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Category: Community Perspectives

Community Perspectives: Land Stewardship for Communities in Academia

by Kevin Tellez Ramos

The Jesuit Catholic institution once funded archaeological sites in the search for fossilized evidence of our ancestors in the chain of evolution. This was once controversial as the teaching of Adam and Eve shares with us the story of our creation in the image of God. In the present day, our society itself continues to evolve so that it may be possible to accept the ironic position that the institution of international Catholic education may act as a landlord or as a nonprofit developer of housing to adapt to the crisis of affordability. We can accept the role of land stewardship through the support of community land trust (CLT) models.

We must advocate for justice in the housing and land development sector to preserve affordability for generations, and to stabilize families with a need for housing as a resource for economic stability. Beneficiaries of CLT models are less likely to speculate on land and housing as a resource to build wealth. Generations of the public have not had the advantage of living near their place of work or having the community stability to share culture, to build traditions, or to enhance their skills through a fulfilling education. Land speculation is exemplified by the divide in rental housing apartments or single-family developments in our urban centers. As we brace for the impact of mass evictions through the recovery of the economic fallout from the pandemic, housing will be a form of advocacy for the disadvantaged. Advocacy for basic needs and for dignified housing as a human right is a civic responsibility for Jesuit institutions. We can demonstrate leadership in this regard through support for CLT models.

Community Land Trusts fulfill the need for housing at a cost more affordable than the market rate, a benefit that can be a catalyzer for the careers of students of international Catholic educational institutions. Cooperative housing linked with CLT organizations can be an ideal combination and a permanent solution to the crisis of affordability in our growing urban centers. Those that accept our Ignatian mission are themselves advocates for the poor and disadvantaged. The most ideal way to advocate for society is to allow for community participation in the development of land for permanently affordable housing.  

Community organizations are using these models of community-ownership internationally as stewards of the land for ecological restoration, sustainable agriculture, and local economic development. The Sea-salt Housing Cooperative in Brighton has successfully signed a lease for the property that is collectively managed for student housing. This provides affordable and stable rents for those seeking an education to gain access to a better career. Many of these organizations serve as community development advocates, organizing to revitalize underserved communities and work to maintain affordability for future residents, often family members who may inherit the property. We should accept that our land and housing are not meant to be sold for profit. We should participate as advocates for community-owned land and localized development. Through this model, land is held in trust by the CLT, which can also be affiliated with our Jesuit institutions. 

Through the graduate program in Urban and Public Affairs at the University of San Francisco, I worked as a student-intern with CommonSpace Community Land Trust based in Sonoma County. Our communication with the public was meant to share messaging for multi-generational cottage communities which would form more density for a homeowner that would be donating part of their land or donating their entire property to be held in trust by the CLT. This can be a solution for the housing crisis, a solution to poverty, and a solution for division in our communities. Housing with the community is the first step to providing stability for the disadvantaged. Catholic Charities across the States are the most trusted organizations serving large populations of the impoverished and disadvantaged.

Our educational institutions can lead us to pay it forward with our investments and philanthropic donations into permanent affordable housing. We build relationships with the community each day as we spend more time with each other. The hope of social justice is that accept each other and share rich interpersonal communication so that civic life can thrive. We do this in our educational institutions, and we should continue to build and strengthen ties to the common good through permanent community ownership of land held in trust.

Kevin Tellez Ramos (he/him/el) is the VP of Mission of Associated Graduate Students of USF (AGSUSF). He is currently pursuing his Master’s in Urban and Public Affairs.

Arrupe Perspectives from the Jesuit Network have a new home!

We are pleased to announce that starting this September, “Perspectives from the Jesuit Network” will be a project of the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU) in collaboration with the University of San Francisco, approved by Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J., former secretary for higher education of the Society of Jesus.

This project emerged as “USF’s Arrupe Initiatives Community Perspectives” at the beginning of 2021 in response to the need to listen to other voices and broaden our view of the context in which we live. Precisely, the reading of the “signs of the times” has been key in the way of proceeding of the institutions of the Society of Jesus around the world. Hence, the interpretation of reality and responding to it in an assertive, compassionate and engaged fashion has been fundamental to concretize the Jesuit university mission. 

Our team celebrates the collaboration between the IAJU and also with the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education, in order to share articles from leaders of Jesuit apostolates that bring us closer to other realities, broaden our perspective and strengthen our international Jesuit community. 

