Is Fordham fighting a surface-based crusade?

Is Fordham fighting a surface-based crusade?


Opinion PlaceholderRecently, one flyer out of the many posted through Fordham’s halls caught my eye—partially because of its large bold lettering—advertising an upcoming discussion on microaggressions as they apply to race. For a split second, I thought little more than “Oh, cool, good on Fordham for sponsoring this.” Quickly, though, I ended up thinking of a recent Observer article in which Dean Keith Eldredge stated that Fordham’s administration conforms to the Catholic stance on gender. Namely, that there are two genders and the sex assigned to a person at birth is assumed to be permanent.

Don’t ask me why I thought of that article at that moment; maybe I made a link to trans rights when I saw the word “microaggressions,” or maybe that I simply had this article on my mind, At any rate, seeing that poster and making a link to that article and the rally that inspired it made my blood boil. I angrily asked myself, why is Fordham willing to host a discussion on something so tied to progressive liberalism, but close their doors to their trans community? Eldredge’s almost gleeful confirmation of Fordham’s stance no doubt makes many in Fordham’s community, including myself, a bit sick. Very recently, Fordham sponsored a discussion on trans rights under the new presidency. However, beyond this discussion, little has been done in the way of the trans community. Fordham’s administration seemingly gives conflicting messages, hosting a panel on trans rights one day and openly dismissing the existence of its trans community the next. As a transgender person, to hear the Dean of Students refer to the concept of gender in such a way feels rather insulting. First and foremost, the sex I was assigned at birth is not permanent—I’ll see to that myself, and while I fall on the gender binary, there are far more than two genders. Plain and simple.

But Eldredge’s—and Fordham’s as a whole—lack of understanding of the intricacies of gender identity is hardly the issue. Instead, it is the seemingly two-faced nature of an administration that is willing to advance some liberal issues, but not others. As often as I’ve heard the phrase “cura personalis” in a discussion about transgender rights at Fordham, the selective application of this phrase to student life is baffling. Perhaps I need to employ the assistance of the President of the New York School for the Hard of Hearing, but allow me to explain, once again, that “cura personalis” is an irrelevant phrase ifs every individual is not being given equal support by the administration.

In addition, Fordham’s staunch conformity to Catholic social standpoints is understandable, but not justified in the least. The contemporary Society of Jesus prides itself in being an organization committed to challenging the conservative ideals of Catholicism, to be a progressive group in and of itself. Fordham’s history as a Jesuit school is one of breaking away from tradition. “Cura personalis” is the hallmark of Ignatian and Jesuit spirituality. Fordham cannot claim to embody the Jesuit spirit and refuse to live up to what is expected of Jesuit spirituality. Conformity to the status quo is the most powerful enemy of progress.

While we cannot ignore the progress made this year with single-occupancy bathrooms, we must not fall into Eldredge’s mindset that what has been done is enough. The issue of accommodation of trans people is not just about fair bathroom use, it is about the life that each trans student lives within this institution. Equity of life amongst all students cannot and will not be achieved until Eldredge and the Fordham administration examine their selective progressivism and recognize their stagnation in accommodating some of their most embattled students. Eldredge has said that he views the bathroom progress as a suitable compromise. I cannot in any way say that I believe Fordham is “trying to accommodate the best way [they] can” if the creation of a few all-gender bathrooms is viewed as suitable. Words mean nothing if there is no action to support them, and thus far, I am not swayed.