Loyola Hate Speech Incident is Less than Surprising

Photo courtesy of Ryan X

When I arrived at Loyola as a first-year student, I quickly realized that I was one of few black males.

I was lucky to have been introduced to the Black Cultural Center rather early and formed a group of close friends with whom I still maintain great relationships.

Nevertheless, each of us felt there was something irking us about our university that we couldn’t quite put our finger on.

It wasn’t until our sophomore year when we formed a social justice organization, The Chicagoland Coalition for Minority Advancement, that we began to uncover some deeply disturbing facts about our institution.

We learned Loyola was fiscally invested in companies that profit from human rights abuses. It also invested in companies which profit from immigration and customs enforcement.

And less than 10 years ago, there was an Anti-Racism Movement led by black students on campus that the administration essentially shrugged off and co-opted.

Loyola’s 2014 proxy votes displayed that our university was, and may still be, directly invested in Raytheon, Caterpillar Inc., United Technologies Co. and Valero Energy Co.

Raytheon specializes in precision weapons, electronic warfare and surveillance and reconnaissance systems. The company also struck a partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2011.

I mention these institutional shortcomings for one reason; Loyola’s apathy and shallow rhetoric toward social justice has long been undermined by its capitalist, profit-driven priorities.

Social justice has become our institution’s marketing buzzword — no different than an enterprise’s usage of “results driven,” or “detail-oriented.”

Instead of holding meetings with the black community, Loyola administrators would rather take pictures of us and plaster it on the website and recruitment emails.

None of these superficial tactics will solve the issue that the 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Report displayed: Black students represented only 4.8 percent of more than 10,000 students at our institution, and that we recruited out of state but made no recruitment visits to inner-city high schools on the South Side of our own city.

Last year, the black community organized LUC to Mizzou/#BlackStudentsMatter, the largest demonstration in university history.

We issued 13 demands which had been crafted after consulting multiple communities of color on campus.

Half of the demands specifically from the black students were almost identical to those issued nearly a decade ago by the Anti-Racism Movement that the administration never addressed or solved.

We also held numerous meetings with Interim President John Pelissero, and various administrators, including Dean of Students K.C. Mmeje, Associate Provost Patrick Boyle, Vice President for Student Development Jane Neufeld and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Winifred Williams.

This year, we have yet to hear from Loyola’s President Jo Ann Rooney, or any of the aforementioned administrators.

We have not reached out to them either.

We have done all we can. At some point, the administration has to take the initiative to fix these issues.

It is because of these experiences that I was not at all surprised when Loyola announced that hate speech graffiti had been written next to a student’s dorm room in Spring Hill Hall on Feb. 5.

Our university has spoken out against racism, but its actions have shown otherwise.

This is the same institution that maintains a history requirement of the Evolution of Western Ideas before or after 1700 — or as my colleagues and I prefer to call “Western white History” 101 or 102, each demonstrably Eurocentric.

The same institution whose faculty, departments and numerous administrators endorsed our LUC to Mizzou protest — yet had the Office of Conduct and Conflict Resolution contact my comrade and I a week later to inform us that we may be suspended as a result of helping organize it.

The same institution whose interim president responded to our concerns about the lack of black recruitment and enrollment by pointing to Arrupe College and explaining that Loyola has admissions requirements that potential students have to meet to be accepted (as if we students didn’t already know this).

The same institution that implemented a Magis Scholarship for undocumented students, but will not take a stand and declare itself a sanctuary campus to protect our brothers and sisters in need.

When an institution is more concerned with its public perception than it is with addressing the policies and circumstances that shape that public perception, the root issues will never be resolved.

I criticize my institution not out of malice, but because I want to see the day we truly live up to the values we promote — so that incoming students will not experience the same disappointment we did to a university we respected so much.

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