Opinion: Why I still support Poorman and the University of Portland
Reflecting has been an exercise I’ve found myself doing quite frequently these past few weeks, as I’ve followed the articles and opinion pieces in response to the Wally Awards event on campus. After everything that’s been said, I still support Fr. Poorman, the administration, the staff, the students and the University of Portland.
I’ve known Fr. Poorman since my sophomore year when he moved to campus from the University of Notre Dame. He lived three doors down from me on the third floor of Schoenfeldt Hall. During my time at UP, I was fortunate to get to know him, other priests, and other members of the administration, faculty, and staff and I can say they profoundly changed my life and I would not be who I am today without their support and example.
As I reflect on the Wally Awards, I don’t place blame on the administration. A student-athlete is responsible for what was said that night. However, I do believe the administration should be accountable for their response. And I support the steps Fr. Poorman has taken to move forward from the event.
During my time on the Bluff, one theme I constantly heard (both inside and outside the classroom) was that the respect and dignity of all persons, no matter race, religion, or creed, is one of the most important pillars that should be part of the foundation of one’s life. The University has been teaching these principles to its students since its inception and will continue to do so, no matter who occupies a corner office on the top floor of Waldschmidt Hall – priest, nun, or layperson.
While no one is perfect, we are all called to this theme to treat one another with respect and dignity; it’s a simple concept that doesn’t require training or special knowledge, and it’s certainly not contingent on who’s running the University. Reinstating the Green Dot program is an initiative I fully support and is a program I was involved in while on campus. Unfortunately, there is no amount of training or workshops that can truly resolve the root of this issue.
The fact is, this issue doesn’t just exist on campus but it’s one that plagues our world. If we want change, it’s not up to the administration; real change starts with all of us. No matter who we are or where we are in life, we are accountable for our choices. And if we don’t choose to respect one another, this issue will persist.
Despite our best intentions, we know this issue is still prevalent on campus. It still exists on our sports teams, it still exists in the dorms, and it still exists at off-campus house parties. While such programs like active bystander training have helped immensely to raise awareness, they won’t ever completely address the issue. Instituting more strict intervisitation hours in the dorms won’t provide a fix. And neither a title IX committee nor a dry campus will end it once and for all.
If we want to change our world and our campus, it has to start with each and every one of us.
It starts with each one of us because at the end of the day we are responsible for our own actions. If we want change, we have to lead ourselves first. Each of us are responsible for our feelings, our thoughts, and our decisions. We make decisions on how we treat one another each and every day, and if we aren’t choosing to make decisions that are respectful, positive, and just, then we aren’t contributing to the positive change we ask and hope to achieve.
Jordan Schiemer is a University of Portland alumnus ('15). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.