Yesterday, one of my friends shared a DePaulia Letter to the Editor on Facebook entitled “President Esteban lacks connection with students.” I was deeply concerned at how this student worker experienced the president’s visit and portrayed him and his wife, and would like to share my experiences as a fellow student worker in the Student Center on the visit day mentioned. I’m not sure that the writer of this letter understands what the purpose of that day was, looked into anything about the president beforehand, or has done much reaching out in the university.
On Oct. 20, Dr. A. Gabriel Esteban and his wife Josephine were going around to the different offices of Student Affairs in order to better understand who they are, what they do, and why they are important to the mission of the university. This was not primarily a visit to talk one-on-one with students. I was present when the pair came into the office that I work in on that Friday, and had a very different experience than the person who wrote this article. I talked with Josephine about my major, career aspirations and what led me to working in that office. This was beyond their purpose for the visit (which both were very intent in and asked good questions to the full-time faculty in the office), but they took the time to be personable anyways. I can only imagine that the author of the article did not attempt to talk with Esteban or Josephine, and were instead sitting behind a desk or something similar, waiting for the president to come to them.
When Esteban was announced as president, I did my research on his background, especially in how he and his wife contributed to Seton Hall during their time there. One thing that was very evident from the beginning was the role that Josephine played at Seton Hall, having a major role in the public-facing image of the university. Like there is in the United States government, she was the First Lady of the university, essentially. The author of this article was obviously oblivious to her role, considering the comment about the presence of Josephine, making a crude joke about ’Bring Your Spouse to Work Day.’ Maybe this is because we’ve never had a president who was married before (and yes, married men can technically become priests, just not the other way around, so it was technically possible), but I sure as heck know that if I heard that President Barack Obama was coming to visit, I would not have made anywhere near the same comments if Michelle were to be there as well.
I have had direct conversations with Esteban three times this year so far, and will almost assuredly have at least one more by the end of the quarter. Outside of these, I have seen him walking around campus (including yes, the aforementioned Student Center), been in the same elevator with him in the Loop, and have even seen him and his wife taking their two little gray dogs on a walk. On average, I’ve probably seen him once a week or so. To say that he is not being a visible presence at the university is completely inaccurate. The suggestion of him having lunch with students? Take a look at the gigantic posters plastered around the Student Center for the Midnight Breakfast from 9 p.m.-midnight the Tuesday before finals, where Esteban and Jo will be doing just that. But in order to talk with them, you have to, you know, be there. You can’t just sit around and expect the president to send you an Outlook calendar invite to meet up for coffee.
And as a reminder, Esteban is the president of the university, meaning he’s got a lot of things he’s got to do and deal with, which means a lot of meetings, traveling between DePaul’s three current campuses and other locations (including several DePaul operations at other places, such as at Rosalind Franklin), and yes, even doing work in his offices. He does step out of his office, but the bulk of his work involves being in offices, just like how a bulk of a student’s work involves being in classes and studying. Just because he isn’t always greeting students at the door walking to class doesn’t mean he isn’t working for the students.
I wish to welcome Esteban and Josephine to DePaul University, and look forward to how DePaul will flourish throughout the course of his presidency.
With great love,
Soon-to-be-grad and Student Affairs student employee