Saturday, 10 November 2012

St John's: Shouldn't it just be shutdown?

The latest update on St John's College, Sydney is that the police have been called in and some students offered accommodation in a 'safe house' after serious threats were made against those who have spoken up on the vile behaviour happening there.

Apparently senior students brought in an it expert in order to discover the identities of those who had 'dobbed' to the media,

Enough is enough.

Surely the college should just be closed down and the students required to find alternative accommodation until the situation is properly dealt with. 

Yes, I know its exam time, and I know it is probably a minority who are making life miserable for the majority.

But if the reports of internal anarchy, witchhunts and worse are true, this situation simply cannot be allowed to continue.


Catherine said...

I don't think St John's should be shut down, but measures need to be taken to bring long-term cultural change for the better.

The first measure should be a further investigation into the March event where the young woman was taken to hospital. Those truly responsible, directly and indirectly, should have the initial punishments carried out, especially the community service.

The second measure should be to give the rector and appointed visitors the powers to punish any college resident who endangers the physical, moral, mental and spiritual health of others. That way the technicalities will not be available that made the mock trial possible, and every future college member will be aware that there will be consequences for non-compliance.

A third measure would be to no accept new college residents for at least one year, and possibly two years, so that there is no one that can be 'fresherized' in the so-called traditional way. This would give breathing space, and an opportunity for new more positive ways of initiation to emerge.

A fourth measure would be to admit that introducing women residents has been a failure. Young men will act up to impress each other, but they will act up twice as much to impress a female to whom they are attracted.

The fifth measure is something no one has so far mentioned, but which should have been at the top of any list. The moral change that is so badly needed will only happen if the leaders and followers of the disrespectful behaviour are converted - and that only happens if a lot of people pray, fast and do penance. Have you prayed for St John's College yet? Likewise an excellent resolution is only to be found after assiduous prayer.

As a sixth measure, positive role models need to be introduced. If the only role models young college men are shown are drunk, risk takers then that's what they will aspire to be. An intake of virile men with strong prayer lives, dedicated to study, frequenting the sacraments, aiming for holiness, and healthy enough to take part in the touch football, frisbee and other recreational sports is essential. For true long lasting cultural change, permanent role models such as a resident religious order worthy of such a title is essential. You have to have role models that will 'out live' the clever student lawyers at college and the Post-graduate students, and who can impart a permanent atmosphere of holiness. However you would need at least 10 religious to make any difference, and they would have to take a leaf out of St John Bosco's playbook and encourage all students to partake of a full sacramental life and these religious would need to join in the sports, choir, social activities and take most meals with the students at the college and not be in ivory towers.

With such measures there would be hope that the college would become a place that St John, the Apostle and Evangelist would be proud of, a place where young men could learn to imitate his love, courage, purity and chastity, so as to soar like eagles close to the fires of divine love.

But nothing good will happen without prayer, and to large extent without reparation. So let's pray and when we daily pray the Official prayer for the Year of Grace and ask that 'our relationships be healed, and our nation grow in compassion and justice' that St John's would receive the fruits of those prayers.

Kate Edwards said...

I'm sorry Catherine, but I really can't see the privileged young louts of St John's as a cause I for one would be prepared to do much by way of prayers and reparation! Frankly, there are many more higher priorities in this world.

All the evidence suggests that St John's has been far from Catholic for many years and no one has done anything about it. I'm not personally convinced that it is actually possible to create a genuinely catholic institution these days, the dearth of good religious being what it is.

But even if it were, I'm not sure a University college would be my first instinct as to where to put in the effort. University students per se are certainly a priority - but the vast majority of Catholic students cannot afford to live on campus, and there are other ways of outreach that are likely to be more effective.

And why does there need to be any 'initiation' of any kind? I lived in a Catholic residential college for a couple of years many years ago now at ANU and can't remember there being anything of the sort; certainly nothing one was forced to participate in.

Yes there were the usual student antics, but the co-ed system worked perfectly well on the whole.

But as for how catholic an ethos it had - well pretty mcuh par for the course for such places these days.

I can't remember the tiny college chapel ever being used, and the nuns in residence were erratic mass attenders even on Sundays. In fact, one was actually an admitted agnostic new age/Buddhist, and it wasn't until my second year there that there was actually a nun who attended daily mass in residence. She actually organized the friars next door into singing the Liturgy of the Hours together - but as far as I can recall I was the only student from the two colleges who ever actually came along and joined in...

But that was also the year the college became (briefly) infected by a dreadful pseudo-Catholic version of charismatic fundamentalism, with people rushing around wnating to give you 'warm fuzzies' (hugs). Let's just say I was one of the leaders of the resistance!

And from what I've seen of the Sunday congregations over at ANU this year, the proportion of Mass attendees from the two Catholic colleges is a lot lower than the 13% or so national catholic average, and almost entirely confined to Asian students...

R J said...

Today there is an article in the Australian Financial Review (not, alas, online) about the culture of loutishness which has been in place there for decades. Various survivors of this regime, such as the distinguished historian and mathematician James Franklin (University of New South Wales), are quoted. Not a single one of them has anything good to say about the place.

If the whole garbage-dump is not closed down pronto, then instead of victims nearly dying from the initiation ceremonies, there will be victims actually dying. And when that happens, the Sydney archdiocese and the university administration will be paying off lawyers for decades to come.

Anyway, according to The Sydney Morning Herald's website, the police have now intervened in the hope of straightening things out:

My inclination is, if I must pray for anyone in this matter, to pray for the police. Hell hath no fury like a yobbo scorned.

Catherine said...

The Fatima prayer teaches us to pray for 'those most in need of Your mercy', and the participants in the wrong-doing at St John's certainly fall into that category.

Yes, they are a small, and mostly privileged minority, but they are likely to have enormous influence in the years to come as surgeons, judges, barristers, policy-makers, board directors, CEOs etc. Surely if we want them making wise and Christian decisions, and using the influence they will be given for the good of others, we need to pray for them now. Ten years from now we might need their services in the emergency room or in a court case.

It is in times like these that the words of St Paul about when one part of the body of Christ is honoured all share that honour and when one part is hurt all parts are hurt (1 Cor 12:26)show their validity. The bad actions of a handful or two have brought disrespect not only to themselves, and the college, but also to the university and the Church. However reprehensively they have acted, in Christian charity we owe them our prayers for their conversion.