In the wake of George Floyd’s death and allegations of police brutality in Chicago and around the country, current and former students have started online petitions calling for Loyola to end tuition discounts for CPD officers.
Floyd died May 25 after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed on the ground. Since then, the Minneapolis City Council has pledged to dissolve the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and the University of Minnesota scaled back its relationship with MPD and won’t use MPD for support during large events.
Chauvin is now on trial for second-degree murder and the other three officers — Thomas Lane, You Thao and J. Alexander Kueng have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
The first Loyola petition — created by sophomore business major Samuel Reid — was posted June 5, and another petition from alumnae Madeline Beasley and Amanda Malmstrom was posted the following day. Collectively, the two petitions have over 5,500 signatures as of June 23.
Both petitions call on the university to end its partnership with CPD for the safety of Loyola’s black students. Reid’s petition says the death of George Floyd demonstrates racism is “engrained deeply” in the police system in the U.S.
“As students of Loyola Chicago, the first step we can take in rebuilding this flawed system is asking that our university cut ties or scale back their relations with the Chicago Police,” according to the petition. “This includes any on-campus relations Loyola University Chicago has with the Chicago Police Department as well as the “University Partner” program which provides scholarships to Chicago Police Department officers.”
It’s unclear what relationship Loyola has with CPD beyond the tuition partnership program.
Beasley and Malmstrom — who graduated in 2018 — said their petition isn’t meant to be an attack on Loyola, rather it’s a call for Loyola to act on its Jesuit values and be on the right side of this issue.
“This is a unique opportunity we have to act and demand more from the organizations and communities we’re a part of,” 24-year-old Malmstrom said to the Phoenix. “This is such a fertile moment of change and I hope Loyola is a part of it.”
Both petitions address Loyola’s university partnership program with CPD which offers a 25 percent discount on tuition to officers in certain programs at the university. Reid’s petition called for Loyola to reallocate the money from the partnership program to assist low-income students. Beasley and Malmstrom said the money could also be redirected to scholarships for incoming black students, according to the second petition.
“Rogers Park is the most diverse neighborhood in Chicago (approximately 25% of residents are Black); yet Loyola’s student body consists of 5% students who are Black,” according to Beasley and Malmstrom’s petition. “Loyola can do better.”
Junior political science major Gabrielle Cervantes also created an email template students can use to email Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney directly about the issue. Like the petitions, the email calls for a divestment from CPD and a reinvestment in resources for minority students.
In a statement to The Phoenix, Anna Rozenich — a Loyola spokesperson — said Loyola stands in solidarity with the individuals, families and communities of color who continue to be victimized unjustly. Loyola believes channeling energy and outrage into meaningful solutions that “reconcile, repair, heal, and educate” is the most productive approach to eradicate racism and Loyola is interested in learning about the different reform proposals brought forth, she said.
Recent Loyola graduate Sherijay Beckford — who now works as a Policy Associate for Humanity First for Illinois PAC, a grassroots political action committee, and as a campaign intern for congressional candidate Cori Bush — signed the petition. To make improvements, Beckford said Loyola needs to listen to its students because its administration doesn’t know how students feel.
“I think really sitting down and having students of color at the table would help,” 24-year-old Beckford said. “They exclude students too much when this issue affects students the most.”
According to Rozenich, under the State of Illinois’ Private College Campus Police Act, Campus Safety officers are legally required to work directly with the local law enforcement, which is vital to the protection of Loyola students. Therefore, calls to sever all ties aren’t practical, she said.
Beckford said she understands Loyola may have binding contracts or funding issues that prevent them from cutting ties with CPD, but said Loyola should separate from CPD if at all possible.
“I try to understand the scope of the decision, but if there’s a way out … and there’s an alternative and they choose not to take it I cannot stand by that,” Beckford said.
It’s unclear how many CPD officers use the tuition program every year or if Loyola has a partnership with CPD beyond the tuition program. Chief of Police and Director of Campus Safety Thomas Murray, Campus Safety Administrative Commander Tim Cunningham and the CPD didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Sophomore molecular biology major Christopher Petit — who signed the first petition — said Loyola calls on its students to change the world and needs to make the right decision at this “civil crossroads.”
“If President Jo Ann Rooney wants to prove Loyola’s leadership in this dark world, Loyola needs to cut ties with CPD because it’s our mission as students of Loyola to speak up for those who are oppressed,” the 19-year old said. “That doesn’t end with supporting Black Lives Matter but it’s where we should begin.”
Students at neighboring Northwestern University have also started a petition asking Northwestern to divest from law enforcement and reinvest in “life-giving institutions” for the well-being of the black community. At the time of publication, the petition had over 8,000 signatures.