Look forward to our next article by Dr. Ana García-Mina Freire, Vice President of the Comillas Pontifical University of Madrid! and check out previous articles here

Our community perspectives are still open to all students and members of our community, Become a Social Justice Writer and share YOUR unique perspective or write to our editor Maria

Perspectives from the Jesuit Network: One year coexisting with Covid-19 in El Salvador

We invite you to read the article by Fr. Andreu Oliva de la Esperanza, S.J.,  president of the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) José Simeón Cañas in El Salvador. This perspective exemplifies the Jesuit institution’s commitment to social justice during the COVID-19 crisis. 

One year coexisting with Covid-19

One year ago, on March 11, 2020, we received notice from the Ministry of Education that we had to close the university for students to prevent the spread of the pandemic caused by Covid-19 in the country. At that time, no case of coronavirus infection had yet been identified in El Salvador. Still, President Nayib Bukele was already taking many measures to prevent the virus from reaching the country. The decision was not a surprise; we expected it but not so soon, we had just started the academic year three days before, and no transmission cases were reported. We had prepared for this possibility, and at the beginning of March 2020, we had constituted a crisis committee to formulate a plan in case of an emergency. We had to take the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus in the university community and organize the continuity of our academic and social outreach work if the university was closed, as had already been done in some European countries. Thanks to the crisis committee’s work and the previous training of UCA teachers in the use of LMS platforms, on March 18, classes began again in the virtual modality. It was even more complicated when on Saturday night, March 21, President Nayib Bukele, on national radio and television, decided to implement a mandatory home quarantine until April 21, which was later extended until June 15. It was a tough three months, as we were prepared to offer the online courses but not to manage the online university. We had to make great efforts to modify the computer systems to use them from home. But some operations could not be done online, and a group of colleagues had to continue coming to the UCA, with special permissions to move around and maintain essential administrative tasks.

At the same time that we adapted to this new reality imposed by the coronavirus, the UCA continued with its mission of defense of human rights, especially important in those months, since the decision to place in quarantine centers for 30 days all those who arrived in the country, including deported migrants, resulted in severe violations of human rights. In those quarantine centers, several of our compatriots were infected because the conditions were not adequate. Healthy people were mixed with people infected with Sars-Cov-2, and some people died due to a lack of adequate and timely medical attention.

To know better what was happening in the quarantine centers, the Institute of Public Opinion of the UCA did a survey among the inmates, by which we had first-hand information, which left evidence of the critical deficiencies of these centers and of the diverse violations to the human rights that took place in them. 

Especially important has been the work of the university radio station, the YSUCA. It has never ceased its informative and formative work, adapting to the new circumstances, using videoconferencing platforms for interviews, and always offering the possibility for the population to have a radio station where they can share the difficulties they are going through. In the first months of the confinement, the biggest concern, especially for the poor, was the lack of food. But throughout the pandemic, the main problem has been the lack of drinking water in thousands of homes.

The same was done by the Audiovisual Center of the UCA, which implemented small informative programs and transmitted them through its youtube channel. The objective is to keep the population informed and communicate hope and tranquility. The official governmental position has been very negative, transmitting messages that have caused a lot of fear and insecurity in the population.

In May last year, as they say popularly, “it rained on us” with the arrival of storms Amanda and Cristobal, which caused severe flooding in the country and left thousands of families homeless. The UCA promoted a campaign of solidarity with these storm victims, which met with an incredible response. Despite the pandemic, people were very supportive, and with this, we were able to help our colleagues who had suffered damage to their homes. Also, we help with clothing and food to the communities of La Chacra that were hard hit by the rise of the Acelhuate River. This was a beautiful expression of solidarity and fraternity amid serious difficulties, which speaks very well of these people’s generosity.

To make matters worse, the Government and the Legislative Assembly entered into a permanent conflict, unable to dialogue and reach an agreement for the population’s benefit. While the government applied measures that violated the Constitution and took advantage of the health crisis to strengthen its control, the Assembly tried to legislate for the protection of health workers, to guarantee the human rights of the population, to demand that the government account for the use of the extraordinary resources requested by the executive to face the pandemic. During this conflict, the Legislative Assembly elected five civil society organizations, among them the UCA, to form, together with members of the government, a directive that was to propose how to invest the two billion dollars that the Assembly approved to the government to face the crisis. After two months of trying to do the job, the five organizations resigned from the board since the government continued to make decisions independently and refused to provide information to the board of directors of which we were part.

