Message Sent To:All Faculty, All Staff, All Students
Message From:Message from the Office of the Provost
Date Sent:Friday, September 25, 2020 01:30 PM CDT

Anti-Racism Update: Conversations With Students

*Updated 10/7/20 – Characterization of the panel of Loyolans assisting the investigation as “independent” has been removed in all instances, including the 9/28/20 update, to eliminate confusion, as phrasing may have different meanings to different people. Also updated to reflect the message shared recently on Instagram, which makes clear Loyola’s commitment that “all parties deserve to be heard, and allow the investigation to be thoroughly conducted and conclude while refraining from judgement or condemnation.”

*Updated 9/28/20 -- The “Concerns Over Workplace Culture” section of this message has been updated to make clear that due to the charged nature of the allegations of discrimination in the Undergraduate Admissions Office, the University has engaged the services of an external investigator who will work with an panel of Loyolans, and report their recommendations to the appropriate administrators.”

September 25, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

The grand jury ruling in the death of Breonna Taylor earlier this week continues a pattern of painful imprint on the American soul. Hence, now more than ever, we must acknowledge the areas where Loyola University Chicago can deepen our commitment to racial justice. Loyola wants to grow and make a difference. We must thus first seek to understand with humility and openness those aspects within ourselves that unintentionally prevent us from fully attaining the virtues that we aspire to as people. And we must understand those aspects as an institution of higher learning. Accordingly, in a series of messages since June, we have acknowledged that Loyola must learn and grow in confronting racism. Acknowledgement was the first step toward Loyola implementing several measures in support of anti-racism.

In this communication, we want to update you about where we stand in our fight against the pain of racism. Please visit other pages on this site for more details on our pursuit for racial justice.

Conversations with Students

Throughout the summer and into this fall, we have been meeting with Black student leaders and also convening with other student groups on issues related to racism at Loyola. Other colleagues from the Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Campus Safety, and the Division of Student Development have also been holding conversations with these students. In turn, the students have included representatives of the Black Cultural Center (BCC), White Coats for Black Lives, OurStreetsLUC, Student Government Loyola Chicago (SGLC), and the Black Graduate Student Alliance (BGSA). These groups and others have partnered to put forth recommendations in the document “In Support of Black Students.” This dialogue with the students presented an opportunity to address strategically the multifaceted issues of systemic racism on our campuses. More importantly, this document by the students contributes to further instilling anti-racism in our hearts and minds.

In these sessions, we have discussed the proposal that students developed and the questions that they have raised. These discussions have allowed us to discern effective actions to advance anti-racism at Loyola. We also have sought to involve students in other activities at the level of the leadership of the University. For example, Provost Grzywacz recently asked Father John Fitzgibbons, S.J., chair of the Academic Committee of the Board of Trustees, if Taylor Thomas could speak in his spot during the committee meeting. Taylor is the chief equity and diversity officer of SGLC. She gave a compelling presentation on ideas for creating better support and community spaces for Black students and faculty.

Last week, Provost Grzywacz and Executive Vice Provost Sheila McMullan met with a group of Black student leaders. The group included Taylor; Clay Connor Elmore and Elise Purnsley, Co-Presidents of BCC; Kennedy Mallory, Publicity Chair of BCC; Char Coates, Secretary of BCC; Dorien Perry-Tillmon of OurStreetsLUC; LaShaunda Reese, MA, M.T.S., Co-Founder and President of the BGSA. We had a productive dialogue during which we reported on changes being made in the academic areas of the University. These changes included programs and processes to improve our recruitment efforts of Black undergraduate and graduate students. We also discussed how we will infuse anti-racism in pedagogy and diversify curricula. On October 7, President Rooney and Provost Grzywacz are scheduled to meet with these same student leaders to continue our discussions.

Office of Faculty Affairs

Another item of discussion with the students was the newly established Office of Faculty Affairs, led by Vice Provost Badia Ahad. The goal of this office was to enhance support for faculty. One of the first steps that this office took was establishing the Center for Faculty Excellence. The center emphasized mentorship of faculty in early career stages and special programming for faculty of color. In addition, we discussed how we are changing our faculty hiring procedures with a stronger emphasis on diversity.

These procedures included the implementation of cluster hires and mandatory bias training for search committees. We asked academic units for diversity hiring plans, with the intent to reject non-diverse pools of candidates.

Concerns over Workplace Culture

Other conversations that Provost Grzywacz held with the students raised the question of workplace culture within the Undergraduate Admissions Office. Their question followed a resignation letter shared on social media, alleging concerns of racism. The University takes all such concerns shared by faculty, staff, and students seriously. As a Jesuit, Catholic institution, we are guided by a firm commitment to learning, faith, and social justice. To that end, and due to the charged nature of the allegations of discrimination in the Undergraduate Admissions Office, the University has engaged the services of an external investigator who will work with a panel of Loyolans to look into claims against the Office, and report their recommendations to the appropriate administrators. In keeping with our values, Loyola maintains a policy that prohibits discrimination.

Out of respect for the rights of all parties, we must maintain that all parties deserve to be heard, and allow the investigation to be thoroughly conducted and conclude while refraining from judgement or condemnation. We should do this for any student, faculty or staff member.

We encourage everyone not to rush to judgement before the investigation of alleged discrimination concludes. At the conclusion of the investigation, we will take appropriate action to address any issues not consistent with our values and mission.

In the president’s message following George Floyd’s murder, our community was challenged to channel our grief and anger into action. This message stems from a moral truth for Loyola and for each of us as individuals: Black lives matter. We must live in this truth and act on it. This action should reflect our values and highest aspirations to root out racism in all forms. As previously posed to the community: "The real question is what are we going to do about contributing to healing this cancer within American society?"

Our students, faculty, staff, and administration are responding to our call as a Jesuit institution should. This response requires reflecting internally and externally, doing the individual and collective hard work needed to become better. We know that we have much to do and that some of it will be difficult. We will continue to engage all stakeholders, and to dialogue with our students and community in this collaborative effort. Our Anti-Racism Initiative touches all aspects of our mission. The Initiative includes student and faculty recruitment and retention, the campus experience, pedagogy, and curriculum. The Anti-Racism Initiative also encompasses investments in interdisciplinary research and community engagement to bring new insights and hopes for solutions to deep-seated inequities.

We recognize the pain and frustration of students, faculty, and staff who yearn for justice and validation. We realize that some feel that our response is too slow in making these changes, or that this may only be talk. However, we assure you that Loyola cares, and has many people who also care deeply and are working on this diligently. Because most of us are not on campus, some of this is not visible to the rest of our community. The working group is pushing as fast as they can, and, while they would probably like to move faster, they are also trying to get it right and make certain it is sustainable. They must be deliberative, leverage existing resources, and find ways to weave this change into the full tapestry of Loyola. We should be intentional and far-reaching, rather than accepting a “band-aid” approach call our work complete. We encourage you to join our efforts.

Connecting around complex and contentious issues can be difficult and emotional, and feel elusive or detached in our virtual environment. All of us are busier than ever as we navigate remote work and virtual education. These difficulties make it more important than ever for us to have robust and candid conversations, to engage and find ways to move forward. Although we cannot engage each other in person, please know that we are listening, we are hearing, and we are acting. Even as we connect virtually, from remote locations, we are energized by the passion, intelligence, and resolve of our community. No matter what complexities are ahead of us, we must resolve never to abandon our quest. We must never renounce our struggle for human dignity.

Yours in Loyola,

Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD

Norberto Grzywacz, PhD
Provost and Chief Academic Officer