“We pay for education, not discrimination,” shouted hundreds of students, faculty and staff members Thursday as they marched through the Lake Shore campus during a demonstration against racial profiling, held by Loyola’s Anti-Racism Movement.
“What do we want? Change! When do we want it? Now!” the demonstrators chanted, wearing bright green armbands to symbolize their support of the movement and carrying vibrant signs bearing messages such as “Equality,” “Don’t racially profile me” and “In solidarity.”
Prompted by a Labor Day weekend incident in which a campus safety officer allegedly racially profiled a group of minority students, A.R.M. is “a concerned group of students who are taking action against the systemic discrimination of students at Loyola,” according to a letter from A.R.M.’s executive board sent to the Phoenix.
Thursday’s march started at Centennial Forum Student Union with a petition-signing and several speeches before the mass of people wound down Campus Road and Sheridan Road to the Sullivan Center in order to deliver a letter of protest to the office of the Rev. Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., the university president.
Tying a single green armband to the door handle, demonstrators slid the letter under Garanzini’s door upon learning that he was out of state that day.
“The Loyola Anti-Racism Movement is publicly asking the university to … develop a set procedure for students and faculty to file cases of discrimination in such a way that the victims do not face repercussions,” the letter read, listing eight other requests that A.R.M. proposed for the university.
Other such requests include that the university create a student oversight board to work with Loyola administrators in punishing those guilty of discrimination, call a faculty-student summit to draft a proposal to increase minorities in tenure track positions and apologize to the students involved in the Labor Day incident. Continuing their march, they delivered the same letter to the campus safety office, the office of student affairs and the office of student diversity.
IN THE MIDST OF THE MARCH
“You didn’t see yourself as an individual. You saw the power of the community, especially with the chants,” freshman demonstrator Michelle Cruz said. She had initially hesitated to join A.R.M. because she hadn’t ever experienced racial discrimination at Loyola but changed her mind after attending Monday’s kickoff rally, which she described as an “eye-opening experience.”
“If you looked at the participants of the kickoff it was mostly minorities,” she said. “At the march, you could tell it was so diverse [and] integrated.” At one point in the march, Cruz and her friends spotted a friend, who was white, and pulled him into the demonstration to walk together side by side.
Both Director of Student Diversity Kevin Huie and Lt. Robert Fine from the department of campus safety, who witnessed the event, were pleased with what they described as a peaceful and organized demonstration. Event organizer and A.R.M. founding member freshman Erica Granados-De La Rosa said that the event was powerful, with the crowd “energized, passionate, ready” throughout the entire march.
“The atmosphere there felt emotionally overwhelming,” freshman demonstrator Olga Konyakova said in an e-mail interview, “especially when Erica [Granados-De La Rosa] and another girl began singing the civil rights song, ‘We Shall Overcome.’ For a moment, I thought I could feel the passion of those people who were fighting for civil rights in the past.”
“I very much regret and apologize for any incidents of racism, or profiling that you, or anyone has experienced at Loyola,” Garanzini responded in an e-mail after receiving their letter while he was out of town. “I am sure that in a community like ours there will be individuals who are ignorant of the effects of their prejudices and behavior and ignorant of the essential humanity that binds us all [as] human beings.”
Granados-De La Rosa said that a meeting Sunday between Garanzini and A.R.M. was “productive” and that the university president was very receptive to the group’s suggestions, even adding some of his own to their list. In the days since Monday’s kickoff, Granados-De La Rosa said that much of the tension between A.R.M. and administrators has started to clear and that steps toward solutions are being taken.
“I think that there’s some validity to the proposal,” Huie said of A.R.M.’s suggestion to create a student oversight board to address discrimination. “I think that the biggest challenge that I would see is really who it is that’s determining whether harassment or some type of discrimination has occurred because I think things are very complex.”
Huie said that a similar structure may already exist to a certain extent, explaining that the student judicial board in the department of judicial affairs could feasibly address issues that students bring forth involving discrimination.
Other reactions to the march have angered Loyolans. A CBS 2 News story cited a segment of a university press release as saying, “To date, no student has come forward with any specifics about an incident involving racial profiling that could be investigated.”
Freshman Jared Nash, an A.R.M. supporter who went to administrators after experiencing an incident of discrimination last semester, said after hearing that statement from the press release, “I can’t tell if they were just completely ignorant or if they were trying to keep up an image. It just completely shocked me. I thought they would just say ‘Yes, we want to work with them,’ which they have in other instances.
“That was not the reaction I was expecting from our university,” he said.
Granados-De La Rosa said that she and other students felt confused at the statement, calling it a “step backwards” and saying that hundreds of students wouldn’t have joined in a demonstration over nothing. However, she said that continuing communication with Garanzini and other administrators can keep the movement going forward in a positive direction.
The press release in its entirety spoke of the investigation that the Labor Day incident incurred and said, “At the conclusion of the review, it was determined that the incident was not racial profiling. Last October, in a letter to some concerned students, we invited students to contact us, in confidence, so that we could immediately respond to any reported incident. To date, no student has come forward with any specifics about an incident involving racial profiling that could be investigated.” It ends with the statement, “Loyola doesn’t tolerate discrimination of any kind.”
“It feels like I’ve gone through 10 years of my life because it’s so intense,” Granados-De La Rosa said about the journey from the Labor Day event to now. She feels that the movement is headed in a positive direction, creating “mutual respect” between students and administrators.
“The crux behind what they’re trying to do is raising awareness, and I think that that’s really important on a college campus, let alone anywhere else,” Huie said via e-email. He feels that the university should continue developing opportunities for people to reflect on their past experiences and examine their biases and prejudices in order to uphold a standard of respect.
“Respect and safety shouldn’t be paid for, they should be guaranteed as human rights to every person of every color,” Konyakova said, echoing Huie’s feelings.
Even within A.R.M., members see different possible directions that the movement can go in order to find solutions.
“These marches need more white people that believe in anti-racism, so that the majority of our society changes their minds about racism,” Konkoyova said. “Before, I was silent about racism, and now I am not afraid to discuss the problem of racism with my friends.”
According to Cruz, “I just hope we can transplant that movement of anti-racism into something more positive and contributing to more of a pro-diversity on campus. Exposing yourself beyond your own culture is as powerful as marching [and] holding up a sign.”]]>