Thursday, October 8, 2020

A Case (Study) for Perspective: Father Jenkins and ND Colleagues

A friend and I are in the exploratory phase of a creating a podcast. Facilitating a successful launch requires developing a platform, determining our audience, designing a logo (aka pod-art), distilling best practices and so forth. Imagining what we might offer has been fun, as I love talking to others about this. I have to say, this conversation has been much interesting (and enjoyable) than the majority of those I have been having in 2020. I'm sure you understand. 

This past weekend, I had a long talk with my friends Michael and Lesley about the possibility of this podcast. Michael offered but one word as his advice for what this alleged podcast needs: perspective. He said, "Consider your perspective. Offer perspective. Maintain perspective! Perspective changes everything."

Michael Lewis, a tremendously talented and popular author has said all great writers have one thing in common. When the world is looking in one direction, a writer has the ability to look the other way...and then write about it. In short, he is speaking about perspective. A great podcast must do the same. 

Simple enough, right?...write. Truth be told, it's not that easy. I will let you, the reader consider why perspective can be a challenge. I would like to invite you, the reader to offer tips on how to broaden one's perspective. I urge you, the reader to share the benefits of doing so. In the meantime, I would like to offer one example of my own. I would like to thank a former colleague Peter for the virtual dialog that prompted this perspective. 

Question: Am I my brother's keeper?

Leaders do not act in isolation. I suppose some do, but we have titles for those.

As the New York Times has written: Notre Dame’s President Faces an Angry Campus After Getting the Coronavirus. Father John Jenkins, C.S.C. violated the protocols of the University in failing to wear a mask and maintain social distancing at the Rose Garden Ceremony for Amy Coney Barrett. In reading the article,
 I came to learn "at least 10 Notre Dame faculty members besides Father Jenkins attended the event and all except him have repeatedly tested negative for the coronavirus since returning to South Bend." There is no information about whether or not they were wearing masks.

I was aware that the Dean of the Law School, G. Marcus Cole was there because he is photographed sitting next to Father Jenkins, doing the right thing: wearing a mask. 

Someone said students who exhibited the behavior of Father Jenkins would be expelled. That comment led me to research if that was in fact, accurate. In the official Update Following the President's Address to StudentsUniversity policy notes  under "Addressing Violations" the following 

"It is imperative that students, faculty, and staff call one another to accountability for lapses in mask wearing, physical distancing, or gathering together outside of the guidelines above. Compliance depends on all community members having the courage to call others to behavior that protects us all." 

I am not shifting blame—let me make that very clear. We are responsible for our own actions AND and, I would like to raise this question: Should one of those 10+ faculty members have said something to Father Jenkins? Would I? 

As an ethics teacher, this event may now serve as an interesting case study. Some might think it would be hard to talk to your superior about what they ought to do. Yes, and I would add that helping other to do the right thing is rarely as easy task. As a Christian, I would like my students to consider: Do we have a moral obligation to help those in our community make the right decisions? Is it possible in this day and age to be our brothers and sisters' keepers? What does that look like? And how does that relate to this event. Finally, I would like to hear 
To what degree ought we hold these adults responsible? I wonder, did anyone perceive how this would look on the national stage. Obviously, Jenkins did not. Were all parties lacking wisdom and foresight?

I find this shift in perspective to be an interesting one, for it is not something I have heard anyone else talk about. I don't know if is an issue I would discuss on the podcast but the narrative has now taken a new turn—so I had to write it down.

In sports, we are constantly asking athletes to keep their eye on the ball, see the basket, or visualize the race. Perspective is essential. In this case, we see not one but many others who didn't see what might come from a bad choice and a big mistake. Perspective was lacking.

In spirituality, we are called to envision the world as God does. However, one friend told me recently that she thinks God is on vacation. I have to agree with that perspective....

1 comment:

  1. The responsibility of those around him to say something is an interesting perspective, and one that is certainly influenced by your work as an educator who helping form students who we hope will have the courageous commitment to what is right in order to speak up. This is more challenging than ever due to the obstacle of social distancing which makes it easier for us to pretend that we didn't see, hear or notice, and also a change in the tone of public discourse where more than ever we fear an explosive, angry response. While policy might support those who are brave enough to say something, a reliance upon policy to make people act a particular way is based upon compliance rather than a sense of personal responsibility to others. We need to find new ways to create relationships and community, where speaking up out of love is the norm, not the exception. Our students are looking to us (educators and parents) to model those relationships, and we have to work to engage in dialogue where we encourage and support each other in love (even if it may be calling out inappropriate behavior). Saint Augustine: "Love should be fervent to correct. Take delight in good behavior, but amend what is bad. Love the person, but not the error in the person: God made the person, but the person alone made the error. Love what God made, not what the person made."