At the Boundaries of Our Comfort Zone
July 10, 2020
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
We have received numerous messages from the Loyola University Chicago community since distributing our communication “Our Road towards Racial Justice.” Many messages are encouraging, but some are critical, expressing the feeling that our communication is just words and that nothing of importance will ever happen. We take these critical messages seriously and understand that the proof is in our actions. If the pavement of our road consists of only words, it is a road to nowhere. So, I want to apprise the community in more detail of recent efforts and future goals.
In our communication, we described three new initiatives on racial justice.
The first was the establishment of the Loyola Anti-Racism Initiative. This initiative is led by Robyn Mallett, the acting assistant provost for academic diversity. The group working on the initiative comprises administrators, faculty, staff, and students from around the University. Since our last communication, this group has established immediate, short-term, and long-term goals to move Loyola towards becoming a more anti-racist institution:
2. Short-term goal: As faculty, staff, and students begin engaging in long-term anti-racism work, we will make visible the ways that Loyola will support their effort. To begin, we will compile the existing resources that we have (for example, personnel and programming). We will then make these resources accessible online. In another step, we will recruit and train the first group of faculty diversity liaisons to increase our capacity to deliver learning and development across the University. Our plan is to achieve these goals by the end of 2020.
3. Long-term goal: We will initiate strategic planning for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the fall of 2020, aiming to develop the plan fully by the summer of 2021. Working with members of the Loyola community, we will identify desired changes to the curriculum. We will also consider co-curricular activities as well as learning and development for students, staff, faculty, and administration. We will revisit our existing support structure for diversity, equity, and inclusion and to improve upon our ability to meet community needs. We will link our recommendations with the overall strategic plan of Loyola.
The second initiative will be led by our new Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, Badia Ahad. The goal of this initiative is to continue to diversify the faculty body and improve the racial climate for faculty of color at Loyola. Since our previous communication, her office has begun:
2. Organizing new programming, workshops, and retreats for AY 2020-2021 through the newly formed Center for Faculty Development and Scholarly Excellence. In particular, these activities will support underrepresented faculty and create an inclusive space for both collegial interaction and intellectual connection. The Center will have a faculty director to help execute its vision and scope;
3. Forming a faculty advisory group for the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs to provide guidance and feedback on initiatives, policies, and programming relative to faculty life, especially as it concerns diversity, inclusion, and equity;
4. Building upon and creating new efforts to retain historically underrepresented faculty. These efforts will include special programming for incoming faculty of color at new faculty orientation, and revamping and institutionalizing the University mentoring program. This new program structure will address the needs and challenges of underrepresented faculty at Loyola.
The third initiative is to develop a transdisciplinary University institute dedicated to promoting racial equity, justice, healing, and reconciliation. Dean Malik S. Henfield, of the School of Education, is leading the process to develop the institute. He will be working closely with Meharvan (Sonny) Singh, vice provost for research; Badia Ahad, vice provost for faculty affairs; and Scott Hendrickson, associate provost for global and community engagement. They will ensure that the institute provides infrastructure for race- and equity-centered work already happening on our campuses. The work will also lead to improvement of cross-campus collaboration for future innovation in these areas. Since our last communication, the Council of Deans and other center directors have met to continue developing the details of the institute. This fall, they will engage in discussions with faculty, staff, students, and community stakeholders. In another development, Dean Henfield has begun building a five-year budget plan for the institute. The Office of the Provost will provide support for the institute initially from the existing Academic Innovation Funds. The initial draft budget calls for investments in three potential areas tentatively organized as following centers:
2. The Center for Racial Justice Education: This center will collaborate with faculty in developing new transdisciplinary, trans-school certificates, minors, and professional learning activities.
3. The Center for Community Partnerships and Strategic Engagement Advancing Racial Justice: This center will facilitate community engagement and advocacy activities designed to deepen reciprocal relationships with key partners in Chicago, the nation, and across the globe.
Loyola thus gladly says, “Challenge accepted!” At Loyola, people frequently use phrases like “the Loyola way” or “We have always done it this way.” Therefore, some people may feel uncomfortable with the changes taking place at our University such as the anti-racism revolution commencing here. What may make this uncomfortable feeling even more acute is that the changes are just a beginning. However, life begins at the boundaries of our comfort zone. We must push these boundaries and go where there are no roads. We must forge new trails, instead of following well-worn paths just because they are there. Loyola has forged these trails already from the viewpoint of non-discrimination policies. But Loyola longs for more. We long for a Loyola community without bigotry, not because we just tolerate others, but because they make us a better community. We long to make the world less biased through our research, education, and community engagement. We long to be a nation that stands up against racism and other forms of bias, like sexism, discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, and the placement of children in cages. The time has now arrived to make these longings a reality.
Together in Loyola,
Norberto M. Grzywacz, Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Robyn Mallett, Acting Assistant Provost for Academic Diversity
Malik S. Henfield, Dean of the School of Education
Badia Ahad, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs