The Hilltopper is committed to providing Saint Anselm College students with accurate campus news and respectful dialogue about campus issues and issues beyond campus. In doing so, The Hilltopper will respect the dignity of individuals, include marginalized voices, and insist upon transparency from the College. The staff of the Hilltopper loves Saint Anselm College more than any other college in this country, and, exactly for this reason, insists upon the right to criticize it perpetually.
The following statement was sent to the student body of Saint Anselm College on Monday, January 11, 2021 by the Student Government Association:
“Dear Saint Anselm students,
The Student Response Task Force has completed its work in collecting student feedback regarding COVID-19 policies for the fall 2020 semester. This group, under the purview of the Student Government Association presents a comprehensive report on the student response to the college policies regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The Student Response Task Force was established in order to give Saint Anselm students a forum to voice their thoughts and opinions regarding Saint Anselm College’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only was this Task Force meant to efficiently collect and present student feedback to the administration, the Task Force was created and run by students so as to allow fellow students to express their opinions and concerns in a more comfortable setting. Furthermore, the Task Force has come together to supply student feedback to college administrators, so that they might use the student body’s perspective during preparations for our upcoming return to campus. The Task Force plans to be a continuous presence on campus, to work with the school administration, the student government, and the student body as we adapt to the strange time we find ourselves in. Readers will find the full report prepared by the Task Force attached directly below along with a short summary of the report’s recommendations.
Firstly, the Task Force recommends changes in a variety of college policies. For example, the reinstatement of intervisitation on campus. The Student Senate has already unanimously approved legislation endorsing the revival of limited intervisitation for students within dorm halls. The Task Force supported this legislation, and will continue to push for action from the Student Government on this, as well as other issues ranging from building hours to a reexamination of the academic calendar.
Second, the Task Force found a need for more student representation in the decision-making process. While it is understandable that the college was faced with a high-pressure situation to return students to campus, it is regrettable that students were not consulted initially. Moving forward, the Task Force recommends the administration continue to prioritize student input on decision making committees in regards to decisions being made on COVID policy which affect the student body. Be they from athletics, student government, or another student program, a variety of students should be consulted throughout the spring semester. Thirdly, the Task Force has placed an emphasis on the need for transparency from the college administration on COVID policy. This may be in a variety of forms, such as expounding upon policies that are chosen by the school, as well as a formal notice to students regarding any and all policy changes. Transparency will be a necessary step for continued student engagement with the rules that are enforced, and an ongoing mutually respectful partnership between administrators and students.
The Task Force is encouraged by the engagement we have already received from the student body, and if this is the first you are hearing from us please feel free to reach out, as we will be active on campus for the foreseeable future. This will be in various capacities, through the Student Government Association, social media, and various other avenues should the need arise. We look forward to working with the administration as a conduit for student feedback and as a partner to craft policy moving forward.
The entire report is attached to this email for review by the reader, and if you have any questions regarding this report, please reach out to us at email@example.com. The Student Response Task Force wishes you all well, and looks forward to returning to campus for the spring semester.”
At The Hilltopper, our team would like to hear from you regarding George Floyd, racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement. We are always open to obtaining articles and op-eds from members of the Saint Anselm community and want to be a platform for your voices to be heard. You can message us on social media, our website, or reach out to one of our team members directly.
Come learn about nearly 50 community agencies that need your help. Volunteers engage for about 2 hours per week. You choose the site, day and time.
The Meelia Center supports you through the placement process, with transportation and throughout your engagement. Come to the volunteer fair on Tuesday, January 28th in the Jean Center between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to learn more.
MANCHESTER – On Sunday, November 3, individuals from across the country gathered at the DoubleTree in Manchester for the No Labels: Problem Solver Convention. No Labels, a political organization whose mission is to combat partisan dysfunction in Congress, hosted the event that headlined multiple presidential candidates, members of the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, as well as current and former senators.
Former Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) spoke early on in the program regarding the importance of the ideals and attitudes of No Labels. He discussed the widening partisan divide in the U.S. Congress, and how in many ways “it seems like the extremes are driving the train and the rest of us are along for the ride”. Lieberman warned of the dangers of polarization, anger, and resentment of those we disagree with. He argued that the growing number of registered independents, the problem-solvers, represented the new silent majority. Lieberman said, “America needs a little rebellion now [sic] a nonpartisan rebellion”.
