Over the past two years, a number of incidents across the country have prompted college students, faculty and administrators to address critical issues of racial tolerance and diversity on college campuses. But how do you bring about meaningful changes, ones that will truly make a difference in the lives of young college students in the 21st century?
This issue of Connections highlights ways that Jesuit colleges and universities are taking the lead: Saint Louis University President Dr. Fred P. Pestello was praised by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for his handling of Ferguson-related protests on campus in October 2014, and Loyola University Chicago opened an innovative community college for low-income students on campus last fall. These are just two examples of the many ways that our institutions demonstrate their commitment to the Jesuit ideal of pursuing justice for all.
We also invite you to read about the AJCU Conference on Diversity and Equity (CDE), which is profiled in this issue of Connections. One of the oldest AJCU Conferences, CDE will celebrate its 35th anniversary this year and host an annual meeting at Santa Clara University this summer. There is still plenty of time to register for the meeting, which will focus on the theme, “Mission Matters: Moving from Strong Words to Courageous Actions” (click here for more).
Finally, in this time of Lent, we invite you to reflect on themes of social and racial justice through the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s (ISN) online series, Lift Every Voice: A Lenten Journey Toward Racial Justice. You can also find inspiring quotes about faith and justice on ISN’s website, including one from former Jesuit Superior General Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. I end this letter with a remark of his that resonates so deeply today:
“To be just, it is not enough to refrain from injustice. One must go further and refuse to play its game, substituting love for self interest as the driving force of society.” – Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.
All the best,
Deanna I. Howes
Director of Communications, AJCU
By Cynthia A. Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU
The Last Obama Budget
President Barack Obama released his final budget for FY17 last week, totaling over $4 trillion. Education received an increase of $1.4 billion, along with the budget caps that were negotiated two years ago between former House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA). A number of policy suggestions are proposed for higher education, as well as an increase of $139.7 billion for grants, loans and the Federal Work Study program.
For Pell Grants, a request for $30.104 billion could help realize a Pell maximum award of $5,935 by using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to score the program. Pell Grant policy suggestions include bringing back year-round Pell Grants; an on-track Pell bonus of $300 per year for students who take 15 credit hours each semester; and a Second Chance Pell for incarcerated individuals who successfully transitioned out of prison.
Once again, the Administration supported campus-based aid programs, such as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work Study (FWS), by requesting level funding from FY16, and calling for a new proposal to make these programs available to institutions who enroll and graduate more Pell Grant students. The Administration continues to support the Perkins loan program by calling for an investment of $8.5 billion of loans annually as an unsubsidized Stafford Loan program. Only institutions that enroll and graduate more Pell Grant students would receive Perkins loans, according to the Administration’s proposal.
While these policy suggestions have to be legislated, they do suggest this Administration’s priorities for higher education. Increases are proposed for Title III institutional grant aid, while TRIO, GearUP and the graduate GAAN program are proposed to receive level funding from FY16. Of interest is a proposed College Opportunity and Graduation bonus to colleges and universities that enroll a significant number of low and middle-income students; this would cost $547 million.
Cuts are proposed for Title VI international programs, and the Teach Grant proposal to consolidate the program with the Teacher and Principal Pathways program, would have a budget of $125 million.
At this point, it is unknown whether there will be a budget at all in Congress. Senate Budget Chairman Michael Enzi (R-WY) expressed doubt on moving forward and House Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) has not backed down on completing a budget. What we do know is that President Obama has supported higher education student aid programs over the seven years he has presented a budget to Congress. This has always sent a message to folks on the Hill of the importance of these vital programs.
Is There a Chance For Free-Tuition Proposals to be Adopted?
In political election years, it is not uncommon to hear suggestions for grandiose plans on student aid and tuition. In the FY17 budget, President Obama has suggested free tuition for students who attend a community college for two years, then later attend a minority serving institution such as an HBCU or HSI (historically black colleges and universities or Hispanic-serving institutions). The proposed cost of roughly $61 billion would be spread out over ten years.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has suggested that free college tuition for all public institutions, both two-year and four year, be paid for by increasing taxes for the wealthiest individuals. The other Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has a more pragmatic proposal of making sure that students have a debt-free tuition. Republican front-runners Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) have yet to propose a higher education policy.
