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The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Solidarity for students of color: Kayte Rooney and the Asian Cultural Alliance


In light of the recent social justice issues brought to the eye of the public and to the eye of Loyola’s institution, The Greyhound had conversations with multiple Loyola students who have taken action on these issues this summer. 

Kayte Rooney of Uxbridge, Massachusetts is a member of Loyola’s class of 2022. When she’s not studying toward her major in speech language and hearing sciences or her minor in urban education, she enjoys “Gilmore Girls” on Netflix and the Harry Potter series. And, during a normal semester not plagued by a pandemic, Rooney explores the city of Baltimore, hangs out with friends, and sports a creative appreciation for tattoos and piercings. 

As she starts her third year at Loyola, she maintains leadership roles as a resident assistant, president of the Asian Cultural Alliance (ACA), and as an ALANA peer mentor. Rooney has worked with ACA in years past, starting first as its event coordinator before becoming its president. As this year’s president, she intends to continue the work that last year’s leaders, recently graduated Charlie Smith and Vivian Nguyen, had begun. And, although first-years are normally given a surplus of mentors upon their arrival to Loyola, Rooney notes that the ALANA peer mentor program distinguishes itself by providing first-year students of color with a mentor they could better identify with. Last year, Rooney looked out for two mentees of her own. 

This summer, Rooney has led efforts by ACA in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests. Using a bingo board template on Instagram, Rooney encouraged her followers to donate specific amounts of money that would go toward justice work for Black lives. 

“I reached out to Julie Rivera, the assistant director of ALANA, to make sure we could do a fundraiser virtually. Because, when money is involved, it gets kind of complicated. But, she was completely on board with the idea, and so I reached out to ACA, our e-board, and we chose two different organizations to donate money to from our bingo boards,” Rooney said. 

Encountering such social unrest during a pandemic is both hard to grapple with and hard to contribute aid to. The idea of a bingo board fundraiser facilitated remotely by the ACA Instagram account provided a way for the Loyola community to get involved from home. For Asians, the model minority myth is a common obstacle to being allies with the Black community. In this trying time, the ACA executive board found it abundantly important to raise this money and stand in support and solidarity for all BIPOCs (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) on campus. 

Everyday for a week, ACA’s Instagram account posted a bingo board filled out with amounts of money that could be donated to Rooney’s Venmo account to be forwarded to one of two organizations chosen by the ACA executive board. The funds collected from the first few days were donated to the Baltimore Bail Fund, an organization that helps to pay bail for those who have been detained for marching and protesting. The second organization donated to was the Center for Black Equity – Baltimore, which supports LGBTQ+ and the Black community. As the fundraising was conducted in June, Pride Month, promoting intersectionality and spreading awareness for both of these communities was very important to ACA’s agenda. In total, ACA collectively raised over $400 for these two causes.

For Rooney, the opportunity to drive advocacy efforts like this hits close to home. 

“I grew up in a very white town, and so I think that coming to Loyola and being able to see all these people who were doing advocacy work and social justice work on campus, all of the people there that were already doing work inspired me,” Rooney said. “So, people like Charlie and Vi and Nicole and Arby, all of them inspired me to continue doing this work. All the students on campus who were already doing advocacy work, just really showed me that, wow, I could be doing this too. It makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger.”

Rooney would love to continue advocacy work alongside her career goal of becoming a speech pathologist in a hospital. To be another woman of color in a setting where there are few would be a statement in itself for her. 

In terms of Loyola’s students of color being supported and feeling seen by the institution, Rooney believes that urgency lies in preemptive education and a more attentive bias reporting system. Microaggression training, a start to a universally difficult dialogue, should be as mandatory as the training against drugs and alcohol. Action has been taken for the class of 2024, but, Rooney persists, what about the classes already attending Loyola? After the influx of bias reports during the class of 2023’s Welcome Weekend alone, it is clear to Rooney that Loyola’s existing class years should not be exempt from having these conversations about microaggressions. 

The hands-off nature of the bias report is another aspect of the experience had by students of color that Rooney brought attention to. 

“It’s all up to the student, and what they want to do, but you don’t know what a student is going to feel in that type of a situation,” she said. “They don’t want to force students into taking action, but a student may need that guidance somewhere to [take action] and I don’t think the bias system does it.”

The system, Rooney explains, asks the student to submit the report and be done with it, rather than asking what the student would like to see happen or what resources they need. There should be options offered, for example, to continue holding a conversation or ending it. According to Rooney, the bias reporting system takes somebody aged 17-22 and asks them what they want to do, and they arguably might not know the options available to them. This results in confusion and a lack of closure for a student that is already potentially distraught. 

For the increasingly diverse student body at Loyola, Rooney urged that ALANA services, as it is now, cannot be the only resource for students of color. Rooney spoke on a perceived expectation for ALANA services to be a catch all:

“ALANA can’t be the fall back for everything student of color-related. I think that they [Loyola] try to push ALANA a lot, but if they’re going to increase diversity, they need to increase funds for ALANA,” she said. 

Ultimately, there is still work to be done and conversations to be had by Loyola in support of their students of color, from Rooney’s perspective. 

To stay or become educated, Rooney recommends “The Patriot Act” on Netflix by Hasan Minhaj, the various, regional social media pages for the American Civil Liberties Union, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race” by Beverly Daniel Tatum, and “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi. She even recommends googling whatever it is one is confused about. 

To those looking to get involved, Rooney recommends taking the chance of reaching out to someone whose efforts are admirable. Most students affiliated with ALANA, its student organizations, or even the Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ) would be more than willing to talk. 

“Don’t be afraid to start a conversation. You may not have to finish the conversation, but start it, at least, you know? Take that step because you never know where it’s gonna take you. I know it may be intimidating to reach out to people that you see doing a ton of work, and you may feel like, ‘I’m not qualified,’ and I can definitely identify with that. I didn’t feel qualified to start advocating. But just take that first step and reach out,” Rooney said. 

Rooney advises that the only way to feel more confident is to keep pushing your boundaries. It’s okay to start small by reposting something, having conversations, or signing petitions.
Lastly, Rooney hopes readers will be sure to follow ACA’s Instagram to keep up with their efforts this year to promote the appreciation and inclusion of all Asian cultures (@loyolaaca).

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Solidarity for students of color: Kayte Rooney and the Asian Cultural Alliance