Week event.
Tuesday marked the start of Oath Week; four days of events intended to help students engage with the Oath of Inclusion, particularly in the wake of Senate Resolution SR007-17. The theme of this year’s Oath Week is “Reclaim the Oath” — a theme that reflects the SGA’s majority belief that the Oath of Inclusion’s original intent has been warped and forgotten in the past seven years.
“The idea of the Oath is something that I strongly believe in, but it’s the practice that has been completely thrown by the wayside,” said senior Juan Barzallo at The State of the Oath event on Tuesday.
The State of the Oath event, intended to “have student speakers share their story about how the lack of living the Oath has affected their experience,” evolved into an intimate and informal discussion on the Oath’s use (or misuse) at SLU.
About 25 students gathered in a lecture hall in Davis-Shaughnessy Hall to discuss their personal experiences with the Oath of Inclusion. The informal dialogue was led by current SGA Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Amanda Pekau. Though she began by reading from a sheet of prepared comments, Pekau quickly tossed her script and opened the floor to comments from the attendees.
Most of the students present felt that the Oath was being used as a marketing tool to mislead students from marginalized populations. “I think it definitely created a very false image of what SLU is,” said a first-year student.
“[The Oath] was literally on everything I ever received from SLU.”
Many of the attendees were members of the SGA or well-known activists on SLU’s campus, all of whom were clearly sympathetic to this point of view.
The majority of the conversation revolved around the Oath’s intended purpose. Senior Ronald Clark reads it as a direct challenge. “[The Oath of Inclusion] says something about ‘we do not succeed by our individual ambitions, but by learning about each other,’ and I think it’s pretty bizarre that people tend to stick to their own bubbles, which tend to be pretty monochromatic,” said Clark.
A major point of agreement was that SLU as an institution needs to be actively involved in holding itself and its students accountable to the goals of the Oath. “If the institution doesn’t get involved, it doesn’t matter, because we’re all talking about this for four years at a maximum and then we’re gone,” said event organizer Raquel Dominguez.
For all of the students who took to social media to express their concerns in March, when they perceived the Oath was “under attack,” student interest in the State of the Oath event was remarkably low. “I’m very frustrated with the lack of openness and the lack of concern… Most of the people on campus don’t really care,” said a first-year student from the back of the room.
Several opportunities remain to participate in Oath Week events. There will be an “Activism at SLU” panel on Thursday evening and a closing event called “Reclaim the Oath” on Friday. The week will end with a SafeZone training on Sunday, April 23. For more details on DLC’s Oath Week, see the SGA special announcement email, sent on April 18.