The bottom line, however, is in this current political composition of a Republican-controlled Congress, is it possible that a free-tuition proposal could generate some support? It seems improbable, given the high cost to implement such a program. Yet, should one of the Chambers turn over to the Democrats, there might be a better chance, assuming the Presidency was won by a Democrat, not a Republican.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
AJCU remembers the dynamic career and life of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died this past weekend. Justice Scalia was Jesuit educated as a graduate of both Xavier High School and Georgetown University. He had a stellar career in the Supreme Court for over thirty years and became known as a definitive conservative Justice as well as the longest serving member on this current court. We extend our condolences to his family and will remember him as one of our esteemed Justices who served his country well.
By Patrick Nolan, Executive Assistant to the President, AJCU
On October 18, 2014, Saint Louis University’s newly inaugurated president, Dr. Fred P. Pestello, reached a thirteen-point agreement, later dubbed the Clock Tower Accords, with protesters on the processes for enhancing racial equity on the University’s campus. This event brought a six-day occupation to an end and was seen in higher education circles as a rare type of win-win for a university and its city. In the following interview, Dr. Pestello gives a first-person account of the events and explains how principled decision-making, guided by the values of the Society of Jesus, transformed an occupation into an opportunity for the institution’s community to flourish.
Patrick Nolan: Starting from the beginning, how did this all play out?
Fred Pestello: I began my work at Saint Louis University (SLU) on July 1, 2014, and in the course of learning the ropes came to understand there had been “bias-related incidents” the spring before. There were tensions on campus on the matter of race, as there were in the local community. Nonetheless, this wasn’t something I was able to address during my first weeks on the job. Things changed, in St. Louis and on campus, shortly after I arrived. On August 9th, Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in nearby Ferguson, Missouri. And suddenly years of pent-up frustration and anger about racial injustice and economic inequity in the region boiled over.
On Sunday, October 12, the University was set to host an inter-faith service on our campus. It was to be part of the Ferguson October Weekend activities that were occurring throughout the region — three days of reflection and activism on the issues raised by the Michael Brown shooting.
But days before the service, on October 8, VonDerrit “Drew” Myers Jr., the son of one of our long-term and beloved employees, was killed during a confrontation with a Saint Louis City police officer. It was this event that more powerfully focused our campus on the concerns and tensions that were pervasive throughout the region.
I learned about Drew’s death in the early morning of Thursday, October 9. He was shot less than a mile from SLU’s Medical Center, and protests were now on our doorstep. After the shooting of Drew Myers and the protests it spawned, we grew concerned about the inter-faith service. Following prolonged discussion and consultation, we decided to proceed with the program. Some of our stakeholders were opposed to that decision—not an easy one for a new president.
The weekend went as planned until Sunday night’s service, when the national president of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks, began to speak. The younger generation in the audience grew agitated because they don’t see the NAACP as representing their concerns and interests. Still, the organizers wrapped it up peacefully, and afterwards I met with about two dozen black ministers who were in turn dismayed at the younger generation’s reactions and worried that the movement was distancing itself from their faith-based organizations. I arrived home by midnight and went to bed relieved that the evening ended without an incident.
At 1:30 a.m. that morning, I received a call from the head of our public safety department, Jim Moran. I immediately recognized his voice and the seriousness it conveyed. Jim said that I had only a few minutes to make a decision. A large, peaceful march was coming up Grand Boulevard — originating at demonstrations near where Drew was killed — and he was pretty sure the group was going to try to turn onto the campus. He estimated at least 1,000 protesters and asked me if police should try to stop them or let them on campus. After soliciting Jim’s analysis and that of his counterparts on the St. Louis Police Department, I decided that we would meet peace with peace. We allowed them on to the campus, and VonDerrit Myers Sr. was among many who spoke to the protesters that night.
Over time, the rally ended and most left quietly. By morning, however, it was clear that a couple dozen of them — some our students, some not — were going to stay and set up camp at our clock tower. They got on social media and announced the start of OccupySLU. Food, water, tents, blankets, and other items began to arrive from sympathizers supporting the effort. At the same time, angry calls and e-mails immediately began to pour in from parents and others demanding a swift end to encampment.
We were worried too. An encampment could disrupt our campus for weeks to come. During our internal discussions, concerns surfaced about student withdrawals, and hits to fundraising and future enrollments. But we soon realized that our impulsive leap to the worst case wasn’t who we were. We reflected upon our mission and our values and agreed that they alone must guide our actions. That was a turning point. In the midst of great pressure and lots of noise, we paused and reflected on what we are all about and how that determines our path forward. We asked “What do we stand for?” We started imagining what Christ would do in this situation. Or Saint Ignatius. Or Pope Francis.