Inspired by the ideals Senator Lieberman described, the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus began its work 10 years ago in the House of Representatives looking for bipartisan solutions where they can be found in order to break the gridlock. The Caucus is comprised of 24 Democratic members and 24 Republican members, and it is currently co-chaired by Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Tom Reed (R-NY). Members of the caucus were present at the convention and held a panel where they discussed their work in Congress coming to bipartisan solutions. In addition to Gottheimer and Reed, the panel included: U.S. Representatives Max Rose (D-NY); Tom Suozzi (D-NY); Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA); Dan Meuser (R-PA); Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM); and Steve Watkins (R-KS).
No Labels’ Get In The Room Campaignis centered around encouraging congressional leaders to “get in the room” through constituent letters, calls, and emails in order to negotiate solutions for contentious issues. Convention organizers encouraged attendees to participate in the campaign in order to accomplish the goals of the organization.
Much of the convention was punctuated by a growing generational divide. The vast majority of the crowd was at or close to the retirement age, and such a difference was apparent. The older attendees, which comprised the majority of the audience, raised concerns about social security, partisan divide, term limits, and campaign finance reform; however, there was little mention of issues like wealth inequality and education reform.
A Connecticut resident, aged 28, mentioned that the exuberant cost of living in states like Connecticut meant that he was without much hope that he would ever own a home. This showed that younger generations focus on distinctly different issues from older generations. In fact, when one voter, aged 84, expressed a desire to make community colleges free in order to bring down the rising cost of education, another retirement-aged audience member cried out, asking how that could be done when pensions and the social security net was in jeopardy.
Increasing the political activism of younger generations was mentioned by Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, who is currently challenging President Trump for the Republican nomination. He outlined a plan to increase the younger vote by making it possible to vote on your phone, where the voter would take a picture of themselves to verify their identity then email their vote to a government database. He made no mention of potential security and privacy issues that would come with this. Weld also suggested that Climate Change could be addressed by simply instituting a tax on carbon emissions of various corporations and businesses, but he offered little else on that front. To a younger audience member, both ideas seemed like yet another example of a 20th-century solution for 21st-century problems.
In addition to Weld, there were also three contenders for the Democratic Presidential Nomination present at the event: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI); Congressman John Delany (D-MD); and author and activist Marianne Williamson. Gabbard was the first candidate to speak, and she also came into the audience to conduct an audience question and answer session. At one point she said that a president should focus on “not serving the needs of one party over another, but actually serving the needs of the American people”. Delaney echoed this sentiment, quoting President John F. Kennedy as saying, “let us not seek the Democratic answer, or the Republican answer, but the right answer.” Williamson called on the “people to step in” and reclaim their government. She also called for a “World War 2 sized mobilization” to address the threat of climate change.
Near the end of the convention, the organizers conducted a straw poll, asking voters “If you had to vote today, who would you vote for?” The end tally of the near 1500 audience members resulted in a “victory” for South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 18.5% of the vote, followed by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) with 17.5% and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney with 14.2%. The three current leaders in national polling for the Democratic nomination, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders each received 6.9%, 5%, and 3.6% of the vote, respectively. The divergence from the national polling results could be due to the presence of supporters of the candidates speaking at the event, as well as the similar ideals of bipartisanship and cooperation amongst participants.
* This article was written collaboratively by Editor In Chief Jackson Peck and Administrative Correspondent Aidan Pierce. Edited in part by Off-Campus News Coordinator Bryan Lavoie.
Special thanks to Chloe Cincotta, Madison Mangels, and the rest of New Hampshire No Labels for inviting the Hilltopper to this convention and providing us with press access.
We, here at The Hilltopper would like to extend a warm welcome to this year’s Freshman class. As you arrive on campus and begin your Anselmian journey keep in mind these three things: the value of community, the value of service, and the value of inclusivity. These three things are paramount to the success of Saint Anselm as an institution, and we strive everyday to ensure we serve our community and provide a welcoming and accommodating home for our students. You have a unique opportunity to determine exactly where you fit within the fabric of our community.
