Letters from the President
A Letter to the Student Body About the Proposed Chief Diversity Officer Position
Originally printed in the Phoenix Fall 2012
If you have been following Loyola’s Unified Student Government Association (USGA), then you have mostly likely heard the term “diversity.” The word encompasses an array of ideas, so discussions about what it means and how the Loyola student body holds it as a value has always been a part of my conversations on the topic.
Previously, as a USGA senator, I heard students’ concerns around Loyola’s commitment to diversity. I knew the power of student voices and wanted to help mobilize around the issue. Throughout my campaign for president, students reached out to me to express their opinion on the subject and ideas on how they could get involved.
I want to take this opportunity to share my personal definition of the word and to express how I hope to see USGA as a catalyst for positive change on this campus for underrepresented voices. We have an exciting initiative underway.
My definition of diversity is simple: a wide variety of experiences and perspectives to draw from, an inclusive concept that is comprised of elements such as differences in race, gender, religion, age, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, immigration and socio-economic status.
Now, the question students are asking is: If we truly believe in diversity what are we doing at an institutional, structural level to ensure we are cultivating a community filled with an array of perspectives, experiences and leadership styles?
The Unified Student Government’s Justice Committee is currently working on creating the position of the Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). The CDO is envisioned as an administrative position in the president’s cabinet who works toward improving campus climate for all individuals through the development of a strategic plan that will create a more equitable and inclusive university.
Loyola, as a supportive community and innovative institution, must pursue and retain an array of individuals from different backgrounds and social identity groups. We will continue to lead on issues facing our global community only as long as we have a diverse pool of talent from which to draw new ideas and ways of thinking. The CDO is an avenue for this kind of work.
To be clear, this kind of position is not meant to erase the voices that are already heard, but to act as a sort of microphone to voices that are marginalized in the conversation. We believe through active recruitment and retention of all voices, Loyola’s collective voice will be stronger.
Many Jesuit institutions already have this position and have seen progress, including Georgetown University, Boston College, College of the Holy Cross, Gonzaga University and Xavier University.
In light of the Supreme Court Case Abigail Fisher vs. University of Texas, which challenged the use of affirmative action in the college selection process, Fordham University, Boston College, Georgetown, Holy Cross, Marquette, Notre Dame and San Francisco filed an amicus brief before the Supreme Court. President of Fordham University Rev. Joseph McShane, S.J., said that if racial diversity is not considered in higher education, “such a turn of events would be the end of our Jesuit identity — a disaster for our students, for Catholic higher education and for the society we serve.”
So again, I join the students in asking: If we truly believe in diversity, what are we doing at a structural level to ensure we are cultivating a community filled with an array of perspectives, experiences and leadership styles? The CDO is one important possible answer.