The health crisis has resulted in an economic crisis in which about 80,000 jobs have been lost, and thousands of self-employed workers have been badly affected. Despite this, people are moving forward and fulfilling their civic duties. On February 28, people went out to vote to elect mayors and deputies. The election favored most of the New Ideas party, the party of Nayib Bukele, which now has tremendous power in the country. It controls the executive, the legislative, and more than half of the municipalities. We see much danger in the accumulation of tremendous amounts of power, as the lack of transparency and totalitarian attitudes are all too common in both the president and his party, so as a university, we must remain vigilant to continue working in defense of democracy, freedom of expression and fight against corruption.

Perspectives From Peru: Ernesto Cavassa S.J.

Author: Ernesto Cavassa, S.J., Head of Fe y Alegría in Perú

The 2021 context is much more complicated than the way we started 2020. Undoubtedly, the aftermath of COVID 19 marks the scenario in which we will have to work, with issues that present challenges that demand us to find answers and paths of hope. Let us look at some of them. 


Politically, 2021 brings us significant events in the calendar: the Bicentennial of the Proclamation of the Independence of Peru and the beginning of a republic, with national identity and common objectives; and the 55th anniversary of the presence of Fe y Alegría in Peru. These dates are a good opportunity to review how far we are from republican and institutional values after 200 years and 55 years, respectively. 

To these anniversaries must be added the elections of a new government, on April 11, which should take office on July 28. The electoral process is taking place amid the “second wave” of the pandemic that is leaving an estimated 200 deaths per day. Besides, it comes after a complicated political year: President Vizcarra’s vacancy, the parliamentary coup d’état led by Congressman Merino, the massive popular demonstrations against him, his resignation a few days after taking office, and the appointment of a precarious transitional government. 

In this scenario, issues such as full citizenship within the National Education Project framework to 2036, development with a territorial and intercultural approach, reinforcement of the democratic system, battle against corruption, and permanent defense of the rule of law. 


Peru is one of the countries most affected by the pandemic. The health system was not prepared for this eventuality. Since the beginning of the pandemic outbreak, there have been 1,320,000 cases, and the official number of deaths is 46,299. However, the number of deaths compared to a typical year shows a higher number. It is estimated at more than 100,000 deaths, particularly among the elderly and vulnerable. The number of the one million Venezuelan migrants is not known, but due to the precariousness of their situation, it is very likely to be high. 

The vaccination process has already started with the so-called “front line,” basically health professionals. This will be followed by the police, the elderly, and members of polling stations. Teachers are entering the second phase. Never before have we been more aware of the value of life and the importance of staying healthy, of taking care of ourselves, of caring for others, of our relationship with nature. Humanity has had to assume its vulnerability, leaving aside the feeling of omnipotence in front of the world; but, it has been evident the greater exposure of those who already add other conditions of fragility, built by unjust and unequal power relations. 

The preferential option for the most vulnerable, care for the common home, care for personal and community health, with emphasis on healing and strengthening of self-esteem and emotional health, are presented as cross-cutting themes.


Economically, it is estimated that it will take about ten years to recover the situation we had before the pandemic. Peru is one of the most affected countries in its economy since 70% of the EAP is informal (precarious work, daily, without social benefits). Families are busy rebalancing the household economy, and the school will have to strengthen its role in accompanying students and their parents. Educational institutions will be tested in their ability to respond with relevance to the moment, with the objective that “no one is left behind.”

It is a challenge and an opportunity to put school flexibility to the test and propose ways to accommodate students who must help with the family economy, test mechanisms that allow them to resume their studies, or alternate work for periods. It is a good time to continue reflecting on the link between education and the world of work and our education models for work.


Faced with the increase in poverty, we are witnessing a double movement: on the one hand, the rise in delinquency; on the other, the reappearance of solidarity programs typical of the time of crisis (soup kitchens, soup kitchens, etc.), especially in urban-peripheral neighborhoods. To prevent violence and delinquency from gaining ground as escape valves, we need not only immediate responses to alleviate the moment but also to open more solid paths of hope. These include civil society proposals, the business world, and faith communities supporting the State in such essential matters as supplying oxygen to the sick population and continuing to open intensive care units in hospitals. The Catholic Church’s work should be recognized in this process with proposals such as “Resucita Perú” and “Respira Perú.”

