The Irony of Fordham’s Jesuit Mission

Student experiences difficulties with Fordham when returning from abruptly cancelled study abroad experience in China

by Mary Sparago

Staff Muckraker

Note: the paper attempted to reach out to the administration for comment

“We are unable to enroll you at other Fordham campuses (. . .) we are unable to enroll you here.” That was the email sent to Julia Sparago, a junior at Fordham University, in response to the Shanghai CIEE study abroad program’s cancellation on January 28th. Sparago was suddenly lost, with her long-anticipated trip to Shanghai cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak just a few days after Fordham’s add/drop period.

She had nowhere to live, nowhere to study and nowhere to work.

It took days and several phone calls for her family to convince the University to re-enroll her – an action other universities such as Haverford had done immediately upon learning of their students’ Shanghai program cancellations.

Finally, she regained housing. One would expect the University to continue supporting her throughout the whirlwind of turnarounds she experienced. Little did she, or anyone, anticipate the reluctant and, at times, heartless responses from Fordham professors.

She worked alongside her Dean to create a schedule and resume her studies. However, her future professors, one after another, rejected her registration. It was too inconvenient for them, they argued, to take a student at this point; a stark contrast from professors at other universities.

One professor begged the Dean not to register Sparago to her class, writing, “Please do not let her enter my class.” Another professor threatened to jeopardize Sparago’s final grade due to her number of ‘absences’, stating, “It is not ideal for you to start this late and it will affect your grade.” A third professor argued their class was “basically” full, despite having an open slot. She still has yet to hear back from the Chair of a department regarding a fourth course.

Sparago, a Dean’s List student, Fordham Women’s Rugby player, Global Outreach participant and Bronx Public School tutor is a Mandarin minor pursuing a major in New Media and Digital Design. She had dreamed of studying in China since high school. While it was heartbreaking to accept the trip’s abrupt cancellation – refunding flights, trips, and Airbnbs – it was infinitely more disappointing to learn that her own University and its educators had no intention of helping her through the aftermath.

While her colleagues from the program described how their Universities and professors received the students with understanding and support, Sparago’s declared her an inconvenience meriting academic punishment for a situation she not only suffered from but also had no control over.

The University’s declared Jesuit mission demands the greatest level of understanding, access to education and commitment to its students. However, for Sparago, the Jesuit mission of helping one’s brothers and sisters was lost in an agenda tailored towards refuting those of inconvenience.

It is a hypocritical, ironic, and extremely shameful display of how Fordham responds when their students are in need of help in extenuating circumstances.

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