Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Finals-Are-Over Reflection

Finals are over! At least for me... Yay!

As the semester was closing and as I look ahead to my very exciting and adventurous future, I've been struck by a thought which keeps nagging at me: despite everything I am learning, despite my decent grades, despite my involvement in extracurricular activities, despite everything that as a good college student I'm supposed to do, I still lack sanity, my stress level is high, and I keep thinking how wonderful it would be just to have a break from it all, even now.

For some, college is a great experience, filled with lots of partying, late night paper writing, and hanging out with friends. For others, school is filled with lots of studying, constant homework, and the hectic schedule that comes with one's personal responsibility to change their world for the better. For both groups of people, there is often lacking any importance placed on one's development as a person whom God has called to live out a life of love. I myself am guilty of this. I fail to take time to reflect on my spirituality, and I fail to implement those things which I find necessary to increasing my faith, my spirituality, and my love for others.

In a success-driven environment such as Notre Dame, however, life seems to go by too fast. There is too much to do and so many obligations to fulfill and soon my school work is compromised and I am left feeling a little disappointed in myself. My less-than-perfect grades do not reflect my love of the subject. I know many people who become depressed simply because they are caught up in something that they cannot get out of, something that they do not find fulfilling or rewarding even on the most basic level. For those who are not called to be in academia, school serves as a sort of earthly purgatory to which we subject ourselves so that we might come out better on the other side. But the whole point of this rambling is, do we in fact come out better on the other side?

On one hand, the answer is always yes. Notre Dame's education is by far one of the best in the country, and, coupled by a great, thriving spirituality on campus, there is much one can learn in regards to both the sciences and our common faith. On the other hand, most likely the answer is no. With the emphasis placed on research at this university and a seemingly irreversible trend of applicants becoming smarter and busier (demonstrating more and more of this success-driven culture), no one is likely to slow down. As a NYT article comments, it would seem that we have become so success-driven that we care little for activism and voicing ourselves (e.g. If we refuse to stand up for ourselves, we will be crippled under the weight of caring for our parents through Social Security). With little time to relax, think, read, and CONVERSE--the foundations for any sort of meaningful opinion on anything--our generation would have become extremely easy to manipulate if it weren't for the fact that we're so lazy when it comes to actual issues going on in the big world.

Unfortunately for us here at Notre Dame, there doesn't seem to be any way to undo the damage done or reverse the trends which are so ingrained into our culture. Ideally--because as a member of Generation Q I'm full of ideals--we would reduce the emphasis on academic requirements and demand personal interviews. Notre Dame needs more than people with high ACTS and extracurriculars; Notre Dame needs young men and women with character, an active faith, and a desire to learn. This university needs to remember that good people aren't made just from books and tests, but, more importantly, from conversation and relationships. With perhaps less focus on academics and a more active focus on the entirety of the human person for all students who attend, Notre Dame will become the great University she was called to be, producing mature men and women who are truly ready to go out into the world and effect positive change.

In the mean time, we can insist on finding genuine leisure time to talk with others on the big issues and on discovering new ways to love and take life seriously. Life shouldn't have to be so hectic and so stressful, for "What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?" Instead, we should develop ourselves as human persons so that we might be a witness to others and ultimately, living a life of love, be called up into heaven with God.

God bless and have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

BREAKING: Princeton Assault a Fraud

At 1:15pm today, the Princeton daily reported that Francisco Nava has admitted to faking his own assault and beating, which left him with a badly swollen jaw, as well as the death threats he claimed to have received.
Francisco Nava '09 has admitted to fabricating an alleged assault on him that he said occurred Friday evening and to sending threatening emails to himself, other members of the Anscombe Society and prominent conservative politics professor Robert George, today while being interviewed by Princeton Township Police.

"He fabricated the story," Det. Sgt. Ernie Silagyi said.

Nava was released to Public Safety and charges "have not been filed pending further investigation," according to a statement from Township Police.

Former Anscombe president Sherif Girgis '08 said he is "deeply angry and upset" at the news the incident was fabricated. "I am deeply troubled about what this must mean about Francisco and about his personal life," he said. . .

According to First Things, there had been suspicions about possible fraud - held by members of the Anscombe Society itself - since late Friday night:
Late that night, the president of the Anscombe Society, Kevin Joyce, e-mailed George, Hwang, and Girgis to report a startling discovery. He had heard from a friend that when Nava was at the Groton School he had fabricated an incident of hate-speech against his roommate and himself using the phrase “die fags!” (Nava’s roommate was one of the founders of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Groton.)

