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Loyola Investigates “Toxic” Undergraduate Admission Office After Resignation of Associate Director

Katie Anthony | The PhoenixOur Streets LUC, a student-run protest group, is calling for the termination of the dean of undergraduate admission after the former associate director of admission accused her of creating a "toxic" atmosphere in the office in his resignation letter.

Loyola’s Associate Director of Admission Marcus Mason accused the university’s admissions office of a “toxic atmosphere” and “inequitable and exclusionary treatment of staff” in his resignation letter Aug. 24. Mason’s last day working for Loyola was Sept. 4, according to the letter.

Mason wrote of “a toxic atmosphere of hostility, intimidation, fear and manipulation within the Undergraduate Admission Office (UAO), especially pertaining to people of color,” which he said was “created” by Erin Moriarty, dean of undergraduate admission.

Mason said he pursued avenues to rectify the situation prior to his resignation, including directly addressing Moriarty and involving his human resources representative.

“I have been ignored and rebuffed,” Mason wrote. “It is egregious that a university standing on and touting its commitment to diversity, inclusion and social justice would decline to investigate or rectify claims of racism within the office most crucial to ensuring these values are reflected in the entire campus community.”

Moriarty, who has been dean of undergraduate admission since July 2015, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

After Our Streets LUC published Mason’s resignation letter on its Instagram page Sept. 10 with his permission, the student protest group called for Moriarty to be fired during a demonstration on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus Sept. 18.

Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside of Sullivan Center for Student Services — where the Undergraduate Admission Office is — and chanted “we want Erin” and “Black lives matter” into the building while holding the doors open as prospective Loyola students attended a presentation inside. 

About 50 Our Streets LUC protesters gathered outside of Sullivan Center for Student Services Sept. 18
Katie Anthony | The Phoenix

Our Streets LUC also added “fire Erin Moriarty” to its existing list of demands, which includes calling on Loyola to cut ties with the Chicago Police Department and better support Black students, among other things.

“A department that is instrumental in the process of coming to Loyola should not be run by a person with bigoted values,” the new demand says, referring to the admissions office which plays a large role in vetting, accepting and declining would-be Loyola students. “We demand that Erin Moriarty be fired for the way she has behaved while employed as the Dean of the Undergraduate Admissions Office.”

A representative of Our Streets LUC didn’t respond to requests for comment. The group plans to demonstrate outside of Sullivan Center for Student Services every weekday starting Sept. 21, according to its Instagram

Loyola spokesperson Anna Rozenich wrote in an email to The Phoenix that the university has started an internal investigation through its Office for Equity and Compliance, which works to prevent and address instances of sexual harassment, sexual violence, hate conduct and discrimination on campus.

“In keeping with our values, our University maintains a Non-discrimination policy which prohibits discrimination,” Rozenich wrote. “At the conclusion of this process, we will take appropriate action to address any issues that are not consistent with our values and mission.”

Rozenich didn’t respond to follow-up questions regarding the length of the investigation and whether Moriarty will continue working during its duration.

“The University does not comment on personnel matters given they are confidential to protect individuals’ privacy,” Rozenich wrote to The Phoenix. “As previously shared, at the conclusion of this process, we will take appropriate action to address any issues not consistent with our values and mission.”

Mason declined to comment beyond what was written in his resignation letter, but he directed The Phoenix to speak with two of his former Loyola colleagues, both of whom said Mason’s letter resonated with their own experiences.

In his letter, Mason wrote of insensitive comments made by administrators at Loyola toward Black colleagues.

“White supremacist ideology is reinforced not only by the senseless killing of Black and Brown people, but when the Dean of Undergraduate Admission comments about [another Loyola dean] in front of colleagues ‘He’s black, black. Like you almost can’t see him Black,’” Mason wrote in his letter.

Derek Brinkley, the assistant vice president of undergraduate admissions at Columbia College, said he previously held Mason’s position from September 2014 to January 2017. He said the office’s “toxic” environment is one of the reasons he left the university.

Brinkley said his experiences were more about the overall working environment at Loyola rather than specifics involving his former bosses.

“My experiences were more, I guess about the feelings that I got,” Brinkley said. “I mean there were certain projects that I was left out of, there were certain things … I was not able to participate in because I was not included.”

For example, Brinkley said he recalls being the only associate director of four who was not informed about a hiring process of a certain employee. He said he was the only Black associate director at the time, but he said he doesn’t know if the issue was race-related.

“I don’t want to speculate too much because I don’t know what reason there was for not being involved,” Brinkley said of the situation. “I felt like it was just another one of those things that happened where I felt that I was not welcomed at the table.”

Brinkley — who said he helped launch Arrupe College, Loyola’s associate degree college aimed at providing higher education for students with limited financial resources — said he hopes Loyola finds a way to remedy the situation so more people don’t have to go through what he, Marcus and others went through.

“Loyola has the opportunity to be a fantastic, progressive institution moving forward if they focus on leadership within the institution and really figuring out ways that people in positions of leadership represent, first off, the students that they want to serve,” he said.

Sean Whitten — who left Loyola in October 2018 after about a year and a half as associate director of admission — said he agrees with the sentiments that were shared in Mason’s letter.

“I think Loyola does need to do better in the context that there needs to be a clear, lined pathway for people of color that work there, that attend there, for Black and Brown students, faculty and staff to be able to present their issues and concerns without fear of retribution,” Whitten said in an interview with The Phoenix.

At the end of his letter, Mason suggested Todd Malone, senior associate director of freshman admission counselors, be promoted to director of undergraduate admission.

“He is the leader the Undergraduate Admission Office deserves,” Mason wrote.

Malone didn’t respond to The Phoenix’s request for comment.

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