Nearly a year ago I was a college senior anxiously awaiting graduation,
searching for a job, and avoiding my impending adulthood at all costs.
My safe haven wasn't the bar or some guy's house — it was
school. I happen to be a graduate of Our Lady of the Lake University
and as University President Tessa Martinez Pollack said at a prayer
service held earlier today, "Each one of us has been dealt an enormous
photos by jennifer herrera
Yesterday night a four-alarm fire broke out in Main building of OLLU,
burning until the wee hours of the morning (KENS
coverage of OLLU fire). Today, I toured the campus along with
production manager and fellow OLLU alum Fred Valenzuela. As we drove
down Commerce Street, we witnessed bumper-to-bumper traffic on 24th
Street and found ourselves in a state of disbelief —
professors comforted students while faculty gathered for the prayer
service. Pollack was calm although visibly shaken and let her guard
down a bit during the service.
As always the spirit of the university reigns. Without a doubt, every
person I've come in contact with since last night that has ties to OLLU
is confident that the university will rebuild. "The proud, historic
beacon of hope we lost last night belongs not only to the University,
it belongs to the entire community far and near," Pollack said. "We
need the support and help of all who enjoy the glory of the view to
share in the labors of our new challenges." As former staff members of
the OLLU student newspaper, the Lake
Front, we found ourselves huddled along with the staff
outside of the University Wellness and Activities Center. Assistant
Professor of Communication Arts Kay O'Donnell described the actions of
the staff as "Herculean." Within a few hours students had managed to
acquire donations from Best Buy, and nearby Lanier High School had
offered up a lab for Lake
Front staffers to use so they can crank out their final
issue of the semester. A fund for the university has also been set up
to provide assistance in restoration efforts.
Coverage of the inferno in the local media was a bit hit-and-miss. Last
night I found myself glued to the tube as our local stations featured
non-stop coverage of the blaze. KENS on-air personality Karen Grace is
a visiting instructor at OLLU and knows it (she is also an alum and the
poster child of a job well done by the communication-arts department).
Her counterpart Chris Marrou was his usual jackass self, going so far
as asking a Congregation of Divine Providence sister whether the event
has shaken her faith.
I woke up this morning to our obnoxious daily, which ran the
oh-so-clever headline "OUR LADY OF THE LAKE BURNS." Real classy, guys.
The five-person team of reporters that compiled information for the
piece managed to report with an agenda — focus on the past
issues of the small, homely university. The story was worthy of all of
its above-the-fold coverage, and its sweet anecdotes took a sour turn
in the fifth paragraph with the following statement: "The loss of the
Main Building is a devastating blow for a university that's been
bleeding students for a decade, leading to budget cuts, layoffs,
sinking morale and questions about whether the university would survive
in the city's competitive higher education market." Sure, the
university has had its troubles in the past, but bringing them up in a
time like this is totally uncalled for, especially in a city that
prides itself on its Catholic beliefs and upbringing. E-N got their facts
right, but they managed to open the story with a slant that felt almost
like tabloid coverage — it lacked heart, something that OLLU
is really all about.