As a member of the Saint Anselm Community you should explore opportunities to get involved on campus and within your residence halls. RA’s are frequently holding community building events where you can get to know your fellow Anselmians. You can also join various clubs on campus or attend different club sponsored events throughout the year. Regardless of your interests there is always something happening here on campus.
Perhaps one of the things that defines Saint Anselm College the most is our dedication to and encouragement of service to others. Take time out of your busy schedules to volunteer in the community. We have a plethora of volunteer opportunities and positions at the Meelia Center. Do your part to serve your fellow community members on and off campus.
The last thing to keep in mind is that at SAC we are each responsible for making others feel welcome in our home. Respect your neighbors, peers, and professors, as well as the hundreds of Saint Anselm employees who are responsible for the day to day operations of the college. We all have an obligation to continue our tradition of Benedictine hospitality. Regardless of our backgrounds, interests, or abilities we are all Anselmian.
Welcome to Saint Anselm College, we’re all excited you’re here.
This past year has been a privilege and an honor. When we began The Hilltopper last April, it was specifically in response to frustration with a platform that enabled and empowered rape culture but our launch was driven by many larger forces.
The day we bought the website, we could not have anticipated all that we would cover in the next year. We didn’t know we would report on discrimination against the Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus because of his sexuality. We really never thought we would quote a monk saying “What the fuck?” We didn’t know we would be the space to publish the words of TEDA president Matt Solomon ‘20, after trans* and gay pride flags were removed from campus in a seemingly discriminatory way. We never could have guessed that we would have to investigate the layoffs of 13 staff of the college or claims of Title IX violations.
On our one-year anniversary, we want to take a few moments to address that original frustration that led us to where we are, but first we want to acknowledge one truth: the work is not done. We’ve received many questions, some well-intentioned and some hopeful of our demise, about what will happen when the Editors-in-Chief of The Hilltopper graduate. Here’s our answer: we are here to stay.
For the last year, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback, and we want to extend an explicit and gracious thank you for this support. It has reassured us that our mission is necessary and valuable on campus. We also want to address the feedback that has not been as positive.
When we receive negative feedback, it is typically from people who believe that our work will cause harm, most frequently to their personal reputation. People seem to be worried that their name will be next in the spotlight. Additionally, people in perceived positions of authority frequently refuse to comment, specifically when they have titles such as “dean,” “chief,” or “director” in front of their names. We are worried that people have forgotten, or are ignoring, the value of receiving news from multiple sources.
In an era of fake news, we are committed to reporting reality and giving a voice to people and issues that are continually silenced. For that reason, we will not allow our students, faculty, and staff to forget the value of engaging with multiple sources of information. We especially believe that, being at a somewhat prestigious institution, it is important to work outside the often rigid structures. Additionally, we protect the right to work outside of an institution that is controlled by the Catholic Church, especially considering the moral crises within the Church. These beliefs enable us to bring the best possible news coverage to our readers.
Providing the best possible news coverage means adhering to our core values, one of which is inclusivity. We began The Hilltopper with a mission reduced to two simple words “for everyone.” We have covered numerous stories that affect students who are often silenced or ignored by our college’s administration. We are proud of each of those stories. It is our responsibility as a campus news source to be inclusive, but we are also committed to respecting the dignity of the individual. That is why we have chosen to embrace the Paradox of Tolerance. It is the idea that in order to create a truly tolerant society (or campus), we must be intolerant of intolerance. The Hilltopper is not a place for hate speech or for those beliefs that invalidate the dignity of life.
Yet, we recognize that writing about inclusivity is only one part of the equation, and we recognize the myriad privileges based on our social identities that have allowed us to create The Hilltopper and speak out in the way that we do. Going forward, we hope to see the staff of the paper grow to include students of color, students in the LGBTQ+ community, international students, and students with other diverse identities. We trust that our new Editor-in-Chief, Jackson Peck ‘22, will do all he can to make sure that The Hilltopper lives up to that ideal.
We have found that living up to this ideal is best achieved outside the expectations of the institution, and that is why we continue to work as an independent news source. It is humbling that numerous people have felt safe coming to us to share their truths with the broader campus community and, really, the world. Because of these brave people, we have been able to provide valuable insight into issues like the Grand Knight’s removal, the summer layoffs, and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community. It is no coincidence, we believe, that these people have felt safe coming to us – an independent news source beholden to no one and no thing besides the mission statement we wrote more than a year ago.
