Newman's social contract is concerning

By Marie O'Neal, Staff Writer

I want to start out by stating that I am pro-mask and believe social distancing is necessary to keep people safe. Science has proven this, and there’s no need to argue.

Like many students, the idea of coming back to campus felt like a dream. After reading the first two clauses of Newman’s social contract, I can wholeheartedly say I supported our administration’s decision to require masks and physical distancing.

However, when I read the third clause, my heart sank. It states, “I agree to notify others if I feel unsafe or if I see potentially unsafe situations or behaviors on campus…By signing this contract, I agree to all aspects within it, and I understand that my rights to an excellent education at Newman do not outweigh the collective rights and responsibilities of the whole Newman Community.” I live in literal-land, so to me, we are obligated to report each time we see a situation that breaks the contract or appears unsafe. And it’s not for fear of turning someone in. I’m not afraid to be “that girl.” If I saw any unsafe situation on campus, I would report it.

Here’s why the third clause of the social contract puzzled me. If a person of integrity were to sign the first two clauses and intended to uphold him or herself and others to the standards laid out in the contract, then the third clause is unnecessary.

Our mission is to empower students to transform society. Administration should empower us to protect our neighbors. That will transform society.

If someone felt unsafe on campus for any reason, I would support them in speaking with administration. Having said that, the administration should not try to enforce this protection through fear.

As students, we should feel empowered and supported by the Newman community to report unsafe behaviors as we see fit. We should also feel empowered to speak with our peers before running off and tattling.

This contract caused me to call the integrity of students, faculty, and staff into question. Here are some questions I was left with: Did people read this contract before signing it, or was it skimmed like the terms and service section on a website?

Most importantly, I do not think this plan was carried out with transparency. We are told to report unsafe situations or behaviors. We were never told who to report to.

Furthermore, we were not informed of the repercussions that would ensue if the contract was breached. I know I can’t be the only one who wondered what the consequences would be for those who were reported.

If you signed this contract without fully reading or understanding it, I ask you to live in a spirit of critical consciousness. As young adults, we should be questioning everything around us, searching for truth. We should insist that our university informs our community about its plans in their entirety because we deserve to be informed community members.

Recently I was asked what Jesus would do in this situation. It’s the age-old question thrown at Christians by Christians and non-Christians alike, trying to point out a flaw in said Christian’s behavior.

When I look at the gospel, I see our Lord respond with love. Always. When a group of men cornered Mary Magdalene, a repentant prostitute who became Jesus’ most beloved disciple, the Lord instructed the one who was sinless to throw the first stone.

The Lord offers fraternal correction time and time again in the Gospel. But He never ran to the Sanhedrin to report sinners. Jesus would have masked up and taken precautions out of love for His neighbors, not out of fear of the Sanhedrin.

PHOTO: Madeline Alvarez, Editor-In-Chief