Loyola administrators released the university’s first public statement Aug. 28 acknowledging the past week of student protests on and around campus.
Students first gathered on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus Aug. 21 to march in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and call for the university to cut ties with the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Every day since then, students have shown up to campus, sometimes to march through the streets and block traffic, and most recently to decorate campus with chalk messages supporting Black Lives Matter.
Other than to tell The Phoenix Loyola supports “peaceful protests and students’ rights to express their opinions and perspectives” but “calls to sever all ties [with CPD] are not practical” — due to the State of Illinois’ Private College Campus Police Act — the university hasn’t publicly said anything about the protests until Aug. 28.
The statement from the school emailed to the Loyola community said administrators “acknowledge the stories that students — especially Black-identified students — have shared with us about their experiences at Loyola University Chicago.”
The email — signed by Vice President for Student Development Jane Neufeld and Assistant Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students Will Rodriguez — went on to “commend our student protest organizers who have raised their voices this past week for demonstrating peacefully, respectfully, responsibly, and safely in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The university didn’t respond to questions as to why Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney didn’t sign the email.
Just minutes after the statement was sent to the Loyola community, students began to gather on campus for the eighth consecutive day to protest how the university has responded to their calls.
Sophomore Dorien Perry-Tillmon, one of the main organizers, addressed the university’s statement to a group of about 50 Loyola community members gathered in front of the Loyola Information Commons.
“This email is very, very late,” Perry-Tillmon, 19, said to the crowd. “And with everything that’s continuing to go on now, there’s just not enough content in this email.”
Administrators in the email reference Rooney’s call to action made in May — following marches across the country in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police — in which she said, “I am calling on our Loyola community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni to find ways to come together and respond to the scourge of white supremacy.”
Since then, according to the Aug. 28 email, students, faculty, staff and administrators have been meeting throughout the summer to accommodate suggestions and recommendations made by student organizations on how to better support the school’s Black students. The email provided an update on the university’s progress in responding to the recommendations.
Neufeld and Rodriguez didn’t immediately respond to additional questions from The Phoenix about specifically how the university is currently listening to protesters’ demands.
The email also linked to a separate statement made by Campus Safety — Loyola’s private police force. The statement offered some clarity about the university’s relationship with CPD in light of students’ calls for the school to cut ties with the department.
“We do not fund the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and they do not fund us,” the statement reads. “Based on state statutes and other important considerations, it is not practical for our University to sever its professional working relationship with local law enforcement authorities. … Loyola’s Campus Safety police officers and staff are legally required to work directly with the locally designated law authority.”
Campus Safety said they are an “independent safety function” to protect the safety of all students, faculty, staff and campus visitors and to act as the first point of help “before the CPD ever becomes involved.”
Campus Safety didn’t respond to a request for further comment.
While speaking on campus Aug. 28, Perry-Tillmon said the Campus Safety department not funding CPD is “not what we’re talking about.”
“We don’t care about the Campus Safety office,” Perry-Tillmon said. “The Campus Safety Office should be what we have, period. And they should be expanded.”
Sania Henry, a 19-year-old sophomore who attended the Aug. 28 gathering, said she feels the university is saying “I hear you, I see you,” but she wants them to ask “What can I do for you?”
“My reaction is just ‘What now? What do they plan to do?’” Henry said.
News Editor Kayleigh Padar contributed to the reporting in this story.
A previous version of this story misspelled Vice President for Student Development Jane Neufeld’s name. We regret the error and have corrected it.