Earlier this semester, I wrote a commentary article about the possible dangers of the University of Dallas’ decision to sell Tower Village and thus cater to the interests of clientele possibly distinct from the students. I still assent to what I wrote, but I failed to consider how the sale would affect the families currently living in the Mill.
Apparently, so did UD. If you read last week’s paper, you’d know that one of the Mill’s residents — Trina, a single mother on government assistance trying to support her daughter — is effectively being forced out by SB Pacific, the Mill’s new owners. Having declined to renew Trina’s lease — and, naturally, SB Pacific has given no reasons — Trina, once her lease has expired, will presumably be ejected from the Mill.
Where will she work? Where will she live? How will she care for her daugher? How is she supposed to raise herself out of poverty when she is actively punished for being poor?
SB Pacific — whose sole purpose, like every corporation’s, is to maximize profits — doesn’t care. And why should it? With Trina and all the other residents who rely on government funding to scrape by taking up valuable real estate, how is SB Pacific supposed to attract more lucrative tenants? How are your residents to use your gym when they come home from their two jobs too exhausted to exercise? How are your residents to buy your coffee when they can barely buy enough food to feed their families? Answer: You don’t.
SB Pacific was clear that they’d be accepting no more section 8 residents, so who exactly is surprised that they’d want to get rid of the rest?
SB Pacific doesn’t care, but one would expect that the university would. Given UD’s commitment to Catholicism, one would expect that the university, in addition to expostulating the principles of Catholic social teaching, would have some inclination, however faint, to act upon those same principles — principles such as the preferential option for the poor.
According to Notre Dame, the “preferential option for the poor” refers to the imperative Catholics have “to create conditions for marginalized voices to be heard, to defend the defenseless, and to assess lifestyles, policies and social institutions in terms of their impact on the poor. The option for the poor does not mean pitting one group against another, but rather, it calls us to strengthen the whole community by assisting those who are most vulnerable.”
Clearly, we — not just the administration, but the students and professors in general — have failed to live up to the first half of that imperative. By selling the Mill, we gave SB Pacific permission, however tacit, to displace the innocent, hard-working, god-fearing, vulnerable people who live in the Mill and depend on the Mill for their livelihood.
Lives could be ruined. This is not hyperbole.
But we can still live up to the latter half of the imperative. We can still “strengthen the whole community by assisting those who are most vulnerable,” and we should. Now that UD has unwittingly cast out its most vulnerable members, it has a moral obligation to help them find decent housing and reasonable employment to compensate for that housing and that employment they will lose on account of the university’s decisions. Maybe we could match the difference, help them to pay their bills.
And if we don’t — if we do nothing and allow Trina and all the other section 8 residents to flounder without the safety they’ve found in the Mill — what possible moral authority will be left to the university? How is anyone to take our pro-life demonstrations seriously, how is anyone seriously to think that we care for the unborn, when we refuse to help the living? How is anyone to think we care for the institution of the family when we let our families be thrown on the street?
I — who have neither institutional nor financial power — am not in a position to suggest solutions. But as a student familiar enough with Catholicism to know the basics of its tenets, I can say that, if UD is to remain “the Catholic university for independent thinkers,” it will have to act, and soon.
Note: This article has been edited for clarification since its original posting. SB Pacific is the owner of Tower Village.