Few Rochester Beacon articles have drawn more readers or intense online debate than “The culture wars come to Aquinas,” Peter Lovenheim’s Jan. 21 look at the deep divide at the storied Catholic school on Rochester’s west side.
The split among students, parents and alumni surfaced after one of the school’s wealthiest alumni, Robert Agostinelli, and his wife visited the school and gave an invited talk to students. At one point during the talk, he urged them to not “fall prey to the tyranny of false deities”—citing as examples critical race theory, the “Marxist Black Lives Matter organization,” feminism and “gender confusion.” That prompted three or four students to leave the auditorium. His remarks were quickly disavowed by the school’s top administrator.
The incident triggered a petition drive by a group of parents and alumni concerned with what they believe is a leftward drift in the Catholic school’s curriculum and culture. Another petition supporting the school administration followed. On Monday, the executive committee of Aquinas’ board of trustees declined to hold a special meeting with the dissident group, saying parents and alumni would have the opportunity to provide input and feedback as part of the school’s ongoing strategic planning process.
To date, little has been heard from the group with the most at stake: Aquinas students. The Rochester Beacon reached out to students on each side of the debate, offering the opportunity to share their views and experiences at the school. They agreed to do so, and their articles are presented in today’s Up for Debate.
By Sadie Ackley and Taylor Windheim
Aquinas is attempting to become a more welcoming place to students, no matter their sex, race, sexual orientation, or political beliefs. When Robert Agostinelli made hurtful comments against discriminated communities, walking out was not disrespectful; it showed personal strength and character.
By Alex Kennedy
The Agostinellis’ speeches at Aquinas were what the school needed. For far too long, conservative students have been faced with leftist ideology in the classroom. The school should be religious, not political; bring people together, not divide us.