The angry calls and emails continued to come in nonstop. We were able to engage some of those who were upset and got them to understand how we were approaching the encampment and why. We were able to make them understand that no property was being damaged and no one was being hurt. A live video stream of the clock tower encampment also helped alleviate concerns. Others were not interested in hearing anything we had to say. We tried listening to them too, although it was difficult with some whose concerns were so strongly grounded in hatred. There was immense pressure on us to end the occupation, but we decided to actively engage the occupiers and work toward a voluntary end of their encampment.
During the first evening, the protesters hosted a teach-in attended by more than 500 students along with Jesuits, faculty members, staff and community members. These early days were difficult because we couldn’t identify what the protesters wanted, who was leading them, or how we could effectively communicate with them. Making matters worse, some protesters were desecrating the American flag.
Social media heated up — on both sides of the issue. Some were threatening to come in to aggressively confront the protesters, while others were promising to come in and show them how to “do it right.” Against intense external pressure, we decided that as long as no property was being damaged and no one was hurt, we would persist in trying to engage the demonstrators.
Thanks to [African-American Studies professor] Dr. Stefan Bradley, on the fourth day of the occupation, we were able to arrange a meeting with two of our students at the center of the protest along with a few other significant individuals, particularly local community organizer Romona Taylor Williams. We began the conversations that quickly created what we came to call the Clock Tower Accords — the agreement that quietly, peacefully and permanently ended the encampment and began our ongoing engagement with the issues at its heart.
PN: There is a recurring inter-generational theme comparing Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. What do you see as a difference between then and now?
FP: The big difference is social media — no question about it. It takes on a life of its own. Information, true or not, spreads quickly. Reaction time is immediate. Mobilization is swift. It must be monitored. One must do the best they can to share the facts, quell misinformation, soften hatred and drive to a positive outcome.
PN: You have studied racism as a sociologist and have now consulted with a range of civil rights activists, public safety experts, and religious leaders. Which individuals or tactics have been useful?
FP: I’ve learned that you have to actively listen, sincerely try to understand what is at the center of the hurt, and then authentically respond to it.
We’ve hired a Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Community Engagement, Dr. Jonathan Smith, who has continued the direction we began in the midst of the crisis. He continues to push us to speak and act not from places of fear but instead with an open heart. This has made a big difference to our internal community and to those at the center of the discontent. I am also indebted for the strong support of the St. Louis Archbishop, the local Jesuit Provincial and the SLU Jesuit community, all of whom issued clear and firm statements of support for the path SLU took in dealing with the occupation. As the University’s first layman in this job, their continued vote of confidence has meant a great deal to me. It also helped to have the local media understand and support what we did. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Business Journal published editorials endorsing our actions. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent us a letter praising our handling of the encampment, and other institutions have looked to us for guidance.
I’ve also learned a lot from our students, faculty, staff, and alumni that this has been an opportunity for making SLU stronger and a better Jesuit university. People are having conversations now that weren’t taking place on the campus before. Sometimes these are difficult conversations. At the end of the year, when I met with groups of seniors to talk about their experiences at SLU, several of them said that the clock tower encampment was the single most important learning experience they had at SLU. They talked about how the topic spread from the classroom to the dorm room and to the dinner table back home. It was inspiring to see just how impactful and transformative what took place was for many of our students.
PN: Not everyone agreed with what you were doing, not the protesters and sometimes not even members of your own community. How did you speak authentically to such different groups? How did you leverage the support from those that did agree with you?
FP: We communicated frequently, but with a lot of thought and refection. For those who didn’t agree with us, we tried to listen to them and understand them and explain our thinking and actions. The messages we gave were the same to all groups: we’re living our values, and above all, that is what we are called to do. You might not agree with our approach, but we believe that’s what our Ignatian mission compels us to do. Internally, there was tremendous support. Not 100 percent, but close. The split on what we did was external — some applauded us, others were extremely displeased with our path.
How we handled the occupation brought the community together under a new president in a way that would have been unlikely without a crisis of this magnitude. Support from the faculty, staff, and student body was overwhelming. Every faculty assembly from every school and college wrote a letter of support for the path we followed. The University faculty senate wrote a unanimous letter of support. Students made a video called “I Stand with Pestello.” Staff groups also wrote in support of our approach. Those statements and others reinforced our method of making strong decisions on the basis of Jesuit values.