The need for formative and sustained work with families and surrounding communities to implement experiences of solidarity to rediscover the strength of the collective and teamwork is positioned. The educational institution will be able to fulfill its task of social promotion with projects for the recovery of the person, the common good, and the community. 

It is time to join others in the effort. The time is propitious to establish and strengthen alliances with the State, organizations, companies, and people who want to join our efforts.


In terms of education, 2021 presents a scenario with many pending issues: differences and large gaps in educational continuity and learning outcomes in 2020. Peru was one of the countries that had made the most progress in the last decade (2009-2019) in school coverage and attendance in the city and the countryside (almost total in boys and girls in the primary school years), increased learning in reading comprehension, mathematical and scientific reasoning, placing it in the Latin American average range. Also, it had covered school feeding programs for early childhood and had leaped the supervision of university quality, confronting the “garage” universities. The university quality licensing process concluded last year had left one-third of the low or no quality universities out of the system. Only those that have demonstrated basic levels of quality will continue to operate. 

The pandemic has brought us a new drop-in basic learning achievement, widening students’ gaps by geographic areas (urban, rural, Amazonian) and socio-economic levels, school, and higher education dropouts. The alternative of distance education through various media has revealed significant challenges: new learning, the need for pertinent pedagogical proposals, new teaching skills, and an equipment and connectivity debt that also reveals a new right to access equitable conditions of development. Necessary and urgent tasks are emerging at the political, social, and educational levels. Although the State reacted quickly with the “I learn at home” program, the results have not been as expected, and inequality has deepened. The return to face-to-face education is an urgent demand for pedagogical and social justice reasons. 

From Fe y Alegría, we have proposed a medium-term strategic recovery plan (2 years of maximum student retention and three years of full recovery) until we reach at least the levels we had in 2019. At the same time, we took the opportunity to validate the “proposal to guarantee to learn in times of emergency,” recently published on the web ( to better prepare for scenarios like the current one in the future. 

We need to be creative to propose re-engagement processes for students who left or appeared very intermittently in the educational system in 2020, alternative, complementary programs (face-to-face/distance), efficient pedagogical resources: remedial modules, pedagogical alternatives, relevant materials, efficient administrative processes, renewed repositories, technical assistance to managers and teachers.

Finding light in the darkness

At the beginning of 2020, we found ourselves hopeful, dreaming of the world with open doors, looking at ourselves indifferently. Many were already in the streets demanding equity, justice, and the recognition of human rights. Others were perhaps unaware of the social conflicts that were about to explode. Everyone was standing in their own trenches of struggle, resistance, or indifference. Clearly, we did not anticipate that we were about to face our own human fragility.
The virus arrived, the pandemic closed our international borders but opened worrying doors. Domestic violence escalated, mental health problems accelerated or increased. Excessive workloads doubled or tripled. Hospitals were overwhelmed. World leaders showed their inability to respond effectively to a health crisis. Society showed its true rates of awareness and empathy, of interest in personal and collective care or disbelief in government. The world came to a freeze. The unstable economic situation put millions of jobs at risk. Genuine social struggles were condemned, liberties were threatened. The educational system was overwhelmed, the digital media fell short.
And in the midst of all the complexity, some of us who were privileged learned to connect with our families and friends in a safe way, we thanked the health personnel’s actions with hymns, we opened our doors to art. We looked for new ways to meet, to reflect, to help. We lost our courage and recovered it. We learned to read eyes because the mask hid the gestures expressions from us. We knew we were fragile and in that fragility, we discovered ourselves in solidarity.
The Arrupe Initiatives team celebrates the ability to feel fragile and vulnerable and at the same time accompanied, to reflect collectively, to support each other, to care for the whole person, to take a moment to feel and assume our own feelings and thoughts.
We do not lose hope. We know that together we will continue to fight for a more just and united society, we trust that our students will be luminaries in this society immersed in the shadows of racism, hostility, violence, inequality. We are confident that it is our Ignatian formation that will give us signs of hope, accompanied by deep discernment and the seal engraved in our hearts with the motto “In everything to love and serve”.
The Arrupe Initiatives team invites us, as St. Alberto Hurtado did, to “be fires” that light other fires, that during these holidays and looking forward to 2021, we act from love and solidarity, being people for and with others. We wish you hope, love, and reconciliation during the holidays. May this be an opportunity for deep reflection, allowing us to collectively analyze what happened throughout this year.

