From horror to hope

From horror to hope: SCPS responds to racism

Like all of you, I have been horrified by the recent and sickening occurrences of racial violence and injustice, especially as they are a reminder of their prevalence and frequency, and of our country’s engrained legacy of racism. The anger, sadness, and disgust I felt at the murder of George Floyd in particular was accompanied by frustration at the slow pace of change and a sense of helplessness impacted by the pandemic. But out of this initial distress, a sense of hope has emerged, as we now witness the widespread, positive, and active response to these tragic events.

SCPS draws inspiration from Loyola’s mission of social justice and strength from our highly diverse community of students, faculty and staff. Supporting our students and striving to be an inclusive community has been central to our efforts and initiatives for many years. However, recent events make us aware of how much more needs to be done.

We’ve started talking and listening. We’ve started sharing ideas and strategies for addressing racial injustice. We’ve started the process of determining the concrete steps we can take as a School and University as we continue to work toward the goal of a fair and just society.

Here are some of the new initiatives the School of Continuing and Professional Studies is undertaking to combat this issue on a grassroots level, with both a top-down and bottom-up approach:

In June, we hosted a Community Conversation for all SCPS full-time and part-time faculty, staff, and students. The purpose of this conversation was two-fold: to listen to and provide a sense of care and support for all members of our school community, and to start thinking about ways that SCPS can address anti-racism in the coming year. These conversations will have a regular cadence moving forward. Anti-racism initiatives will also be a focus of upcoming advisory board meetings. We are planning to integrate the Rambler Read within SCPS by organizing voluntary reading groups for students led by faculty and co-facilitated by interested student volunteers. We will also form an Anti-racism Discussion Group for our school community, which will include readings, documentaries, and other media. These efforts are some ways of bringing all voices and constituencies into the conversation, learning together and from each other, and connecting our activities to larger University initiatives.

As an educational institution, one of the most impactful ways we can work toward creating a more just, fair, and non-violent society is through our teaching and work with students. This applies not only to what we teach, but how we teach, and is of particular relevance at SCPS, given our diverse student body. Our upcoming August 2020 Faculty Meeting will include a workshop on anti-racism pedagogy in the online classroom. This will complement the DEI training workshop offered to all full-time and part-time faculty last year. A number of us are also attending the anti-racism workshop series offered through the Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy, which presents approaches that can be used by all faculty regardless of subject matter.  

We acknowledge too that what we teach is important as well. We are revising our suite of three courses that comprise our School Requirements (our two introductory courses and our Capstone) in order to embed a social justice perspective and anti-racism curriculum and assignments within them. We will also schedule Core courses with the Diversity designation wherever possible and will work to integrate anti-racism approaches into as many subject areas as possible. The courses that comprise the School Requirements are taken by all degree-seeking students in our various programs. Embedding social justice and anti-racism into the curriculum and assignments in these courses ensures that all students who receive a degree from SCPS will have a solid foundation in this area. This will foster a sense of inclusion among our students and equip them to help others within their communities. Similarly, all degree seeking students must complete the Core requirements, and these courses will provide opportunities for further exposure to and understanding of diversity issues. This will help develop the knowledge and skills needed to promote social justice within and beyond Loyola.

As part of our ongoing advocacy and support of our diverse student body, we have revised scholarship processes in order to provide financial assistance to more students. This furthers our School’s mission of providing educational access to non-traditional and underserved students, as affordability and financial support are essential components of access. This financial support will help “level the playing field” and help more students achieve their goal of earning their degree.

Anti-racism is an ongoing and aspirational process that requires broad and coordinated involvement throughout the University. Many staff and faculty members, including myself are members of various committees, cohorts and working groups that focus on issues such as facilitating curriculum revision, strategic goal-setting, outreach, hiring practices, and mentorship opportunities, through the lens of racial justice and equality.

To quote President Jo Ann Rooney, “Loyola University Chicago is called to reconcile, repair, heal, and educate. We are called to act.” As we struggle with the challenges and injustice swelling around us, I want to assure you that the items listed above are part of our ongoing strategic goals, mission and vision. Our eagerness to listen, learn, adapt, and grow is greatly founded in our understanding that this is just the beginning, and our collective journey towards anti-racism is a marathon, not a sprint.

But together, we will move forward -- with determination, tenacity and hope that we as an SCPS and Loyola community will be able to help answer that call.

Humbly,

Jeanne Widen, Interim Dean
School of Continuing & Professional Studies