PN: What has been uniquely Jesuit about this experience?
FP: When we were defining the values on which to base these decisions, we started with the concept of Cura Personalis and the ideal of forming men and women for others. We talked about the faith that does justice. In practice, we re-examined what it is we find at the heart of this institutional charism, and we asked what it means for how we are called to respond to and engage with protesters. How do we affirm them, and ourselves, as being created in the image and likeness of God? How do we see God in them? This was no light challenge. Some of the protesters were not our students. Some were pretty angry. We tried to be compassionate and in the end, that’s why we were so quickly able to trust each other.
PN: What are the concrete outcomes, particularly relating to access, that you are most proud of?
FP: I’m pleased that we haven’t come out of this and said, “OK, that’s over, we’re moving onto the next thing.” Largely through the leadership of Dr. Smith, along of that of many others, we now meet regularly in what we call the Access and Success Group. We continue to monitor progress with the Clock Tower Accords. We’ve drawn more people into the conversations. Dozens now serve on the Access and Success Group subcommittee. We have regular reports back to the Saint Louis University community on our progress. While it is good to have so many involved, progress is slowed by the length and breadth of academic conversations. I feel that pressure of balancing inclusion and thoughtful deliberation against swift and meaningful action. This has become a tension with which we are now struggling.
We are having important conversations on difficult topics — conversations that an institution like ours should have, must have. We are also more engaged in the serious challenges of our time — racism, injustice, poverty, and violence. I am proud of how our faculty, staff and students have taken our values and turned crisis and conflict into an opportunity for growth and the promotion of justice.
By William Johnson, Associate Dean of Students, Fairfield University
The AJCU Conference on Diversity and Equity (CDE) has experienced a number of changes throughout its 35-year history. As one of the older AJCU Conferences, CDE has been a voice for diversity, multiculturalism, access, and inclusion within the AJCU network since 1981, when it was founded as the Conference on Multicultural Affairs (CMA). From its beginnings, our students have been the central element inspiring the work of the Conference. Concerned administrators and faculty members have gathered annually to discuss institutional policies and practices that affect students, faculty, and staff of color; LGBTQ students and professionals; and other minorities. Through CDE, they share their own journeys and experiences working on Jesuit college and university campuses.
Sababu Norris, director of the ALANA Student Center at Canisius University, is a long-time participant in the Conference and has held multiple leadership positions over the years. He says, “Offering valuable support to students and colleagues, CDE creates, educates, and as a bonus, invigorates its membership. CDE provides an impressive network of experienced and accessible leaders.”
Individuals from all areas of our campus communities are encouraged to participate in the activities of CDE, thus allowing participants to engage in discussion on a broad-range of issues and topics effecting Jesuit colleges and universities. CDE participants include, but are not limited to, representatives from faculty, academic affairs, multicultural affairs (including LGBT and women’s centers), student support services, residence life and admissions.
DJ Todd is the coordinator of the Marquette University Urban Scholars Program, and also serves as the CDE Vice Chair and Interim Parliamentarian. He says, “Being [together] with faculty and student affairs professionals at the table makes this an exciting place to be. There are rare concrete examples where faculty and student affairs professionals genuinely come together with the pure intent on understanding all facets of our scholars’ lives. CDE is cura personalis in action.”
Many CDE participants were present at last summer’s JASPA (Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators) Five Year Institute at the University of San Francisco. In lieu of the Conference’s traditional annual meeting, those involved with CDE were able to gather for a general meeting, introduce those professionals new to the Jesuit network to CDE, as well as contribute to the robust offering of programs offered through the Institute.
As a result of CDE’s work over the years, those engaged with the Conference have had the opportunity to develop and share best practices on the issues related to diversity and equity that are of the utmost concern to members of our campus communities. The Conference has also worked to provide scholarships to students from Jesuit colleges and universities. The Bill Davis Scholarship is awarded each year in honor of the late Bill Davis, director of Upward Bound at Loyola University Chicago from 1969 to 1990, and one of the founding members of the Conference. The Scholarship commemorates his commitment to education and motivating young students of color. The Scholarship is available to students from all 28 Jesuit colleges and universities. Information regarding the Bill Davis Scholarship is disseminated to students by each CDE campus representative.
2016 CDE Conference at Santa Clara University
The CDE annual meeting has proven to be a starting point of conversation for many of our campus leaders. Todd says, “I really connected with young professionals across the network [and] saw it as a place where my voice could be heard and [I could] gain valuable leadership experience within the Jesuit network.”