When writing that mission statement, we did so with the intention of bringing transparency to this institution. In the spirit of James Baldwin, we insist on the right to criticize Saint Anselm College perpetually precisely because we love it more than any other academic institution in the world. Critiquing the institution that educates you, whether it be Saint Anselm College or the Catholic Church, is not a bad thing.
Moving forward, we need you. We are proud of what we have been able to build, but there is still a lot of work left to do. If you are interested in writing for The Hilltopper, please reach out to Jackson Peck ‘22 (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you would like to be a financial supporter of The Hilltopper and ensure its continuation for years to come, please contact Nick Fulchino ‘19 (email@example.com).
Above all, we want to say thank you. To our readers, our donors, our writers, our supporters. We would not exist without you; we exist for you. Thank you for trusting us as your news source. We’re The Hilltopper, and we’re here to stay.
The Hilltopper chose to recognize one student who contributed greatly to the campus climate over the last year. Much in the vain of TIME Magazine‘s Person of the Year, our Student of the Year is meant to represent the student who, throughout 2018, contributed most significantly to the events at the college.
KERRIN NORTON ’19: A LEADER, A LEARNER
On May 18, 2019, Kerrin Norton ‘19 will graduate from Saint Anselm College with a B.A. in Communications and English. She will also depart the Hilltop after leaving an indelible mark on this community that she cares so much about. Norton is a leader whose work for the student body at Saint Anselm College advances the value of learning – learning from experience, learning from peers, and learning through listening. In a year marked by profiles in courage, like Andrew Keyes ‘18 coming out of the closet as a Knight of Columbus, various staff members approaching The Hilltopper anonymously and on the record to speak about layoffs over the summer, and Matt Solomon ‘20 organizing a pride event and standing up for LGBTQ+ rights, Norton’s experience shows there remains value in effecting social change through existing institutions.
“I don’t even know why I applied here,” she told The Hilltopper when asked about the path that brought her to Saint A’s. When she visited campus, the future Admissions Ambassador fully intended to go to school outside of New England, but when she toured here she was struck by how the people described their relationships. She came to view Saint Anselm as a place to make lifelong friendships, and so she decided she’d just come here instead.
When she moved in freshman year, Norton figured she would transfer after her first semester, but around the third week, she was lying in bed when she realized she hadn’t cried yet like she’d anticipated. Huh, she thought to herself, before plunging into four years of heavy involvement on campus. She never even downloaded the transfer applications she once intended to complete.
“I got involved right away,” she said, “because in high school I waited too long. I challenged myself to get involved in one thing right away. So that was SGA for me.” From there, Norton’s work on her class council snowballed into becoming Chief of Staff for the Hughes/Ethier Administration, the third-highest-ranking position in the student government. She was also on the New Student Orientation Committee this past year and serves as the President of Saint Elizabeth Seton Society, the Senior Class Gift Committee, and as a Service & Solidarity trip leader.
Campus Accessibility & Presidential Search
Her titles do not tell the full story. Her work in these various capacities paints the picture of a tireless advocate – a happy warrior – dedicated to improving life at Saint Anselm College. Most significantly, she has been consistently working on improving handicap accessibility on campus. For Kerrin, the issue is personal. Her brother Own is a junior in high school and is in a wheelchair. She says that she remembers getting to Saint A’s and recognizing that the campus was not accessible for handicapped people.
Norton holds a deep love for Saint Anselm. When The Hilltopper asked why she is so committed to working on improving campus, she said, “I love it here, and I want everyone to love it. I don’t want there to be a reason why anyone wouldn’t love it.” Similarly, she explained that she would hate for handicapped students to miss out on the Saint Anselm experience because they use a wheelchair. “I wouldn’t want anyone to not be able to come because of the size of a doorway,” she explained. She went on to talk about when her brother would visit campus. “Not being able to share so much of campus because there isn’t a ramp doesn’t do this place justice,” she said.
Change at Saint Anselm College often comes slowly and exacting tangible victories through the Student Government Association can often leave students more frustrated and disappointed than content and successful. Such is not the case for Norton, who was joined by Tim Merrill ‘19, former SGA president and vice president Emma Bishop ‘18 and Brandon Pratt ‘18, and incumbents Joshua Hughes ‘20 and Jacob Ethier ‘20.
