Our Opinion: We need to talk


Photo credit/ Alex Weidner

The Wood Word, Editorial Staff

There’s been a lot happening on campus since school began five weeks ago. Indeed, there’s lots the campus community needs to be talking about right now.

So why all the silence?

It’s time to start talking about Marywood’s culture of fear.

It has becoming increasingly and alarmingly clear over the last several months that students, faculty and staff are living in a culture of fear brought about by the administration.

This is something editors at The Wood Word have known about for some time. It’s evident every time a story critical of the administration arises. Sources say “no comment” or will speak only on conditions of anonymity.

But now the fear is becoming more visible to others in the community. The flyers full of facts, accusations and grievances springing up around campus provide a clear example. The continued anonymity associated with the flyers distributed by Faculty for a Better Marywood, Students for a Better Marywood and the Blacklist bring to light the fear with open protest.

Even Dr. Alan Levine’s comment about the first flyer points to the desire for shuttered communication.

“Fortunately, we have structures in place in which administrators, staff, faculty and students can have constructive dialogue in a non-public manner. Any concerns regarding the document can be addressed in this context,” said Levine in a statement to The Wood Word.

There are more examples in recent history. Allegations in a recent lawsuit brought by Dr. Frederick Fagal Jr., a former tenured Marywood professor, if assumed to be true, are the epitome and manifestation of this overreaching power.

According to the ongoing lawsuit, Fagal alleges that Sr. Anne committed a breach of contract by suspending Fagal indefinitely without following due process after he sent a parody YouTube video via email to faculty. Granted, he likely acted unprofessionally, but it provides a clear warning to others on campus: speak out and your job could be in jeopardy.

This overreach does not stop with faculty. Last December’s student protest in support of the Ferguson, Mo., community in which a student hung an American flag with writing on it upside down in the Rotunda, provides another clear example.

Shortly after Campus Safety asked the student to take down the flag, Sr. Anne issued this statement:

“We [Marywood University] abhor the desecration of the United States flag. Such an action is inconsistent with the mission of Marywood and our core values.”

While Sr. Anne can certainly disagree with the act and message, to infringe upon the students’ right to speech and protest is to misinterpret Marywood’s core values and mission statement.

If fear wasn’t an issue, students and faculty would speak publicly and with identification. If transparency and respect for dissent were non-issues, then the flyers would have not been distributed anonymously.

Surely now would be the perfect opportunity to begin to change the tides of distrust.

To be fair, with any position of power comes legitimate reasons to withhold public comment, but for those in power to continually avoid substantive comment amid crisis is counterintuitive. By continuing to insist upon closed doors, the administration is stifling the flow and spread of ideas and perpetuating the culture of fear.

Administration officials need to find a way to reopen the doors of communication. Now is their chance to start dispelling rumors and allegations, providing a floor for open dialogue without fear of negative consequence and encouraging Marywood to work together as a community whose members ultimately have Marywood’s best interests at heart.

Until they do, our current problems seem only doomed to continue.