This summer, CDE will celebrate its 35th anniversary when representatives from across the Association gather for its annual meeting on the campus of Santa Clara University from June 19th through 22nd. This year’s conference theme, “Mission Matters: Moving from Strong Words to Courageous Actions,” evolved from conversations about the national dialogue that has been taking place on our campuses as a result of incidents at Ferguson, MO, Yale University and the University of Missouri – Columbia, among other places, over the past few years. Raymond Plaza, Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Santa Clara says, “We are honored to serve as host of CDE 2016 and look forward to engaging our colleagues in this critical dialogue about the important diversity and social justice work that is taking place on our respective campuses.”
For more details on the annual meeting, including online submission forms for session proposals, please click here. Note: The deadline to submit a session proposal is March 1st.
By Evangelia Stefanakos, Writer, College Marketing and Communications, College of the Holy Cross
The holiday season provides an opportunity for colleges and universities to raise awareness of hunger and homelessness across the country through campus food drives and donations. Last fall, the College of the Holy Cross went a step further by offering a unique alternative program to address awareness of poverty.
During the fall semester, the College’s Office of Multicultural Education gave Holy Cross students, faculty and staff the opportunity to learn about poverty through the first-person experience of a poverty simulation. The program, developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action, is the only one of its kind being used by a college in Central Massachusetts.
“The simulation is a wonderful way to move our community toward thinking about ways we can begin to address some of the root causes of poverty, hunger, and homelessness in our society,” says Robert Jones, associate director of multicultural education, who is spearheading this initiative at Holy Cross.
Thus far, two separate simulations (in October and November) have been conducted on campus, with a total of 66 student, faculty and staff participants role-playing the lives of individuals living near or below the poverty line. The simulations were open to the entire College community and all were encouraged to participate.
In each simulation, participants were divided into ten different family units, ranging from individual elderly caring for themselves to families of as many as five or six, with each member facing unique challenges. After participants received their roles with a specific scenario, they role-played through four 20-minute “weeks” facilitated by student and faculty volunteers, where they were faced with real-world problems (money, transportation, child care, etc.) that they had to resolve with the resources allotted to them. They were also given “luck of the draw” scenarios that introduced either a new problem or a possible solution into their lives, such as “found $20,” “your car broke down,” or “your child is sick.” Faculty and staff volunteers were part of the community by playing such roles as law enforcement officials, grocery store clerks, job placement agency staff, bankers and child care providers.
“In 90 minutes, the participants went through the stress and turmoil that people in those conditions experience on a day-to-day basis,” says Jones.
Participant Mia Yee ’19 says that while the simulation began with a sense of optimism, with the idea that the solution was as easy as budgeting, the mood in the room quickly shifted as the expected—and unexpected—trials of each week began to build on one another. “The tensions in the simulation room were palpable,” explains Yee.
“I came into the simulation thinking that I probably would have a better chance getting through it than others,” Yee continues. “My family has known economic hardship, and I have known many other families who had even more economic stress on them, and have seen how they managed. But I was an 85 year old woman in the simulation, widowed, with only social security as my income. By the end of the simulation, I had pawned off all of my possessions in order to get through the expenses of a single month.”
Gregory Chin ’18, who was assigned the role of a delinquent arrested during the simulation, had a similarly potent experience. “I got to see firsthand what it feels like to be helpless, to understand that there were many things I could not control, and watched as my loved ones suffered because of my mistake.”
Chin also credits the simulation with expanding his understanding of poverty beyond simply studying the statistics of those who are marginalized. “A lot of times here at Holy Cross, we hear the phrase ‘men and women for and with others,’ but what does it mean to be an ‘other’?” he says. “True learning means putting yourself in another’s shoes and discovering that the life of another is just as important as your own.”
For Jones, this is exactly the kind of influence he hoped the simulation would have. “The simulation is not the be-all and end-all, but it can be transformational,” he says, explaining that the experience not only builds empathy, but can also inspire participants to move beyond volunteering and direct service toward influencing change on a larger scale through, for example, legislation, policies and procedures. Jones explains that the simulation can act as a catalyst for moving in this direction, in tandem with existing efforts on campus, such as the work of the Donelan Office for Community-Based Learning through which students have the opportunity to connect academic learning with civic engagement.
