Even before the earthquake, Fairfield has had a strong connection to Haiti. Its students have traveled to the country for service trips and one alumnus even founded a school and boarding home for poor children in Cap-Haitien.
Cap-Haitien is the second largest city in Haiti, to Port-au-Prince, but is located on the northern tip of Hispaniola, whereas the earthquake struck the southern portion.
While Fairfield’s strong reaction and outreach to the Republic of Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake is commendable, it should not distance itself from the pain and hurt it may have had a hand in causing.
The alumnus who founded the school in Cap-Haitien, Doug Perlitz ’92, was indicted last fall by a Bridgeport grand jury on ten counts relating to traveling to a foreign country to have sex with a minor. The relationship between Perlitz and the University may not have been suspect if it were just that: an alumnus who allegedly made a bad decision. But it went deeper.
Former Director of Campus Ministry Rev. Paul Carrier, S.J., was the chairman of the board for the Haiti Fund, which raised money for Perlitz’s work. In 2006, Thomas Regan, S.J., removed Carrier from his post at Fairfield to take a sabbatical. He resurfaced at St. Thomas More where he continued to try to raise money for the Haiti Fund despite the fact that he had been removed as its chairperson months before. The government and several sources have hinted at Carrier’s involvement with at least assisting Perlitz in his alleged crimes.
But not only were Perlitz and Carrier involved, but eight of the 16 board members had direct Fairfield ties, including faculty, staff, alumni and Jesuits.
So while the response to the earthquake victims from Fairfield was generous and heartwarming, why didn’t the University address concerns in Haiti months ago?
While Fairfield will never admit to any wrongdoing in Perlitz’s case, the fact still remains that Project Pierre Toussaint, his school, has been shut down for over a year. While Fairfield may not be formally linked to the charity, it was its de facto sponsor since it’s inception. Fund raising events and collections at mass were held at the University.
Helping the earthquake victims is a noble endeavor, but why can’t the University help the victims of poverty and abuse in northern Haiti as well?
Anyone can respond to a crisis situation. The situation in Haiti has elicited help and sympathy from people all over the world. But Fairfield should have been there sooner. It shouldn’t have taken an earthquake to get the University involved in solving Haiti’s problems.
While the allegation of sexual abuse have sullied the reputation of Project Pierre Toussaint, the University should attempt to resurrect the school to really show its commitment to helping the Haitian people. Money can only go so far. Teaching and investing the community will improve Haiti more than any donations every will.
Fairfield continually stresses to its students be “Men and women for others,” and to think differently and diversely. In fact, the freshman convocation speaker in 2006, Paul Farmer, emphasized that everyone should think outside of their own isolated bubble at Fairfield. All of these are ideals which Fairfield students should strive to achieve.