Community debates service trip at Town Hall Reply

President Michael Alexander addresses the crowd at the Town Hall meeting. (Photo by Max Berkowitz)

President Michael Alexander addresses the crowd at the Town Hall meeting. (Photo by Max Berkowitz)

Cristobal Martinez, Levi Flood, & Christopher Cohn – 1851 Staff

President Michael Alexander led a full-capacity discussion about values and the undetermined future of the school’s service-learning trip to Uganda in the annual Town Hall meeting held earlier this month in deWitt.

“[…] You are always part of our com- munity, for the rest of your life. Whether you like it or not you’re part of our family,” said Alexender.

The Lasell “family” served an important role, as the meeting allowed audience members to express their views on the topics at hand. President Alexander opened with a reading of Lasell College’s Mission Statement, followed by a brief discussion on the values the Lasell College community uses to guide daily decision-making. Student focus, integrity, honesty, and ethical decision-making were a few of the values mentioned.

Various attendants offered their opinions on how to best apply these values into the community. However, the overwhelming consensus was that it is important for the students to uphold these values, not just in college but throughout their lives.

The conversation then shifted towards Lasell’s service-learning trip to Uganda. For the past three years, Reverend Tom Sullivan has been running this trip focused on Lasell students helping young Ugandan children prepare for their secondary school entrance exam. The college’s administration is still deciding whether to continue the program, as it was part of a three-year agreement with Lasell’s Ugandan affiliate.

President Alexander led the discussion on how the service trip fits into Lasell College’s values and whether to continue the program. Many of the participants had passionate and compelling arguments for and against the program, but the debate remained calm and respectful.

Safety and the well being of students in the gay and lesbian community were the major concerns against continuing the program. While no students have been harmed on previous trips, current Ugandan law threatens homosexuals with life in prison. For a homosexual student to go overseas and hide their sexuality would be mean hiding who they are, explained a member of the audience.

“I would love to say my school is 100 percent supportive of my sexuality, but I don’t feel it,” said sophomore Jay Franzone.

Students appeared to have the strongest voice in defense of the program. One student in particular, Margaret Stracuzzi, even began crying as she played a recording from her trip Uganda. It was an audio recording of children singing in their native language, while adding “Lasell College” to their lyrics.

Another testimony stood out more. Recent Lasell graduate Kevin Moloney received a loud applause after standing before the audience and reading an impassioned defense.

“These kids have nothing to do with the law. That presented no danger and quite honestly never came up as a topic of controversy in our stay,” said Moloney. He finished by asking deWitt, “How do we make a change in the world, if we shy away from the differences the world has to offer?”

Although two opposing sides were formed, reactions to the meeting were positive. “I was absolutely thrilled with the discussion. It is a hard set of questions and President Alexander did an excellent job of facilitating the conversation. It is spiritually healthy to air conflict in this manner,” said Reverend Sullivan.

President Alexander concluded the meeting by asking the audience to consider thinking critically. “What does that really mean, critical thinking? I think this is it. I think it is finding your way through a difficult decision like this,” said Alexander, proudly.

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