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Alumni of color address inequity and proposed reforms in a letter to Linnane, Trustees, President’s Cabinet

Alumni of color address inequity and proposed reforms in a letter to Linnane, Trustees, Presidents Cabinet

Earlier this month, alumni of color sent a letter to President Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., the President’s Cabinet, and Loyola’s Board of Trustees in response to incidents of racial bias on campus. 

The writing of the statement is credited to Ayana Rhym ‘19, Justin Montague ‘19, Terence Jones ‘16, Sydney Groll ‘16, and Alicia Espinal-Mesa ‘18. In addition to the writers, the statement received over 1,100 signatures of support from other alumni. As of June 23, the letter was still open for signing.

According to Rhym, the letter was written after a conversation that happened on June 7 among several class years, including alumni and current students.  The letter states:  

“The call lasted over two and a half hours, and we alumni listened to current students share stories that exactly matched our own. We were troubled to hear students share stories about being called racial slurs. One student shared that she was harassed by her messina mentor for publicly confronting him after he used a racial slur in class. We were distraught to hear that you cut a significant portion of funding allocated to support students of color, despite increasing the overall diversity rate in the first-year class. We were upset because many of us had the same experience and fought against it. However, it seems as though that fight was for naught.” 

The letter included five actionable items for the University to consider moving forward. Additionally, it is written that those in support of the letter “vow to cease donations” until change occurs, and according to Rhym, it is the hope of the organizers that all signers act accordingly. The following is a summary of the proposed reforms: 

Reform the Bias Reporting System

In place of the current system, the alumni proposed a Bias Reporting Council. The writers compared this system to the current Honor Council and Peer Conduct Board. The council would consist of students, faculty, and administrators from diverse backgrounds working together to make decisions about sanctions for offenders. 

“This model should include a tiered system with sanctions dependent upon the type and severity of the offence,” the letter said. 

Institute Racial Bias Training

Currently, Loyola requires incoming first-year students to complete an online program, “Think About It,” that provides education on alcohol, drugs, and sexual violence. The alumni proposed that the University expand this program to include training in antiracism. 

Additionally, the alumni noted a newly-launched edition of “Think About It” that pertains to diversity, equity, and inclusion training. It was proposed that implementing this program, in addition to allocating more time to discussing antiracism during Fall Welcome Weekend, will set a precedent with incoming students that racism is not tolerated on campus. 

Provide More Support to Students of Color in STEM and Pre-Health Programs

The letter also drew attention to a lack of representation within Loyola’s STEM and Pre-Health Programs. The alumni proposed that Loyola implement more support for students of color in these programs in order to be a leader among universities in combating underrepresentation. “Support” was broken into three categories: hire more tenure-track professors of color, create “pipeline programs” to increase the number of students in STEM and Pre-Health programs, and address professors’ implicit biases. 

“There are stories of professors guiding students of color away from the STEM field instead of helping them achieve their intended goal. Due to the lack of institutional support, students created an organization called ‘Society for Underrepresented Pre-Health Students,’ which is dedicated to providing supportive resources,” the letter said. “This is an institutional problem and requires systemic change.” 

Integrate Diversity Course Guidelines in All Courses

“The diversity core requirement is constructed to help students ‘lead, learn, and serve in a diverse and changing world,’” the letter said. “Yet, this begs the following question: how does one course in diversity help students change the world?” 

Alumni asked that the University consider integrating diversity course guidelines into all courses in order to expand students’ understanding of “the impact of diversity in their lives.” 

This proposal also called attention back to the need for more tenure-track hires of color, in addition to racial bias training. 

Reevaluate Campus Police Training

The letter’s final point addressed police training reform. 

Highlighting their conversation with students of color from various class years, the alumni called attention to issues of racial profiling by campus police. 

“We understand the role of campus police in safety; however, over-policing historically targets people of color. It is imperative that these campus police officers understand their unconscious bias,” the letter said. 

The letter noted improvements in police training as essential, and “students’ lives” as being dependent on such reform.  

In conclusion, the letter applauded University efforts to increase diversity on campus, but addressed the need for resources to increase alongside it. 

In an interview with Rhym, the alumna called for support to be prioritized over advertising increasingly diverse classes at Loyola. 

“We can’t boast about those numbers until we make the experience equitable for all students,” Rhym said. “We’re still fighting. We’re still fighting for them, and [they should] know that they deserve a great education and a quality experience at Loyola.” 

According to Rhym, Linnane responded to the letter on June 22 at approximately 7pm. In his response, the president centered alumni voices as integral to dismantling systems of oppression at Loyola. 

“We cannot accomplish this [an antiracist campus] without the involvement of all our stakeholders, including our alumni. Your voices must be heard— and we are listening. Your efforts must be directly involved in the shaping of Loyola’s future— and we are openly and actively listening to your concerns,” Linnane said. 

Linnane called attention to Dr. Cheryl Moore-Thomas, chief equity and inclusion officer, and her work with the President’s Council on Equity and Inclusion to develop Loyola’s first diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plan. As detailed further in this article, the strategic plan is said to include equity audits and measurable outcomes in education, assessment, inclusion, and accessibility. 

The president also welcomed input from the writers and supporters of the letter on the diversity, equity, and inclusion alumni advisory board being organized by the office of equity and inclusion. In doing so, Linnane wrote that Rhym and her cohort should “consider the lines of communication open.” 

In conclusion, he extended an invitation for a meeting among representatives from Loyola and a group of the letter’s supporters to continue the conversation. 

Keep up-to-date with The Greyhound for updates on this story.

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Alumni of color address inequity and proposed reforms in a letter to Linnane, Trustees, President’s Cabinet