Students and alumnae have continued to send me comments about Susan Kinzie’s article in the Washington Post concerning our new program at THE ARC in Southeast Washington. Some of the comments express concern about one paragraph in the article that raises some old controversies about changes that have occurred at Trinity over the years. What’s clear from the comments is that today’s students and alumnae are just as proud of Trinity as any prior generation. They also are just as devoted to their studies and just as determined to make a difference in our world.
What’s also clear is that there is no place for prejudice of any sort in an institution dedicated to a mission that is grounded in the Gospel imperative of social justice, the values we receive from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and the Catholic faith tradition. One of the bedrock principles of social justice is that all human beings have dignity and deserve respect. Another principle of social justice is solidarity with those who need us. So it is that Trinity believes that its extension of educational opportunities to people who, at one time, might have been excluded from higher education is consistent with our core religious values. Education promotes human dignity and respect, and helps to achieve economic justice for all.
A student had this comment on the article:
“Since the first day I stepped foot into Trinity, I have been challenged intellectually. Trinity has changed my life for the better. … The Post wrote that Trinity “used to be an ELITE liberal arts school for privileged young women…. I have met many women in my life, and I have never encountered such an enormous amount of elite, bright and gifted women as I have experienced with the students and faculty at Trinity. … The color of our skin, and the amount of money we have in our bank account, does not make us who we are. Our morals, actions, and how we treat people are what makes us who we are. …I along with several other students plan on sharing our story with the Post. We will demand that they come to our University and shadow one of us for a day, and at that point after they have gotten a first hand observation and one on one contact with the students, then they can write an article. Believe me when I say, the article they will then write will be nothing but the truth. It will say that our school is diverse. It will say that no matter what the color of your skin, or in what part of town you live in, that we are treated as an equal. Those that have a good experience here at Trinity, make it their own. They will say that Trinity is a school based on values and tradition but so advanced in academic and social means. I am proud to be a Trinity student, and no matter where life may take me in the future(possibly to the White House), I will always be grateful because I know I found my foundation at Trinity.”
Trinity students today are every bit as powerful, determined and visionary as any prior generation. Trinity today is certainly more inclusive, and therefore, more diverse. Our diversity is our strength, and if that is at odds with the old, outmoded, prejudiced notions of elitism, then goodbye to that idea of being elite. But as the student writer above points out, Trinity students today are re-writing the dictionary when it comes to making the case for a new definition of “elite” — not as some exclusive, biased, snobbish identity, but rather as a definition of ambitious, talented and hugely passionate students who know that they can and will change the world with the power of this education.
The old definition of elitism was about exclusion — who’s not at the table. Trinity’s students today proclaim a new definition — it’s not about how exclusive we can be, but how powerful we are together, and and what we can achieve with the collective strength of this remarkably diverse and exciting community of scholars teaching and learning together each day.