Shaping Peace Together

by Jean Pierre Ndagijimana

On September 21st of each year, the United Nations observes the International Day of Peace. This day marks the UN’s declared 24 hours of cease-fire for everyone on Earth to experience the ideals of peace, to breathe freely, and to find a gap of calm. The international theme for the 2020 Peace Day was “Shaping Peace Together.” The pandemic has challenged our existing understanding of what peace really means. As the world celebrated “peace,” the pandemic reminded us that we must come together to protect and care for one another.

In this spirit, the Rwandan Community of Northern California (TRCC), the University Ministry at the University of San Francisco, together with the African Communities Program at Partnerships for Trauma Recovery (PTR) co-hosted a virtual event called “Celebrating Peace.” Given the complexities of the moment, we expanded the theme to reflect our collective need for de-stressing and shaping peace together.

The event opened with a welcoming message from Angélica Nohemi Quiñónez, the Interim Director of the University Ministry at the University of San Francisco (USF), who highlighted the importance of this space as one for sharing stories, different perspectives, opinions, and ideas. Tizita Tekletsadik, PTR’s African Communities Program Manager, followed, acknowledging the stress associated with the pandemic, and invited Yehoyada Mbangukira, the US Rwandan Community Abroad Secretary-General, who welcomed participants on the behalf of TRCC and moderated the conversations. 

Our guest artists, Daniel Ngarukiye, Inzora Benoit, and Bosco Intore, played their part: they entertained the heart with soothing music performed on an Inānga, a traditional instrument from Rwanda and Burundi. 

Diana Tovar, a graduate student in Migration Studies and a member of the USF Arrupe Human Rights Observatory, was one of our panelists. Ms. Tovar rooted her perspectives in her experience in Colombia. “Peace is a social construct, it requires recognizing that others’ pains are my pains too,” she said. For Ms. Tovar, in the current moment, “peace is an act of kindness: generosity, a smile, love, understanding, empathy, and putting aside what divides us.” She challenged the dominant notion of equating peace with the mere signing of peace agreements. For Ms. Tovar, peace is a path and a goal. According to the panelist, we achieve peace only when individuals and the larger society recognize that something is wrong, and they are willing to do their part to change what does not seem right. She condemned indifference to racial injustices and reminded the audience to use their privileges not just to help others but to build bridges between our communities. 

Another panelist, Ms. Liliane Umuhoza, Founder of the Women Genocide Survivors Retreat Program, joined from Rwanda and drew from her personal experiences surviving the genocide against the Tutsi to define what peace requires. For Ms. Umuhoza, peace is fulfilling the promise of “Never Again” that failed to prevent the tragedies of 1994 after many other “Never Again” statements preceded the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. By equating peace to equality, Ms. Umuhoza said that peace means access to food, shelter, and other basic needs. In addition to these material needs, she emphasized that when thinking about peace during the Coronavirus pandemic, mental health and wellbeing needs to be considered.  In her words, “when your mind is not stable, it affects everything around you.” She called this type of peace “psychological safety,” where people can feel free to share their stories and feel heard.

Dr. Ernest Uwazie, another panelist, is the Director of the Center for the African Peace and Conflict Resolution at California State University, Sacramento. For Dr. Uwazie, “peace may look different from place to place and from time to time.” According to the professor, “peace is a satisfaction of one’s interests of justice, substantive justice.” Peace is recognizing that every human being is worthy of recognition, worthy of fair treatment, free from eminent and remote threats. In other words, it is when all of us can dream as far as we can. Dr. Uwazie reminded the audience that every human being has the potential to do good. He invited us to be resilient, conciliatory and he urged us to condemn not the person but the harmful act. Dr. Uwazie encouraged us to be humble in our own failings and to learn from our wrongs. 

Event participants were also invited to contribute to our definition of peace. Here are some of their reflections:

  • Peace today means living in a country that is protective of its own people; addressing the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • “Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.” — Benito Juárez 
  • Inner peace, being in harmony with my own self and thoughts, as well as outer, wishing but also working towards peace – at local and global levels
  • Kuri njye numva amahoro ari igihe umuntu aba adafite ibimuhungabanya muri we no hanze ye.
  • Feeling safe at home and outside. When everyone has the same human rights and dignity respected.

