On Nov. 12 Loyola students rallied in response to a national call to action from students at the University of Missouri.
Just four days later, Loyola administrators responded to the students’ own call to action.
The demonstration, organized by Loyola Black Voices, was held to show solidarity in light of recent events at the University of Missouri, where racist incidents caused student uproar that resulted in the resignation of the university’s president and chancellor on Nov. 9.
The rally served two purposes. Not only were protesters standing in solidarity with Mizzou students, but organizers from Loyola Black Voices also used the event to issue its own list of grievances regarding racial inequality at Loyola.
Many of the demands dealt with increasing recruitment, retention rates and resources for black students on campus. One specific demand Loyola Black Voices had was that the school host recruitment events at high schools in predominantly African American communities throughout Chicago by the 2016-2017 school year.
Other demands include constructing a building for the Black Cultural Center within the next six years, incorporating cultural sensitivity training in the University 101 classes by next year and demolishing the demonstration policy by Dec. 12.
Interim President John Pelissero sent an email to the Loyola community following the demonstration acknowledging the students’ demands.
“During today’s demonstration, a group of students visited the Office of Student Development to deliver a list of concerns related to their experience on campus as students of color,” said Pelissero in the email. “I can assure you that University leaders have received the list, we want to hear more, and we will respond to these concerns.”
Loyola’s administration kept its word and met with student representatives on Nov. 16. Administrators present at the meeting included acting Provost Samuel Attoh, Vice President of Student Development Jane Neufeld, Dean of Students K.C. Mmeje and Vice President of Human Resources and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Winifred Williams, according to an email to The Phoenix from Pelissero.
Key demonstration organizer junior Julian Marshall attended the meeting and said that while the administration’s response to their demands was straightforward, it was also expected.
Marshall said the administrators explained the long processes behind some of the changes and suggested the students relax their deadlines.
“The university has to get these things done … to make this a safe space and an inclusive space for all of their students … It’s time for a change. It’s been time for a change, [and] we never should have been in this situation in the first place,” said the 20-year-old political science major. “If they don’t want to go along with what we are doing then they can expect to see more demonstrations.”
Mine Dafiaghor, a 19-year-old marketing major, attended the demonstration and marched alongside his peers. He said the event was an important step toward increasing dialogue about race.
Dafiaghor said the demonstration was validation to current and prospective students alike that Loyola lives up to its social justice mission.
“[Loyola] is social justice in both name and action,” he said. “It’s for reasons like this that I came here.”
Shadi Ramirez, 21, attended the demonstration as a way of showing her support for people who identify differently than she does.
“I feel [supporting the movement] is my responsibility,” said the senior biology major, adding that it’s important for people to realize that “just because [racism] doesn’t happen to them, it does exist.”
The Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., Loyola’s former president, was sitting in his office on Rosemont Avenue when he heard chants from protesters marching down the street.
“It’s fantastic,” he said. “Absolutely fantastic. [The turnout] is bigger than I thought.”
Some students, such as Jade Brown, were inspired to participate because of the hate speech she read on social media in the days after the events on Mizzou’s campus.
“I would have come out in support of Mizzou regardless, but what really drove me to come out was what’s going on on our campus and the hatred between students.”
At the Nov. 12 demonstration, student leaders encouraged participants to post about their experiences on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag, “#fromLUCtoMizzou.” Other hashtags have already circulated the Internet, such as “#BlackLivesMatter” and “#ConcernedStudent1950,” the latter refferng to an activist group at Mizzou named for the year the first black student was admitted to the university.
Melinda Bunnage, 21, a member of Students for Worker Justice, said that events such as this demonstration are a necessary step for social change.
“Keep protesting and make a statement because they’re not going to listen to you because they want to,” said the senior. “They’re going to listen to you because they have to.”
The PHOENIX will continue to report on the aftermath of the Nov. 12 demonstration. As members of the Nov. 16 meeting could not be reached for comment as of press time, the staff hopes to include more response from the administration’s side.