Jones hopes to institutionalize the simulation, integrating it into different parts of campus life, including the College’s first-year Montserrat seminar program, student leadership training, and professional development for faculty and staff. He also plans to bring the simulation to other local area colleges, furthering its use in the region.
“I hope participants gain a better understanding of the poverty and challenges we face in our country through this simulation,” says Jones. “I hope they begin to question how and why we are in the state we are in, and are propelled to ask more and do more to eliminate the root causes of the challenges faced daily by those living in poverty.”
By Drew Sottardi, Senior Editor, Loyola University Chicago
As one of the largest Jesuit universities in the country—located in one of the largest cities in America—Loyola University Chicago is committed to the ideal of “a diverse community seeking God in all things.”
That mission is never far from sight. Within the past few months, the University has implemented several key initiatives specifically focused on recruiting and retaining more minority students. Loyola recently introduced Plan 2020, a new five-year strategic plan that lays out the University’s priorities over the next half decade. The first priority is to improve access and graduation rates for underserved students—a goal that Loyola is actively focused on with the start of Arrupe College.
Arrupe opened its doors in August 2015 to 159 low-income students who couldn’t afford to attend a traditional four-year university. The Arrupe mission started with a small budget and a big dream: to help students earn an associate’s degree and graduate with little or no debt.
Thanks to a committed faculty and staff—as well as a group of carefully selected and motivated students—the school is off to a successful start.
Of the 159 students in the inaugural class, 146 students remain enrolled—with the vast majority of those students on track to complete their associate’s degrees in two years. Interest in Arrupe is spreading quickly across Chicago: The college has already surpassed the final number of applications from last year by 34 percent.
Students at Arrupe, which offers associate’s degrees in three concentrations, have small class sizes and significant one-on-one time with faculty members. They also receive financial aid support through various sources and get help finding a part-time job. And, most importantly, they are part of a small community that provides the full range of resources needed to succeed in school.
“We want our students at Arrupe College to fall in love with the idea of being college students, of being academically successful in a rigorous Jesuit college environment,” says Rev. Stephen Katsouros, S.J., dean and executive director of Arrupe College. “We want them to embrace the idea that they can do this, that they can be successful at the corner of Pearson and State—and beyond.”
One such student who is studying—and succeeding—at Arrupe is Blanca Rodriguez.
The oldest child of Mexican immigrants, Rodriguez has dreamed of going to college since she was in seventh grade. But in high school, she realized that a four-year university would be financially out of reach for her and her family. Then she discovered Arrupe.
“I’ve always prayed to go to a good school and to have a good education,” she says. “This school was an obvious sign that God listens to my prayers.”
Other Initiatives at Loyola
Loyola assesses and reports on diversity each year. The latest “Annual Report on Diversity” was issued in February 2016 and affirms that various University efforts are working to increase diversity on campus. The latest report shows a record number of new African-American students and an increase in retention and graduation rates for this population. In total, minorities now make up more than 38 percent of the undergraduate student population.
Over the past several years, Loyola has also increased diversity among its faculty, and today nearly 16 percent of all faculty members are minorities. That said, there is much work ahead as it relates to increasing this percentage and attracting a diverse student body.
Below are examples of other steps Loyola is taking to increase diversity on its campus:
Recruit More Minority Students
In its continued commitment to increase diversity, Loyola’s Undergraduate Admission Office participated in more than 70 events last fall at Chicago high schools that have large populations of students of color. This spring, the office is hosting a multicultural overnight program and is launching a peer-to-peer program for admitted students to connect with current students of color.
Increase Financial Aid Packages
The University’s Office of Financial Aid is working to develop more merit and grant awards to attract a diverse student body. Loyola recently revised its award processes, which enabled the University to enroll the most ethnically and racially diverse class in its history. Last fall, 42 percent of incoming freshmen identified as students of color, and the African-American student population increased by 47 percent this academic year.
Welcome Undocumented Students
In December, the University’s Board of Trustees approved the Magis Scholarship Fund, a student-led initiative to add an individual $2.50 student fee each semester—and raise roughly $50,000 each year for undocumented students. In the fall, the University awarded five full scholarships to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students. The scholarships, which will be renamed Magis Scholarships to honor the student-led effort, are renewable for three additional years.
Improve Retention Rates
Programs such as Achieving College Excellence (ACE) and the Men and Women of Color initiatives have helped increase Loyola’s student retention rates to 86 percent of freshmen and 87 percent of African-American students. The University plans to expand its mentoring programs and focus on additional opportunities to help minority students succeed.