Next year, Dominic Hall will receive a significant amount of money in the next budget to be renovated. As Norton explained, “It’s not hospitality if someone can’t get into a building.” In the next year or so, the school will add a ramp to Dominic with a swipe entrance. As of now, a handicapped freshman boy would be placed in the Living Learning Commons whereas a freshman girl could be placed in Baroody and still be with other first-year students.
Because of Norton’s diligent work on handicap accessibility and other issues, the college administration selected her to represent the student body on the Presidential Search Committee. Norton said that being named to the committee is her greatest accomplishment as a student. She is humbled by the chance to be a voice for her fellow students.
As Norton explained what she thinks she can bring to the committee, a guiding virtue of her work emerged. In answering questions about the search committee, about her efforts on handicap accessibility, and on other issues, it became clear that for Kerrin Norton, being a leader is about being a good learner. It is about listening to students and advancing their beliefs. When asked what she hopes to see in the next college president, she was clear about her role, “I am looking for what I am hearing everyone else is looking for. As awesome as it is, I wasn’t selected for my opinions. I am a representative of the students’ concerns.”
What is she hearing? Norton said that most people want a president who is more present on campus and who gets to know students individually. “Community is a Benedictine hallmark, so we want to uphold that about our institution,” she explained.
A Guiding Value: Learning
Perhaps more than any other reason, her remarkable impact on campus has been made possible by her willingness to learn about the school and learn about how to implement change. When asked what her various roles have taught her, she replied, “Oh my gosh. So much. Literally so much. Where do I even begin?”
She fidgeted in her seat. Played with her hair a little bit. Looked around a nearly-empty coffee shop. Then, she answered succinctly, “I’ve learned to learn more by listening.” She hit the point over and over, continuing, “I think what I’ve really learned so much is how to be a good listener because I feel so blessed that I’ve had such an awesome experience here, but my experience is so different from yours or the people sitting over there. Through trying to increase handicap accessibility, I’ve learned how other people are excluded on campus.”
While she has been a champion of learning from her peers, Norton’s desire to effect change comes from an even more humbling experience. At Relay for Life, Norton opened up about losing her mom to cancer. The memory of her mom guides her to focus on the things that bring her joy – like helping others and improving the school. “When my mom passed away, she wished she’d spent more time with friends. I was a really focused student before she passed away,” Norton explained, “and life is so short – it’s just so short. You should do the things that make you happy.” For Norton, that means listening to her peers and fighting to make a difference.
When prospective families ask her why she stayed at Saint Anselm College, Norton dons a smile and delivers a heartfelt answer, “I feel so privileged to be a part of a community that so many others feel lucky to be a part of. I think a lot of students feel that way, and if they don’t, I want them to be able to feel that way.”
Indeed, she has dedicated much of her free time at Saint Anselm to organizing events that all students can enjoy, addressing inequalities for handicapped people, and bringing the concerns of students to Alumni Hall. In true Kerrin Norton form, however, the humble example of student greatness was candid about what she wishes she had done more of while here. “I wish I’d done more service,” she said, as if her work on campus wasn’t enough. “Like a weekly commitment through Meelia. I overlapped with Meelia, but I never fully immersed myself in the way I wanted.” More service, Norton says.
She also recognized that her socioeconomic and racial backgrounds and her sexual orientation precluded her from immediately jumping into larger issues of inequality. Through the facilitated dialogue program, Norton learned more about the struggles facing those communities on campus. When the conversation turned to these issues, she grew quiet – a more reserved version of the Kerrin Norton who bubbled over with excitement as she explained her work on other issues. “I am a big proponent of inclusion, and I focused on one important aspect of it, but I wish I had been an earlier and more aggressive ally for those communities that need attention.” In her last semester, Norton said she is fully committing herself to be a better ally for those communities.
Strength from Others
While one may believe that Norton is a superwoman, and to some degree she is, she does not gather her strength alone. She mentioned her affinity for Dean of Students Alicia Finn, whom, she said, she “really aspire[s] to be like.” She continued, “Dean Finn inspires me every day.”
