Five out of the six staff members on our editorial board will be graduating Loyola in just a few short weeks. And as the year comes to close, another person is set to exit the university — Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney.
The five members of our editorial board who are graduating are also reaching another, more upsetting, milestone: during the entirety of their time at Loyola, and as student journalists on The Phoenix, Rooney has never accepted an invitation to an interview with us.
Now, we have to add an asterisk to our claim. Rooney did tell a sports editor who approached her at Arch Madness that she felt “bittersweet” about the team’s last run in the MVC tournament.
“Every year it gets more exciting,” she said. “As our team has continued to draw that excitement, you can just feel it here.”
And that’s it. That’s the only time Rooney has intentionally spoken to a Phoenix reporter, in-person or over the phone, in four years. There have been statements signed with her name, carefully crafted by university spokespeople, though even those have been few and far between.
The latest example of Rooney’s dismissal of student journalists came at the request of one of our news writers. As what is supposed to be Rooney’s last year as president comes to an end, the writer requested an exit interview.
A university spokesperson said an interview would be “premature.”
OK — how about a general interview about the year? No response to that request.
A few years ago, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) called Rooney “out of touch” after the English Language Learning program was dismantled.
It’s hard to argue otherwise when her interactions with the university community are so sparse and she refuses to face accountability to those she’s supposed to work for.
The entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, furloughs, five tuition increases, student protests demanding racial justice, students being arrested during protests, crime alert controversies, the university’s handling of sexual assault, concerns about her leadership, Loyola’s art museum shutdown, faculty buyouts, faculty health insurance, graduate student pay, a lawsuit, a lengthy provost search, a provost resignation and her own resignation: all topics The Phoenix has tried to talk to Rooney about and been denied.
We’re probably missing a few. The point is there are over a dozen topics that we believed deserved answers from the leader of our university and she ignored our requests every time.
Rooney’s leaving Loyola, but we aren’t letting her off the hook. Most of us might be graduating but our successors will follow up on requests for an exit interview — students still deserve these answers.
And someone will take Rooney’s place. Our hope is that the next president recognizes the importance of student journalism, one that isn’t afraid to answer tough questions and be held accountable as the leader of a university.