Hwang, the student spending the night with Nava, picked up the message first and immediately asked Nava about the incident. Nava confirmed that it happened, but told Hwang that it had nothing to do with his assault; this wasn’t a hoax. After Nava got out of bed, he walked into the kitchen and asked to speak with Professor George alone. George took him into another room in the house and Nava told George all about the Groton incident.

George tells me that Nava described it as a “bad part of his past” and that Nava was insistent that the assault on him had not been fabricated. Nava explained to George that at the time of the Groton incident his father had recently passed away, he was suffering from depression, and he was deeply homesick. Nava thought a threat on his life would convince his mother to let him come home. Eventually the school discovered that Nava was behind the alleged hate crime, and punished him duly.

George asked Nava if the university knew about this. Nava told him that when he applied for admission, Groton had notified Princeton about the incident and that he had written a letter to the dean of admissions explaining his actions. Princeton was satisfied with Nava’s credentials and his explanation, and they granted him admission, provided he took a year off in between and received appropriate counseling. George said to Nava that though the administration had the information about Groton in its files, his immediate obligation was to inform the investigators at the Office of Public Safety. As soon as Nava had breakfast and got dressed, George drove him to the Public Safety office and Nava informed the detective responsible for the case of what had happened at Groton.

After he dropped Nava off, George gathered the other students who received the threatening e-mails to see where things stood. They discussed ways to assist Public Safety in the investigation, both to get to the truth of the matter of what happened to Nava, and to know for sure whether their own lives were in danger. Along the way, other potential problems with Nava’s story emerged. It seemed, for instance, implausible that Nava would have actually received the 250 responses to his “Latex Lies” op/ed that he claimed. And the fact that the first death threat came before the op/ed bothered them.


On the other hand, people who know Nava see him as a highly respected and accomplished student at Princeton. And those who have personally seen him after the attack insist that it is extremely unlikely that he could have inflicted such damage (including a badly swollen jaw) on himself.


In the meantime, Nava was being transported to the campus health center to have his jaw examined. On the way, he saw someone wearing a stocking cap like the one worn by one of his assailants and called out to his security guard to “get that guy’s name”—thinking that this was the perpetrator. Nava’s breath quickly drew short, his heart started racing, and his face became flush. He was having a panic attack. When he reached the health center, he was immediately given counseling—where he was told that he was likely suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder—and then given a six-hour sedative.

When Nava came out of the sedation on Saturday evening, Professor George went to talk with him. On Monday the investigation was scheduled to be transferred to the Princeton Township police. If the police discovered a fabrication, Nava would, George told him, be subject to criminal penalties. Nava replied that he had nothing to hide—that everything he had said about the threats and the attacks was true and that he would now be lying if he said otherwise.

George reports that he then questioned Nava very closely and carefully about the legitimate questions on circumstantial evidence and about Nava’s history. Nava insisted that he was not behind any of the threats or the assault. He understood why George and others would be concerned about his history at Groton, but he assured him that back then he was a different person.

It should be noted that all of this information came from Princeton Prof. Robert George himself, who in addition to being faculty advisor to the Anscombe Society is also a First Things board member.

It is incredible that a student so accomplished, we hear, as Nava would go so far as to fake a considerable jaw injury and a panic attack in order to perpetuate his fraud. Obviously, his con job had taken in many people - his fellow students, Princeton reporter Brandon McGinley, and outside observers such as ourselves - and that he has done himself and his future a great disservice. More news as this story develops.

UPDATE: Here's a sampling of the reaction from the Princeton community...
Assuming Nava fabricated this story, he should be arrested, tried and jailed. Princeton should move immediately to kick him out of the school.

For conservatives, it is not acceptable to behave in this manner. This young man is no conservative.
Don't kick him out of school before prison. That would just put him on the streets to commit who-knows-what...

Nava, if you're such a douche, do everyone a favor and stay away from anything with a conservative label. Your asinine behavior isn't welcome.
UPDATE #2: More comments from Princeton...
This is the most insane story I have ever heard. No sane person would take an outspoken stance on something so heated, and then become the most radical opposition to that same stance and others espousing it. No one in his right mind would beat himself up so brutally. Nava clearly needs help. It's unfortunate that he had to drag the Princeton and Anscombe names through the press as well as emotionally traumatize other students and professors before he could realize that.
Obviously Francisco did something very bad, but it also seems like he needs serious help. If that's the case, perhaps we could turn down the heat a bit on the attacks. What would Jesus do?
More to come. Send any tips to ndirishrover@gmail.com.