She also pointed to three friends who help her stay energized. Abbie Nolan ‘19, Maggie O’Connor ‘19, and Abbie Reynolds ‘19 all keep Norton on track. “I found their friendship by being involved in things we were working on together,” she said. “That’s such a special bond. They push themselves to be better and they’re role models to me because I see their passion and that inspires me to do better.”
“When the seniors graduated last year,” Norton said, “I was sad because so many good role models for me had graduated, but I realized I had role models all around me still.” These role models inspire Norton to keep up the work that demands so much of her time.
It would have been easy for Norton to spend her days in bed, binging on Netflix shows and reading novels or going to the coffee shop to socialize with friends. She was honest in saying she has plenty of days like this. However, so much of Kerrin Norton’s three-and-a-half years have been spent building a better campus community. In 2018, she overcame the odds of a perilous budget season to secure funds for a more inclusive campus, she helped organize an orientation weekend that welcomed one of the college’s largest classes in history, and she diligently worked to realize various SGA initiatives. In 2019, she will have more of an impact on campus than any other student could, by being in the room where it happens and helping select the next President of the College.
Early in the interview, Norton claimed she peaked in high school. Fortunately, for Saint Anselm College, she was wrong.
Today, The Hilltopper issues its first official editorial. In an unusual step, we are not speaking with a unified voice about a campus issue of note. We are instead writing about a national issue of grave importance that will directly impact the lives of every person who works, teaches, or learns at Saint Anselm College.
After the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, President Donald Trump announced he would fill Kennedy’s important seat with Brett Kavanuagh, a jurist of the United State District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Rather than evaluate Kavanaugh’s nomination on solely his judicial experience, as some have done, or solely his judicial leanings, as some have done, The Hilltopper chose to evaluate Judge Kavanaugh’s record and the answers he gave during his confirmation hearings and decide whether or not he fulfills the ten Benedictine Hallmarks and Core Values that help to define what it means to be “Anselmian.” Those ten values are love, prayer, stability, conversatio, obedience, discipline, humility, stewardship, hospitality, and community. It is the opinion of The Hilltopper that in five of these ten values, Judge Kavanaugh falls dramatically short.
The first value is love, defined as the love of Christ and neighbor. Anthony Kennedy, whom Kavanaugh is nominated to replace, has a conservative-leaning judicial philosophy, but it is one rooted in love of Christ and neighbor. With only one notable exception – and it is certainly a large exception – Anthony Kennedy has voted to advance civil rights. On issues like affirmative action, Kennedy’s record is mixed but his important vote in Fisher v. United States (2016), shows it was not the principle of affirmative action that Kennedy objected to but rather the legal justification. In Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), Kennedy cast the deciding vote to guarantee protection for same-sex marriage under the Equal Protection Clause, showing a respect and love for queer neighbors.
When it comes to showing a love for all of his neighbors, Brett Kavanaugh falls short.
The Hilltopper does not pretend to have an intimate knowledge of Kavanaugh’s prayer life, nor do we find “stability” an applicable value in this context.
We do, however, believe that the Kavanaugh nomination falls short in other hallmarks and values of the Benedictine traditions.
A respect for judicial precedent is not only essential to a judicial philosophy of integrity, it is also similar to the Benedictine hallmark of obedience. Benedictine monks are asked to listen to their community, much as one might expect a good judge to listen to the legal community and his judicial forebears, who decided the right of a woman to make her own reproductive health care decisions is implicit in the Constitution.
Kavanaugh has purported to respect precedent. When grilled about his beliefs over Roe v. Wade (1973), Kavanaugh time and time again referred to the fact it is precedent. When Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said that she was concerned over Kavanaugh’s philosophy on choice, he reaffirmed that he believed Roe was “settled law.” However, when pressed in his confirmation hearings, Kavanaugh refused to rule out overturning Roe. Supreme Court candidates of all political persuasions traditionally avoid hypotheticals, and that is to be understood. We don’t want potential justices locked into deciding a case before hearing all of the facts. However, Kavanugh’s commitment to Senator Collins appears to have been a lie.
In an email from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush Administration, Kavanaugh objected to referring to Roe as “settled law.” Stating in full, “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so.”