When closing the conversations, Mr. Yehoyada, shared his major takeaway: Shaping peace together is within our power. This happens by being responsible, resilient, and not being indifferent when others are experiencing injustices. Peace comes from the understanding that we are all in this together because there is no community made up of one person. 

The success of this event is a result of a collective commitment. I would like to thank all the contributors: the participants, panelists, the moderator, the guest artists, the organizing team, and the co-hosting organizations. The greater a community’s loss in common ground, the greater the resulting gain in violence. In our “humble togetherness,” we can all, indeed, shape peace together.

Mexican observers in a historic election in the United States 

by Ana Karen Barragán
The elections in the United States of America have brought the world’s attention to the country. Approximately 93 million U.S. citizens cast their votes before November 3, others had the opportunity to vote until Election Day, and many others chose not to. However, there are thousands of others who participated as mere observers, among them are those in the bench labeled as international students, visa workers, undocumented migrants, and many other figures who live in this country today. Together we hope to hear results that place human dignity, reconciliation, and justice first.
Looking out the window at what is happening in a country that is not one’s own has a different flavor, my insides (feelings, emotions, thoughts) do not move as they do when I am in Mexico. Nevertheless, we do not cease to feel a sense of anxiety because of the consequences that we have to face as Mexicans, as Latin Americans, as foreigners, and as citizens of the world. Again and again, I find myself listening to podcasts, reading what’s on social media, and checking the news on tv and digital newspapers.
From my privileged place, as a Mexican international student with a visa, I can also perform superficial analyses that show my concern for continuing my studies here. And so, from the comfort and guarantee of a university dormitory, with food access, wifi and computer, and all the basic services I need to continue this life project, I look and judge the choice.
It is true that I hear Mr. Trump’s insults against my country and my people, and my skin is bristling. Sometimes I even laugh to avoid anger. At other times, I self-censure myself from speaking Spanish to avoid any unpleasant incidents in public. And yet, I always have the comfortable option of returning to my country and going on with my life. But this is not the case for everyone; there are millions who live in expectation of a decision that, while no longer aspiring to unrestricted respect for their human rights, at least hopes that the levels of discrimination and harassment will stop.
Therefore, it is time to pause and think… what does this election mean for the thousands of Mexicans living in the United States? what does it mean for the children put in cages and separated from their mothers and fathers? who recovers that lost childhood for them? who recovers that warmth from their mother that they could not obtain in the midst of the nightmares brought by the enemies of equity, justice, and human dignity? who watches over the fair wages of Mexicans who are in the fields cultivating and harvesting what American families will taste during Thanksgiving?
Is there really hope for them? I have my suspicions that whoever the winner is, the historical debt is far from settled. And Mexicans will continue to occupy the workspaces that Americans are unwilling to take on or pay for.
It is clear to us that one of the candidates despises the Mexican population, but will the other really be watching over the rights of these people who day in and day out produce, care for, cook, clean, and educate for a precarious wage that has suited the US government so well? Let us not forget the numbers of the Obama administration. Let’s not be naive.
Who do these two white men represent?
What are the interests that are at the heart of their election campaign? Will they really respect the ideas of a woman of color as vice president? Who does Kamala Harris represent and why did Biden choose her? In our hope are the ideals of citizenship that seek to start from diversity and equity, but we also dream with our feet on the ground and with a critical conscience that tells us that in politics not everything is what it seems. Let us hope that the future reality will prove right the hunch of ideals that our continued disillusionment with the precarious leadership that prevails in the world.
How do we, as global citizens, impact the construction of a more integrated, just, united, and reconciled citizenship? How do we respect the processes that do not correspond to us but that impacts all of us who cannot cast a vote?


This is a personal perspective, and the author wanted to acknowledge that she is speaking from a particular Mexican immigrant point of view, that many might empathize with, but that shouldn’t be read as a universal Latinx perspective. At Arrupe Community Perspectives we invite all to share their own ideas and worldview. 

Finding Community During Times of Self-Isolation.

by Lesly Mazariegos

Towards the end of the Arrupe Immersion trip in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, we received the news that all USF students were to return back to campus due to the outbreak of COVID-19. It was also announced that the rest of the semester would be remote. At that moment, I did not know how to feel, what to expect for the rest of the semester, or how the pandemic will affect us all. Because it was Spring break, I was able to slow down, process everything, and stay updated with emails from the school and other programs. 

