Those who are familiar with the University of Central America (UCA), the Jesuit university in El Salvador, have long been impressed with the way that the school is organized around a complete institutional commitment – through its curriculum, its research, and its relations with the rest of society – to the marginalized. The UCA came to international attention in 1989, during El Salvador’s long civil war, when an elite unit of the Salvadoran military murdered six Jesuits there, along with their cook and her daughter who had taken refuge with the Jesuits. Among the Jesuits killed was Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ, philosopher and theologian, and an important contributor to Latin American liberation theology and liberation philosophy. He was also the president of the UCA and had played a leadership role at the university for a quarter century, guiding the formation of its own particular preferential option for the poor.
In this essay, I characterize the key aspects of the UCA, and Ellacuría’s arguments for why this is the proper way for a university to fulfill its proper role in society. I then ask how this university, formed in a situation of extreme inequality and violence, might look in the different context of the United States. Read Essay
Dr. David Ignatius Gandolfo is Chair of the Poverty Studies program at Furman University and Associate Professor of Philosophy. His teaching interests include the Ethics of Globalization, Poverty Studies, Latin American Philosophy and Africana Philosophy. His research interests include economic ethics, liberation philosophy, international justice, and the responsibility of a university in the realm of social justice. Gandolfo is married to the theologian Dr. Elizabeth O’Donnell Gandolfo. They have four young children.