Following months of protests and gatherings by students calling for better support for Black students, the university has been working over the past year and a half to address racial issues on campus and beyond, from research initiatives to academic and mental health resources.
The Phoenix spoke with university officials to learn more about the resources and organizations Loyola is introducing to address racial justice on campus.
What is the Anti-Racism Initiative?
One of the main organizations within Loyola working to address racial justice on campus and create resources for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students is the Anti-Racism Initiative (ARI). It was created in the summer of 2020 following nationwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter, including several demonstrations organized by Our Streets LUC — a group of students calling on Loyola to better support Black students and cut ties with the Chicago Police Department, among other demands.
The ARI is a group of Loyola faculty, students and alumni working to support Loyola community members of color through the creation of new programs and resources — including mental health services and diversity, equity and inclusion training. The ARI also began sending out bi-weekly newsletters in March with the goal of educating readers on anti-racism and updating the Loyola community about the intitiave’s work.
The ARI’s three overarching goals this school year involve creating an “inclusive environment” for students, staff and faculty of color, facilitating Black student success and enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion in Academic Affairs, according to the initiative’s website.
This fall semester, the ARI is implementing “evidence-based practices” to retain faculty of color, ensure Black community members have access to intersectional and inclusive wellness resources, and coaching university leadership on anti-racism, among other things.
An Office for Black Student Success is also in the works and more information will be shared when it’s available, Nelson-Christensen said — although a progress report published by the ARI and Loyola’s Black Cultural Center in April stated the office would be complete before the Fall 2021 semester began.
University 101: Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging
In other academic news, Loyola also implemented a “Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging for Students” course available to all students and required for incoming students in Fall 2020.
The online course is administered through Everfi — the same company responsible for Loyola’s alcohol education and sexual assault prevention programs — and is included in University 101, a seminar required for all first-year students.
Along with about 2,600 incoming first-years, about 1,000 additional Loyola students were assigned this module last fall — including peer advisors and student leaders — according to Loyola’s Associate Director for First-Year Experience Kevin Clarke.
Despite these numbers, Clarke said not everyone has completed the module and that “it’s hard to say” how much progress each student made within the course.
“This is just the starting point for more meaningful conversation,” Clarke said in an interview with The Phoenix. “This is really a foundational piece for a lot more the university will or can do for diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The ARI is currently working on implementing a similar program for graduate students, according to ARI Chair Dr. Amy Nelson-Christensen.
Mental Health Support for BIPOC Students
Alongside the creation of more academic resources, Loyola is working to expand mental health services for BIPOC students.
Dr. Andrea Boyd, who has been working at the Wellness Center since 2014, took on a new position as Staff Counselor for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice initiatives in January 2020 — just two months before Loyola students were sent home due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Instead of working from the Wellness Center in Loyola’s Granada Center (6445 N. Sheridan Road) like most Wellness Center staff, Boyd said her office is located in the Damen Student Center (6511 N. Sheridan Road) just across the hall from the Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (SDMA) office.
Boyd said her position involves her working directly with BIPOC, LGBTQ and first-generation students — which are just some student identities that fall under the umbrella of SDMA, she explained. Boyd said she has also created workshops on topics such as mental health among student activists and race-related stress.
The Wellness Center has also worked to increase diversity and representation on its staff with the hiring of a Black-identifying counselor in summer 2020, according to Loyola’s Director of Counseling Dr. David deBoer. The Wellness Center also hired a new counselor this summer who will primarily work in the Sullivan Center (6339 N. Sheridan Road) to provide academic support for BIPOC students, he said.
“We are committed to continuing to work to become an anti-racist institution and to continue to promote anti-racism on our staff,” deBoer said. “We encourage students to continue to hold us accountable.”
What is the Institute for Racial Justice?
While the ARI and Wellness Center aim to create change directly within the university, the Institute for Racial Justice (IRJ) is more externally focused, said founding Dean Dr. Malik Henfield. Rather than creating on-campus programs, the IRJ is responsible for conducting research on racial justice and forming connections with racial justice-related organizations across Chicago, the nation and globally.