As Loyola continues to move forward with the construction of its hotel on the corner of Albion Avenue and Sheridan Road, The Phoenix Editorial Board is concerned that the project may lead to the university abandoning some of its principles.
Three weeks ago, The Phoenix reported that, after a decade of searching, Loyola had finally settled on Atira Hotels to build a Hampton Inn on the property. However, the proposed contract with Atira raises some difficult questions for the university.
As The Phoenix reported this week, UNITE HERE Local 1, a Chicago union, has expressed concern that Atira will prevent its employees from unionizing and could underpay them. The university has to hold Atira responsible for its treatment toward its employees and answer some legitimate questions.
Will Atira’s employees be paid a just wage? Will they be allowed to unionize, if they vote to do so? Will they be treated with dignity and respect according to the tradition of Catholic social teaching?
The proposal for the hotel is still in its infancy, and there is time for these questions to be answered, but it is important for the university to answer them (something it is not in the habit of doing). Community members and students alike have already raised concerns about the project, and they deserve a response from the administration. Loyola has previously stated that it would not have much impact on the hotel’s actual operations.
Loyola champions its emphasis on Catholic social teaching and its infusion into the curriculum. But Loyola is also a business, and those considerations must also be taken into account. Ultimately, the hotel project is an attempt for the university to make money, increase enrollment and improve the school’s standing when compared to similar universities. The Phoenix Editorial Board, however, hopes the university does not turn a blind eye to its mission to serve the underserved, underprivileged and the community at large for the sake of business.
This mission, which we have been taught time and again, is to be conscious of our actions, to help others, to “find God in all things,” and to lend a hand to those who need it. The hotel project can respect and uphold that mission, if it is done correctly.
However, to abandon the Catholic, Jesuit principles that make up the fabric of the university would be to abandon everything we as students are taught and asked to uphold. There is no evidence yet that the university will abandon its principles. Unfortunately — and more alarmingly — there is no evidence that the university will uphold its own principles, either.
It appears that even at this early stage, the university is moving forward with the project as a ship without a rudder; its guiding principles are nowhere in sight — not even on the horizon.
It is now up to the student body to be advocates for the community and especially for those who the hotel will impact the most: the workers. The workers, of course, will make the hotel what it is, from its construction to its completion and day-to-day operations. The university must ensure that the workers are not trampled in the pursuit of prestige.
If the university continues to remain silent and ignore the valid questions it is asked, the student body needs to step up and pressure it for answers. There are multiple avenues for this action: social media, print media and the Student Government of Loyola Chicago, which exists to express the will of the students.
As Pope Francis said, “you cannot serve two masters.” Loyola’s new business venture is legitimate, but it must be careful to strike a balance between business and its principles. The university would be wise to remember the Pope’s words.