Conduct a Climate Survey
Winifred Williams, Ph.D., Loyola’s vice president of human resources and chief diversity and inclusion officer, has created an Executive Council on Diversity and Inclusion. The Council includes administrative, academic, Jesuit, and student leaders, and its initial goals include developing a diversity statement for the University and conducting a campus climate survey of all students this year.
Support Student Research
The McNair Scholars Program at Loyola helps students interested in conducting research or earning an advanced degree. The program—designed for first-generation college students or others who are underrepresented in graduate education—provides mentorship, academic support, and research opportunities with the ultimate goal of helping students earn a doctoral degree.
By Joe DiGiovanni, Senior Communication Specialist, Marquette University
Jazz encompasses a wide range of music, from ragtime to 1970s jazz-rock fusion. There’s bebop, swing, Latin and cool. Different styles of beautiful music, all covered under the ample umbrella known as jazz.
It’s one of Dr. William Welburn’s passions. He listens to all of it.
“Living and breathing jazz is something I love,” Welburn says. “I’ve never been a musician, but I follow it and love it and can’t resist a good bin of records to look through.”
Welburn knows all about varieties in jazz, but he also knows about differences in people. He is the executive director of Marquette University’s Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, and understands that — just like jazz — there are many differences in the students, staff and faculty on campus. He respects that each individual is unique and — like Louis Armstrong or Billie Holiday — can create beautiful music in his or her own way.
Welburn is responsible for developing and implementing strategies to foster diversity and inclusion. He assists Marquette’s Provost, Dr. Daniel Myers, in creating strategic initiatives for diversifying faculty and academic administrative positions.
“We have to see ourselves as living up to the mission of our institution and our creative environment,” Welburn says. “It’s not just that everyone is welcomed, but everyone must be respected and valued. We embrace each other. That’s how we ensure a really good quality educational experience.”
It’s important for students to learn about changes in society for many reasons, including social mobility. Marquette is embracing these demographic changes.
“The companies our students are going to work with are likely transnational,” Welburn says. “It is likely you are going to sit in a room and virtually chat with people at your company who are located in China or Brazil or India or sub-Saharan Africa. That’s the way work is going, so having a cross-cultural awareness is really very important for all of our students as they move into the working world or consider the service they might engage in.”
‘An Incurable Crate Digger’
Welburn came to Marquette in 2009 from the University of Illinois, where he was the associate dean for the graduate college. He also taught for three years at the University of Arizona and was an assistant dean in the graduate college at the University of Iowa. He worked on diversity issues at Iowa and Illinois, and received two teaching awards at Arizona primarily for his work with leading a program to teach diverse students.
Welburn sees opportunities working at an institution like Marquette. “One of the advantages we have is being a Catholic, Jesuit university,” he says. “Human dignity is fundamental to our mission. We have that idea of going out into the world and working in ways to improve things.”
Welburn taught an honors freshman seminar this fall titled Jazz in American Culture that studied autobiographies of three jazz greats: Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Randy Weston. A close reading of the autobiographies can help students learn lessons about diversity and inclusion.
“There’s the whole idea of spirituality in jazz musicians,” he says. “One doesn’t think of Billie Holiday being spiritual, but she was a Catholic. As a Catholic, with all the things she did in her life, and some of them were pretty wild and unsavory, there’s a fundamental goodness about her.”
Engineer of New Ideas
Welburn wants to bring cohesion to the diversity and inclusion efforts already on campus, and hopes to partner with Marquette community members to facilitate new initiatives as an “engineer of new ideas.”
“It might be something as simple as a lecture or a lecture series; it might be something as amazing as writing a grant proposal to start a new program or a new initiative,” he says. “That’s where I see this office as having a dual function of facilitating new ideas and bringing cohesion.”
Welburn is a member of the University Leadership Council, co-chairs the President’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, and chairs the Diversity Advisory Committee. He continues to provide leadership for the Campus Climate Study Initiative, co-chairs the Committee on the Recruitment and Retention of Native American and Other Underrepresented Minority Students, and serves as an ex officio member of the University Academic Senate Committee on Equity and Diversity.
Welburn wants to promote more diversity among faculty. He would also like to expand the University’s Ralph H. Metcalfe Chair Program for minority scholars, and is helping with a Latino health initiative being developed by Dr. Lucas Torres, an associate professor of psychology, and Dr. Lisa Edwards, an associate professor in counselor education and counseling psychology.
