Staff Editorial

STAFF EDITORIAL: Direct Communication is Vital for University Success

Courtesy of Loyola University Chicago

Over the summer, Loyola’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) penned a letter to the university’s Board of Trustees calling president Jo Ann Rooney “ill-equipped” to lead the university, resulting in a heated back-and-forth between the two parties through the pages of The Phoenix.

The Board of Trustees defended Rooney in a June 7 response letter to the AAUP — obtained by The Phoenix — making clear its support for Rooney’s leadership, governing style and economic approach.

In July, after the Phoenix published an article on the initial exhange, Loyola Chief Financial Officer Wayne Magdziarz submitted a letter to The Phoenix also backing Rooney. Three weeks later, Pamela Caughie, a former AAUP president who co-wrote the original AAUP letter, responded with another letter to The Phoenix.

It seems the two sides are content with talking through a third party — in this case, The Phoenix. But the only way constructive change can occur is when the third party is taken out.

The AAUP and the university need to understand real change can only come about through an active dialogue. 

The AAUP’s original letter, which was sent to Loyola’s Board of Trustees in June, contained specific reasons why the association was upset, The Phoenix reported. Some examples include two academic strikes, the media policy for which Rooney came under fire last spring and the university’s severance from the Beijing Center.

“Unfortunately, Dr. Rooney is just finishing her third year as president, and the ‘austerity’ budget cuts being implemented — however financially necessary they may be — also point to her failure in her fiduciary responsibilities,” the letter, obtained by The Phoenix, said.

In Magzdiarz’s “Letter to the Editor” published July 9, he said “[Loyola’s] reputation has never been stronger.” Caughie responded Aug. 2 with her own “Letter to the Editor” which stated, “That reputation … was not made in three years.”

It’s great both sides want to make their voices heard. However, nothing will come about if they only communicate via The Phoenix. It’s our responsibility, as always, to publish information and events at and around Loyola — but it’s not our job to be the middleman.

In order to benefit students and the university as a whole, which should be both parties’ top priority, they need to have a face-to-face discussion about how to improve the school.

The basis of the AAUP’s argument aligned with some opinions expressed by The Phoenix’s editorial board in the past, specifically that Loyola is losing parts of its unique identity as a result of decisions by Rooney’s administration. We commend the AAUP for pointing out these flaws, and we believe they need to be addressed, but there’s a more mature and constructive way to do so.

The AAUP took a good first step with its letter to the Board of Trustees, but it regressed when it responded to Magdziarz in the same way he responded to the AAUP: by filtering it through The Phoenix.

This isn’t the first time the university has defended itself through denial instead of actual discussion resulting in actual action.

Last year, during discussions about changing the university’s media policy, Rooney cited “inaccurate reporting” by The Phoenix as a reason for the policy. The policy was only changed after swift backlash not only from this editorial board but from criticism across the country.

The administration’s handling of demonstrations in recent years by some members of Loyola’s graduate worker union also reflected its unwillingness to tackle issues head-on. It seems the only interactions with the graduate workers have been superficial at best.

The tension between the AAUP and the administration is just the latest in a long string of examples of Loyola’s administration pushing problems aside instead of listening to its personnel and working for meaningful improvement.

The AAUP made a conscious effort toward change by reaching out to the Board of Trustees to voice their concern about Rooney. The university should do the same and engage directly with the AAUP. Until that happens, the two sides will be stuck in a stalemate.

It’s time for both sides to step back, take a breath and make something happen. Otherwise, this impasse isn’t going to end.

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