Understanding precedent and its importance is essential to the judicial process. Of course, some Supreme Court cases are wrongly decided, like the infamous Dred Scott case that defined African-Americans as less than a human. However, cases in need of being overturned are rare. It’s why so many people were appalled when the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME (2018) overturned the Court’s ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977).
The current Court has shown an interest in overturning precedent, even though many of the justices, like Kavanaugh, claimed to respect it.
There is even reason to believe that Kavanaugh is willing to go against precedent. In the DC Circuit, he has not restrained from attempting to unravel judicial precedent, even though he has claimed to have the utmost respect for it. In Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA (2012), Kavanaugh sought to undo not one but two Supreme Court rulings.
Kavanaugh’s wholistic record on the environment is problematic beyond the aforementioned ruling.
Another Benedictine hallmark is that of stewardship. Deeply rooted in the Benedictine, and therefore, the Anselmian, tradition is a respect for creation and a concern for that creation. Some prominent figures have lived this out, like Saint Francis of Assisi. Brett Kavanaugh, however, has shown anything but a respect for creation. Interestingly enough, few nominees have ever had a history of dealing with cases pertaining so directly to God’s signature creation, the planet, as Kavanaugh does.
The League of Conservation Voters has done an extensive account of Brett Kavanaugh’s approach to creation. The League points to not one or two but 17 cases in which Brett Kavanaugh sided against the environment. Some might say that a legitimate interpretation of the law led Kavanaugh to the conclusion he made, but Kavanaugh was almost always in the minority in these opinions. Usually, the Supreme Court disagreed with Kavanaugh’s interpretation.
In addition to Kavanaugh’s disregard for stewardship is his disregard for hospitality or, openness to the other. Frequently, students of Saint Anselm College are told of the importance of “Benedictine hospitality” that makes our campus so unique. Tour guides tout our emphasis on openness and inclusivity, using their words and actions to demonstrate that we are a college that is more than congenial or polite but truly welcoming.
Brett Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy lacks any semblance of hospitality. One may say that this is perfectly acceptable, that the law should be cold and void of an individual’s own passions. The Hilltopper does not claim that the personal emotions and feelings of a justice should enter their judicial decisions, but we do see a stunning disregard for “the other,” in Kavanaugh’s approach to issues like reproductive rights, voting rights, and affirmative action. We further believe that a concern for “the other” is essential to a fair judicial system. If the law will not stand with “the other,” who will?
It is hard to imagine that a nominee who excludes love of neighbor, obedience, stewardship of creation, and hospitality to the other can truly fulfill another core tenet of Benedictine communities, the word so familiar to Saint Anselm students: conversatio. How can a good life be so lacking in these critical hallmarks?
We recognize that in terms of discipline and community, Brett Kavanaugh has proven himself to be Anselmian. He has dedicated his life to the careful consideration and study of the law, and he has chosen to do so not to enrich himself but to serve the common good. We admire the nominee in these respects.
However, of the eight values on which we attempted to evaluate Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination – again, excluding prayer and stability – we found his nomination to be thoroughly wanting in five essential areas: love, obedience, stewardship, hospitality, and conversatio.
And in a community where something as small as holding the door for the person behind you is valued, how can we truly call a man “Anselmian” when he refuses to shake the hand of a parent who lost his child to gun violence?
Some will challenge The Hilltopper’s decision to issue its first editorial on the Kavanaugh nomination instead of on a pressing campus matter. We recognize this concern, but we cannot emphasize enough how much the Kavanaugh nomination will impact those in the Saint Anselm community. Whether it is the nursing student who may see changes in how they can interact with their patients, or a future student of color who may have obstructions created in the college admission process, or the Benedictine monks who will be forced to preach about love and hospitality in a nation that no longer seems to value these tenets of our shared Anselmian nature, the people of Saint Anselm College will be deeply affected by this judicial confirmation. Not only that, we will be worse for it.
The Hilltopper encourages all students to make themselves aware of the Kavanaugh nomination and its consequences. We further urge all those in our community who share our concerns to contact their legislators.
The above piece is written on behalf of The Hilltoper editorial board. It expresses the opinion of that board, not necessarily the opinion of individual writers for the paper. When writing the piece, the board consulted documents published by Benedictine University and Saint Anselm College.
Featured image by Doug Mills of The New York Times.