Diversity and Inclusion Progress and Future Goals
May 4, 2016
Dear Members of the Loyola Community,
The end of the academic year provides a time for celebration, and we will do so at Commencement in less than a week. It is also a time to reflect on our many accomplishments, progress, and—as importantly–our challenges.
In January I pledged that we would spend the semester listening to and learning from each other. We committed to addressing issues together, making progress with the understanding that we needed to take a long view and collaboratively foster justice and community across the institution.
Thanks to your commitment to Loyola, our collective work on “Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World,” and a spirit of respectful dialogue throughout the semester, I am happy to report progress on a number of fronts. Together, we have moved Loyola University Chicago forward. Progress in several key areas is detailed here:
Student Recruitment and Retention—The addition of an associate director for multicultural student recruitment and the creation of the Students of Color Ambassador Group are already paying off through increased attention in highly diverse high schools. We have also initiated focus groups with African-American students in Chicago Public Schools to help us further our efforts. A new peer-to-peer program, “Connect to Loyola,” has matched nearly 60 African-American admitted students with 39 current Loyola students. Our already popular overnight multicultural visit program saw increased demand this year, necessitating additional visit days. These strategic efforts, along with the awarding of additional institutional aid, have led to a 23 percent increase in freshmen admits and deposits from African-American students. In Arrupe College, our student retention rate is currently 91 percent, and we will welcome 180 new students—out of more than 1,000 applicants—in the fall.
Support and Community—Throughout the semester, I have participated in listening sessions with students, faculty, and staff of color. You have been candid and I have gained perspective on several issues of concern. I know there is room for support beyond the successful Achieving College Excellence program and Men and Women of Color initiatives. The Council for Student Success, Division of Student Development, and many other offices will continue to seek ways to better support our campus community. For example, the Office of the Provost is adding a diversity component to its orientation process for new faculty that will provide these individuals with background on diversity issues at Loyola and didactic, hands-on information to engage these issues on campus and in the classroom.
Earlier this year, hundreds of us attended the annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations on campus to take part in impactful Black Lives Matter discussions with the co-founders of the movement. In April our graduate students organized their own Black Lives Matter conference on the Water Tower Campus. We will continue to facilitate these important dialogues around complex global and local issues. Our discourse has been healthy and respectful, and the revised demonstration policy announced earlier this year is another strong example of an improvement that supports our goals: the free exchange of ideas, respectful debate, and understanding through communicating differing views and opinions via our system of shared governance.
Academics and Cultural Fluency—The Core diversity working group has met with student representatives five times this academic year to discuss diversity in our Core offerings, most notably within the knowledge areas of history, theology, and literature. Proposals to add more culturally diverse classes to Tier 1 and increase the number of sections of diverse courses in Tier 2 of the Historical Knowledge Area are moving forward. Conversations continue on increasing diversity offerings in other areas of the Core. We will have more to report in the new academic year, as proposals will be presented to the Board of Undergraduate Studies during the fall 2016 semester. I anticipate any changes that are approved to be effective as early as fall 2017. In the meantime, as these structural adjustments develop, we have begun an inventory of all classes related to diverse topics being taught across the University so students will be empowered to add these classes to their studies.
On the University 101 (First-Year Seminar) front, a cultural competency component will be in place for fall 2016. Lastly, recruiting and retaining more diverse faculty remains an important goal and is being advanced through revised recruitment strategies under the direction of the academic deans. At present, 38 new faculty members who represent diversity, including eight African-American faculty, have accepted a position to begin teaching at Loyola this fall.
Understanding Our Climate—As shared recently, the campus climate assessment process is underway. A kick-off meeting with Willis Towers Watson helped define goals, project scope, participant groups, timing, survey administration, and reporting. A climate assessment task team will oversee the process. Focus groups will be conducted with students, faculty, and staff throughout the rest of the spring, summer, and in early fall. An online survey will be administered in September 2016 with results expected to be delivered to University leaders near the end of the fall semester. I expect the results to be formally rolled out to the campus community near the end of January 2017 and the spring semester will be used to work with you on the action-planning phase.
Website and Council—I encourage you to visit our Diversity and Inclusion website. We are continuing to build out this important site by creating repositories of information, adding resources and contact information, providing event and programming listings, and sharing profiles and news. On the site you will find our new diversity statement, which describes who we are as a University to internal and external audiences. It reflects alignment with our Jesuit heritage and mission, along with the value we place on diversity and inclusion. You will also find the names of members from the Executive Council on Diversity and Inclusion. This group has been instrumental in developing our diversity statement and working with campus leadership to move the diversity and inclusion discussion forward. They played an important role at our recent leadership retreat and are responsible for guiding the diversity efforts of Loyola moving forward. If you have recommendations or feedback to share with the Executive Council on Diversity and Inclusion, please submit your comments through the website so a council member can follow up with you directly.
As I reflect on the year, I am pleased with how far we have come by working together. We talk a lot about our Jesuit, Catholic mission and the outcomes we strive to achieve locally and globally. From reflecting on national movements for these important topics to addressing diversity and inclusion issues in meaningful ways at our own institution, we have learned and grown through many difficult and fruitful conversations this year. Academic institutions are where these important, and often uncomfortable, conversations need to take place. Your voices have been heard and more action is ahead.
I hope your summer provides time to relax and rejuvenate after this productive year. Thank you for your partnership and ongoing good-faith efforts to improve our community for the benefit of all.
John P. Pelissero, PhD