Embracing Our Challenges
December 5, 2015
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Three weeks ago I sent a letter in regards to our campus community’s gathering on the Lake Shore Campus, which demonstrated solidarity with students from the University of Missouri and highlighted concerns on our own campuses regarding the need to do a better job recruiting, retaining, and supporting a diversity of students at Loyola. In my communication, I assured you that University leaders would respond to student concerns raised that day, and to move this initiative forward I asked faculty and staff members representing Student Development, Human Resources, and the Office of the Provost to meet directly with concerned students.
Since that charge, student groups and University leaders have met regularly, including a meeting that I had with students representing Loyola Black Voices on Friday evening. Our Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Bob Parkinson, also joined us in the meeting to listen to the concerned students. At these meetings, a number of topics have been discussed, including our recruitment strategies for attracting a greater number of faculty members and students of color, suggestions for broadening the Core Curriculum to include courses on Black history, the ongoing review of the demonstration policy, the inclusion of cultural competence in UNIV 101 courses, and more. This kind of engaged, respectful dialogue and debate is a central component of our Jesuit educational mission, and together I believe that we can, and will, make Loyola an even better institution.
Looking ahead, the continued commitment of our students, faculty, and staff is critical to making meaningful improvements to our campus culture and the experience of all Loyola students. It is timely and appropriate that the first institutional priority of our new strategic plan, "Plan 2020," is focused on leveraging our University resources to ensure student access and success. The establishment of successful programs like ACE (Achieving College Excellence) and Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago is, I hope, just the beginning of our progress here. In consultation with students, faculty, and staff who have been engaged in these important conversations, we intend to focus on the immediate next steps below.
Climate Survey—Winifred Williams, PhD, our vice president for human resources and chief diversity and inclusion officer, will spearhead an effort to launch a campus climate survey on the topic of race this spring. She is currently reaching out to other institutions who have successfully completed similar survey projects and she and her team will be engaging with a third-party survey vendor to assist with implementation. We hope to have this effort launched in early February.
Detailed Report—Student leaders have asked the University to provide a detailed update on how we will move the campus race conversation forward by late January. In the next month, I will be working directly with the University leaders who have been engaged in this process to determine next steps and I commit to providing an update to the entire Loyola community at the start of the spring semester.
I also want to take this opportunity to address the questions that many of you have asked regarding the conduct process and the organizers of the November 12 demonstration. In recent days, the University Senate and Student Government of Loyola Chicago, important members of our shared governance system, have shown an increased interest in revising the current demonstration policy. In light of this new development, and my interest in getting the campus community to focus its attention solely on the important steps ahead, the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution, with my support, is dismissing the conduct charges of the student organizers.
As we near the end of the fall semester, I encourage everyone to take some time to enjoy the upcoming break with family and friends. In January, it will be important that we move forward on these initiatives so that together we can build on the momentum of our discussions to the betterment of our entire University.
John P. Pelissero, PhD