Pope Leo wrote the encyclical Rerum Novarum to explain principles of Catholic social thought, particularly the principle of subsidiarity.
“Things move and live by the spirit inspiring them, and may be killed by the rough grasp of a hand from without,” Pope Leo XIII wrote.
The topic is frequently studied at the University of Dallas. In the last year, we’ve held three different discussions on the topic, one led by Dr. Frank, one by Dr. Hittinger and an entire class led by Dr. Hanssen. Even UD’s Strategic Plan states that the University seeks to encourage an understanding of “social teaching or responsibility, particularly Catholic social teaching.”
It seems that subsidiarity is important to us at UD, so what is it? To quote Dr. Hittinger, a member of two pontifical councils, subsidiarity is “nothing other than the principle that, when aid be given, it not remove or destroy the authority or functions proper to the society being assisted.” This principle becomes especially relevant when considering the proposed Cap Bar renovations.
Aramark, a $288 million net profit company, would like to remodel the Cap Bar to provide a larger array of “options.” Does Aramark share our interest in subsidiarity? Does it share our desire to ensure that the authority and functions of the Cap Bar remain true to the intention of those who established this little society in 1981 and have maintained it since?
It seems that the greatest good that Aramark is pursuing is to increase its profit by having its contract extended until 2032 and being given the ability to raise prices every year, so long as that price raise is less than 4-5 percent per year.
It is naive to think that students in the coming fifteen years will not pay the price for Aramark’s contract extension, a provision offered to them without any competitive bidding process. Yet, the cost of these renovations is more than the burden on students’ budgets.
Let’s consider what good the Cap Bar, as it has existed since 1981, seeks. According to a 2011 University News interview with Kelly O’Neill, the manager of the Cap Bar from 1999 until last year, “the [Cap] Bar aims to offer good and inexpensive drinks to students, but not to make a profit.”
In doing so, the Cap Bar fosters the qualities that are central to UD: community and conversation. Aramark and the Cap Bar have drastically different conceptions of the good they aim at, so you can expect that they will behave in radically different manners.
Can improvements be made to the Cap Bar? Sure! Last Fall, an SG senator proposed that his class fund an expansion of the Cap Bar as a Senior Gift. Yet, his plans were rejected before they were even heard because Aramark had initiated research on this project when they first took over the Cap Bar in the Summer of 2017, according to a powerpoint provided by SG.
To clarify — I’m not a Bernie Sanders supporter advocating that we “wage war” on massive corporations, nor am I Tevye the Dairyman from Fiddler on the Roof singing “TRADITION,” at the top of my lungs. Yet, I am, like all my fellow students who read Plato’s Republic, concerned with justice.
The manner and aims that have directed these proposed Cap Bar renovations are, from my view, deeply problematic, especially given that none of the groups most intimately connected to the University — the Faculty Senate, Student Government and the National Alumni Board — were consulted about the proposed changes.
If we profess to care for the study of Catholic social thought, we ought to try to practice it at our institution. And, if students are desperate for an improvement, the students should be allowed to work with SG to fund this project so that we avoid “the rough grasp of a hand from without,” that alters to the point of destroying what was created by students, for students.
Well said, Clare.
As a long-ago denizen of The Rat — the first and, for all I can tell, a much better iteration of what you now call “The Cap Bar” — I certainly agree with the point you are trying to make. But “subsidiarity” has nothing at all to do with it, and adorning the argument with any kind of “pontifical” patina is a waste of time and effort. Subsidiarity, as a distinctly Catholic notion (and, by the way, nobody else bothers to call it by that name, for good reason), merely co-opts the secular organizing principal of preferring local control in government whenever and wherever possible, and dresses it up in the flowery language of dogma. Whatever word or words you may use to describe it, however, the idea is meaningless when there is no competent (for which read “empowered”) local authority to exercise even primary, much less exclusive, jurisdiction over the subject at hand. A gaggle of well-meaning but hopelessly under-qualified college students, likely none of whom have any experience running a business, or paying taxes, or entering into contracts, or complying with employment laws, health and safety regulations, etc., etc., and whose number and composition is virtually guaranteed to change no less frequently than the time it takes elect a new slate of city-councilpersons, is by definition neither competent nor empowered. Just do coffee-keggers on the DL, is my suggestion. Soon as Aramark starts losing money, they’ll find a way to bug out, and you can start over again from scratch like it’s 1978!