In Haiti, a nation plagued by political struggles and poverty, volunteers battle daily to help the thousands of children left to fend for themselves in the dangerous city streets.
One of those volunteers was Doug Perlitz ’92, a man known throughout the University community as a true vision of what a Fairfield graduate should be. He gave back to the world, appearing to live a true Jesuit life.
But according to allegations made in the federal indictment against Perlitz, that was all just a false exterior. Instead, Perlitz was luring vulnerable Haitian boys into his school and home in Cap-Haitien, a city on the north coast of Haiti. Perlitz allegedly used his position of power to force the poverty-ravaged children to perform sexual acts in exchange for gifts or money, withholding those privileges if the boys refused.
While the University may not have known about the acts that were going on, it still holds responsibility. That responsibility is to attempt to fix the wrongs committed by an organization that many in the University supported both financially and with its time.
Fairfield may deny any direct connection, but it still held Perlitz in high esteem, awarding him an honorary degree and choosing him to give a commencement speech above other candidates. Perlitz supposedly empitomized a true “man for others,” but his actions and the actions of the University seem shaky in hindsight.
Maybe Perlitz is innocent and maybe the University didn’t try to cover anything up, but the fact that the issue has even been raised puts a black eye on Fairfield.
No direct connection may exist, but Perlitz used the University and Fairfield community to raise almost $2 million in his nine years in Haiti. Fairfield alumni, faculty and staff were all involved in the running of the Haiti Fund. Now it is up to that same community to make sure that the true victims, the boys, in Haiti are not left behind.
A Jesuit education preaches social justice, a phrase thrown around campus heavily over the past few years, leading to the institution of a social justice dorm and countless programs and fundraisers. Whether Perlitz is guilty or not, the boys who he was supposed to be helping will be the ones to truly suffer.
While the allegations of what was happening behind close doors invalidate any good that was done, Perlitz’s community was a shining star in an unorganized world in a poor country. It is up to the generous people of Fairfield to help restore that bright spot once again, this time with a more watchful eye.
Now is the time for Fairfield to stop trying to distance themselves from the situation and make a positive out of a negative.
The editorial represents the opinion of the majority of The Mirror editorial board. What is your opinion? Write to us: firstname.lastname@example.org