After the trip, as a group, we continued to follow-up with one another. We created a meaningful and trusting relationship that we carry on today. Social media was one way we kept in touch with each other but also communicated through WhatsApp. We participated in small fill-in sheets about our interests, how we are coping with the pandemic, and how we are able to stay active. We shared this with one another and learned more about each other. The transition from normalcy to remote learning was difficult but the support from one another created an easier shift.   

Every program had to find a way to transition to an effective method of remote learning and interaction. As a lead tutor from the UM tutoring program, we brainstormed how to continue building community. The first step was to check in with tutors and update them on the next steps for the program. Throughout the semester, as tutors, we created small projects that could support the learning of the tutees. In addition, the UM tutor program created an Instagram account with the goal of showcasing USF tutors’ interests, activities, and how they are staying active during the pandemic. Tutees from the program are able to view this account and stay connected with one another. This creates a network of students where we can all feel part of a community. Now, more than ever, it has been important to find ways to feel connected in times of social distancing.  

We continue to build community through the UM tutoring program. Before tutoring sessions, I initiated a small informal check-in with USF tutors. Monthly tutor training sessions also serve as a space where we all connect, share how we are doing, how online tutoring has been so far, and how we can better serve the tutees through remote learning. Through my experience with the UM tutoring program, I found it important to help create a space where we can all feel comfortable sharing what’s on our minds which in turn helps us all feel more connected with one another.  

I am finding community this semester by continuing the relationships made through the Arrupe Immersion program and by creating a space where USF tutors and tutees can feel comfortable talking about their day, their well-being, or anything else on their mind. Especially during this heavy political climate, pandemic, and virtual interactions, it is important to find and build a space where we can feel connected and comfortably talk about our well-being. 


Community Perspectives: Collective Conscience in Decision Making

by Luis Enrique Bazan

Recently, a group of USF graduate students, members of the Arrupe team, got together to reflect on the signs of the times in order to figure out the needs of our USF community and our possible contribution. 

 With a kind heart, we wanted to be as honest as possible about the anxiety, anger, fear, and instability that we are witnessing within our own community, and we held on to the USF mission as the platform to advance this conversation. 

 USF is not new in its commitment to social justice. We have a lot of institutionalized programs that are evidence of this commitment to local and global communities, but if we are not new to this conversation, why are some members of our community feeling sidelined? Is this current global crisis showing the cracks of the implementation of a mission that we are so proud of? We have good examples of care within our campus, but we also have some signs of desolation. 

 The most important asset at USF is its people. Each person brings experiences that nurture the heart and knowledge of the institution. The institution that we are working together to create is constantly being challenged by factors that are not necessarily under our control, and in order to mitigate those external factors, there are decisions that are being made based on professional analysis. It is of public knowledge that analysis could help us be better prepared to face the future, but here is where our reflection led us to see that tension is being built when confronted with the mission. 

 The current COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of something about analytical planning: it can’t predict the future. Even though we know that analysis is not perfect, we still need it. The problem is when analysis doesn’t understand its limitations and trumps the other historical narratives that have built the USF legacy. 

 Each person synthesizes, through their own experience, the mission of the university, and because of that, we have an idea of where we should be. The tension that hides the rich experience of each member of the community is that, due to the current state of affairs, people are not being asked to give their opinions regarding decisions that affect them. Numbers are prevailing in providing us with information that condition our own paths of action, and not the conscience of our community. Therefore, we need a way of thinking that is capable of going beyond what the analytical and numeric projections tell us where we should be going. 

 Catholic Social Thought teaches us that we can’t separate our analytic constructions from our conscience. Our USF experience teaches us that approaching crises as an issue of categories of analysis doesn’t give the concrete experiences of a very diverse community the priority that it deserves. 

Participating in the construction of a more humane world is not only an analytical construction but the common effort of people who care. Analytical decisions that incorporate the conscience of a community become meaningful decisions, and a number of meaningful decisions together is what has built USF.  

We already have some schools and offices on campus that are incorporating the voices of their students, faculty, and staff in their decisions, but not everyone is there yet, so we, the Arrupe team, ended our meeting with the following questions: How do we build channels of meaningful communication during times of social distancing? How do we make sure that everyone from the USF community feels valued? Could we make sure that everyone is represented in decisions that matter the most to them? Could collective conscience ever become a priority at USF or other Jesuit institutions? 

We don’t have the answers, but we hope that other offices and schools are asking similar questions so we can find meaningful ways to move forward. 

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