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Some Loyola Faculty Say Communication is ‘Not Possible’ Without An Accessible List of Trustees

Alanna Demetrius | The PhoenixThe Board of Trustees list can be accessed through Loyola's website, but is listed at the end of a 40-page financial document.

Many Jesuit colleges in the United States publicize the names of those serving on their board of trustees, showcasing them, for instance, on school websites.

Marquette, Georgetown, Fordham, Santa Clara and Gonzaga universities are among them. Some universities also list the duties of the board or the purposes of the different committees within the board.

But at Loyola, this information is far less accessible — with a school official saying the names are purposely hidden to shield the members, which can be up to 50 people, from unwanted fundraising attempts.

Last year, a list of members on Loyola’s Council of Regents — a high-profile advisory group of “ambassadors” for the school separate from the Board of Trustees — disappeared from the school’s website after reporters asked about the membership of a criminally charged Chicago politician.

Whatever the reasoning, faculty say communication with the board — which includes President Jo Ann Rooney, who runs the school on a day-to-day basis — is “not possible.” Rooney has been repeatedly criticized for withholding information on crime, finances and other topics since she was hired in 2016.

Ian Cornelius, an English professor at Loyola and the vice president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chapter at the school, said in an interview because of its complex nature, a university requires discourse between all bodies involved to operate effectively.

“To run well, [universities need] to have trust and communication and understanding between the various constituent components … administration, faculty, governing boards and students,” Cornelius said.

In The Phoenix’s first issue of the school year, The Editorial Board published a piece calling for a direct dialogue between the AAUP and Loyola officials. The editorial was written after a heated back-and-forth after the AAUP sent a letter to the Board of Trustees calling Rooney “ill-equipped” to run the school.

Shortly after the editorial was published, Cornelius said in an email to The Phoenix that direct communication between faculty and the Board of Trustees is “not possible” because the list of trustees isn’t easily accessible on Loyola’s website.

While the trustee list can be accessed through Loyola’s website, it’s listed at the end of a 40-page financial document which is a few months old.

Pamela Caughie, a former president of the AAUP and one of the co-writers of the letter criticizing Rooney, said the Loyola community has a right to know who’s making decisions for the university.

“It’s in the best interest of the university to allow an open channel of communication between faculty and board,” Caughie said. “It would be very helpful if we could have a sense of who’s on the board to get a sense of who’s making these decisions that are crucial to the future of our university.”

Lorraine Fitzgerald, Loyola’s special assistant to the president and liaison to the board of trustees, said in an email to The Phoenix the entire board used to be listed online but was taken off so people can’t easily contact board members for fundraising.

The site only lists the names of Robert Parkinson Jr., the chairman of the board, and the vice-chair, Susan Sher. The webpage directs those with inquiries about the board to Fitzgerald.

Parkinson didn’t respond to questions from The Phoenix by the time of publication and Sher couldn’t be reached.

While Loyola doesn’t provide a description of the board’s duties online, Fitzgerald wrote in the email trustees “are fiduciaries of the University’s mission, people, assets, finances, academic and student quality and our Jesuit & Catholic identity.”

The membership of Loyola’s Council of Regents isn’t available on the school’s site, either. Ed Burke, Chicago’s longest-serving alderman, was a member of Loyola’s Council of Regents as of last January. 

He was charged with attempted extortion, and his name was initially absent from an otherwise seemingly comprehensive list of members. When The Phoenix inquired about his membership with the council, the list was yanked from the site altogether, The Phoenix reported

Caughie, who’s been at Loyola for more than 30 years, said students and faculty were stonewalled in the 1990s by the Board of Trustees. She said she was part of a student and faculty protest outside of Lewis Towers in response to a lack of transparency.

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