Message Sent To:All Faculty, All Staff, All Students
Message From:Message from the Office of the President
Date Sent:Tuesday, October 20, 2020 11:30 AM CDT

Continuing to Fight for Racial Equity Together

October 20, 2020

Dear Loyolans,

You have urged me to keep communications short and succinct when possible. However, this communication cannot be limited to bullet points or limited characters on a social media post.

Our country’s history is full of examples of racial injustice, systemic racism, and missed opportunities. While some progress has been made, it is a sad truth that the Black community continues to be marginalized and dehumanized.

We cannot and will not stand by and accept any behavior or action that takes as normal the unconscionable killings of Black men and women across this country by police or anyone else. Things must change, and they must change now.

While all of us would like to think that Loyola University Chicago has been the exception, and that we are free from any kind of racism or bias, we know this is not true. As an institution, we need to improve our ability to listen for true understanding. And to rededicate ourselves to action.

We acknowledge the pain, exhaustion, impatience, and frustration of our Black students, faculty, and staff. It is deep and further compounded by a multitude of circumstances as we navigate a pandemic; learn and operate in a virtual environment; and experience a contentious, divisive presidential election year.

I want to be very clear: Black lives matter. You matter to our institution and to me personally.

As individual members of the Loyola community, each of us is called to honest self-reflection of our own attitudes so that we may grow individually and together to transform our institution. Our mission compels us to implement enduring institutional changes while also addressing immediate needs. Both actions must occur for us to achieve lasting and needed change.

At Loyola, we are pursuing meaningful steps to enact broad and sustainable cultural change that permeates throughout the University. Real change, real cultural shifts must resonate from within our collective community.

The only way to do that is to make certain that we have widespread involvement across campus. This effort cannot succeed with just one person or group championing it, including me; it must be embraced across the University and be understood as a priority by everyone.

This June, to emphasize this need for such broad-based action and prioritization, we created an Anti-Racism Initiative (ARI) Working Group composed of students, faculty, and staff from a breadth of disciplines to focus directly on inequity within Loyola. In addition, I, along with senior leaders throughout the University, am meeting on a regular basis with Black student leaders to better understand their experiences and the disparities they face on campus.

Listening and discussing are both important. However, they do not substitute for action, and, in fact, can become diversions that take away from the energy and focus on doing. Since the formation of the ARI Working Group, we have taken important action steps moving us closer toward equity, including:

  • Positively affirmed the University’s support for the moral truth that Black lives matter;
  • Introduced mandatory racial bias training for first-year students;
  • Secured permanent funding with the Division of Student Development to support end-of-the-year congratulatory celebrations for affinity-based student organizations;
  • Established a Black Student Experience Taskforce to implement an Office of Black Student Success, by early in the spring semester 2021;
  • Expanded mental health resources for Black-identified students;
  • Extended programming around Black History Month and Juneteenth as a University holiday and campus closure going forward;
  • Completed a full investigation of the June 5 SDMA Zoom event;
  • Secured a $300,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for students of color as part of our Cura Scholars program; and
  • Began planning the establishment of our new Institute for Racial Justice – the first comprehensive institute on this important subject among Jesuit universities. Social Justice is core to who we are as people and as an institution and we will lead in this endeavor.

In response to student suggestions, we are also reviewing Campus Safety policies and beginning to implement changes. In addition to adding body cameras in 2018, this past week Campus Safety introduced a new protocol and process with “Integrity Cards” available to record the name and star number so that those who interact with Campus Safety officers have the information they need to follow up should the need arise. Separately, changes to uniforms distinguishing sworn police officers from campus security and ensuring that nametags are clearly visible have been communicated with the community.

These are steps along a continuum of actions. We know that we are not done and we are not slowing our efforts. Important progress is being made on other fronts. This September, Loyola proudly welcomed our most diverse freshman class in the University’s 150-year history. This is an important milestone for Loyola, whose Jesuit heritage teaches us that diversity is fundamental to the pursuit of truth.

Although we are pleased with the improved diverse student enrollment rate, we acknowledge the work that needs to be done to improve the student experience, reduce student attrition, and improve graduation rates among our minority students, particularly our Black and Latinx students.

As Loyolans, it is incumbent upon all of us to advance a campus climate that supports our mission and commitment to diversity and addresses instances where community standards are not being upheld.

As many of you are aware, we recently engaged the help of an external investigator to work with a panel of Loyolans to review allegations of discrimination in the Undergraduate Admissions Office. Out of respect for everyone involved, and in keeping with our Jesuit tradition and ethos, we must allow all parties the opportunity to be heard before reaching conclusions. This requires a thorough investigation—a measured, thoughtful approach during which we refrain from judgement or condemnation or from setting arbitrary deadlines for completion of the investigation. We should do this for any student, faculty, or staff member, and we ask the Loyola community’s forbearance while we work through this process in a manner that is fair and impartial.

Each of us must continue working tirelessly to improve the hiring and retention of diverse faculty and staff to reflect more closely our student body and community. We have made significant strides but will continue working to improve the diversity of our deans. Much of this starts by expanding faculty training to impact classroom interactions and work across departments; mandating search committee training to understand how best to attract a qualified, diverse pool of candidates; and expanding diversity, inclusion, and bias training across all divisions of Loyola to create the supportive culture we expect.

We are grateful for what has been accomplished thus far and for the tireless work of the many students, faculty, and staff who have come together on our most recent anti-racism initiatives. These preliminary milestones should fuel our resolve and commitment to change.

In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to solicit feedback from Black students, faculty, and staff; set new and aggressive goals for institutional change; and launch additional programming to support Black Loyolans and confront Anti-Blackness. Achieving these goals will enable us to move further along the continuum of greater inclusion for all diverse populations—Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, and other communities—on our campus and beyond.

Yes, there is a great deal to do—and we are prioritizing that work. We must all remain focused, determined, committed, accountable, and hopeful in advancing Loyola’s ambitious Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion agenda.

Given the volume of semester and COVID-19 communications, I urge you to keep current on this critical work by visiting our Anti-Racism Initiative webpage often and following our official Loyola Instagram handle, @LoyolaChicago.

Once again, let me express my most humble and deepest appreciation for the tireless efforts and energy of our students, faculty, and staff who are leading by example and embodying our Jesuit values. As a unified community, Loyolans will continue to fight for racial equity inside our University and across society.

Yours in Loyola,

Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD