By Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU
Like many other institutions of higher education, Jesuit colleges and universities begin this new academic year facing challenges associated with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the national call for racial justice. In academia, the wounds of systemic racism are felt in the disproportionate numbers of students, faculty and staff of color on college campuses, and in the poverty experienced by many of those who live within and around our local communities. At some Jesuit colleges and universities, they are reflected in the historic records that document the sales of enslaved persons to help save their financial livelihood and prevent their closure in the 19th century. At others, they reflect an acceptance of laws and cultural assumptions in the Jim Crow era that continued to relegate African-Americans to second-class citizenship.
As educators and advocates, we have a responsibility to effect real, positive change on our campuses and in our communities: today, Jesuit institutions are learning from the past to address the challenges of the present and work toward a brighter future. This month’s issue of Connections highlights new initiatives at four Jesuit universities to combat racism, including Boston College’s establishment of the Forum on Racial Justice in America, and the development of a guide for Teaching Anti-Racism at Creighton University. You will find even more examples on our Racial Justice Resource page, which is updated regularly.
There is more work to be done, and we at AJCU are working closely with our Conferences and affinity groups to better understand the issues impacting our institutions, and to develop strategies to support our students, faculty, staff and alumni of color. You will learn more about those efforts in the months to come through our website and weekly e-newsletter, AJCU Higher Ed News. We welcome your suggestions as well: if there are areas where you see a need for improvement, please let us know by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of us at AJCU wish you a successful start to the new academic year, and good health for you and your loved ones.