Some of Welburn’s long-term goals include enriching scholarship and learning opportunities for students, especially in areas of scholarship that have grown in recent years. He would also like to get faculty more directly involved in work in his office.
“I’m all about coming up with innovative ideas and genuine innovations,” he says. “We have great people with great ideas. They just need someone to come in and help make it happen. I’ve done that informally and I’d like to do it more systematically.”
New Initiatives at Marquette
Marquette is experiencing exciting momentum around issues of diversity and inclusion. In addition to Welburn leading the new office, a campus climate study was completed in Fall 2015 and a new LGBTQ Resource Center and Center for Gender and Sexualities Studies were developed.
- Last fall, the inaugural Faculty and Staff Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion Awards were announced with winners named this spring.
- New resident assistant and student diversity training programs were implemented.
- Marquette joined the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity.
- A new Committee for Recruiting and Retaining Native American Students was formed.
- New course development grants will be offered for the Center for Gender and Sexualities Studies.
- The Office of Institutional Diversity will launch a faculty fellows program.
- A campus-wide forum replacing the First-year Reading Program will begin in the 2016-17 academic year.
- An associate director position will be created for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. This person will be responsible for Hispanic student recruitment and community engagement.
By Deborah Lohse, Assistant Director of Media Relations, Santa Clara University
Aldo Billingslea is the associate provost for diversity and inclusion at Santa Clara University, a position he has held since June 2013. His primary focus is to work closely with members of the University community to enhance the recruitment, retention and success of students, staff and faculty from underrepresented groups. He is also charged with working collaboratively alongside leaders from various campus units (e.g. academic deans and staff from the Offices of Undergraduate Admission, Multicultural Learning, Title IX and Human Resources) to promote an inclusive climate through curricular, co-curricular and extracurricular programs.
In early 2016, he sat down for a question-and-answer session, which has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: What brought you, with your background as a theatre professor, to this position?
A: The way this position was initially drafted, it was pretty demanding because it encompassed a lot. We wanted someone who could deal with data and the metrics of diversity, someone who could do external grant applications, someone with teaching experience, who could process and collect data, with a terminal degree, and who had achieved tenure and been promoted to full professor.
When I saw all the elements and requirements for data, I thought, “No, that’s not a position for me.” But then they split the position in two: one a director for the office and then an associate provost. In that director position, we now have Raymond Plaza. He’s the researcher and data guy, and has been extremely successful.
Q: So they made it work?
A: Yes. In some regards, it was a great exercise for what this office does. As we work with faculty on best approaches in developing a diverse array of candidates for a search, one question to ask is: Can you separate your wants from your needs for the position? What is it that you need the position to have? What’s the requirement versus the preference?
Q: Why were you interested in this job?
A: I first came in to Santa Clara as a target-of-opportunity hire in the department of theatre and dance, and [had] worked with previous deans in arts and sciences to meet potential hires. So I partly moved into the job because it’s stuff that I would do anyway. I partly moved into the job because creating the position is a great step forward for the institution, and I wanted to affirm that step and see the institution move forward from that point. I think this is a great starting point.
Q: What are the objectives of your office?
A. We want our recruitment of students, staff and faculty to be more representative of the diversity in [both] the Bay Area of California and the United States. So we want to take a close look at faculty—what kind of diversity do we have—or staff, and break it down in the same way: hourly versus salary, versus administrative, versus executive administrative, and really look at what kind of diversity we have there.
The other measurable is to figure out how inclusive is the environment. So on one hand you may have diversity, but if it’s a “sixth-grade” level of diversity where all the boys stay over here and all the girls stay over there, that’s not so great. So if we start to just silo up that way, we’re not getting the benefit of having diversity because those individuals aren’t interacting and those perspectives aren’t enhancing the way that we work, the way that we learn.
Q: What new thinking is required?
A: Sometimes we have to broaden our thoughts and our approach to new perspectives. When a new faculty member comes in, for example, and brings their new perspective, if we just say, “Great—Thank you for your new perspective, but we’re only going to look at things in the same old, old way,” that’s an issue. We can reflect on it and consider how we might allow space for new voices. We can acknowledge that a new idea has value, even if it doesn’t fit our traditional paradigm.
Martin Luther King, Jr. says that it’s one thing to be the good Samaritan and to offer some assistance to the person who has been devastated by violence on the Jericho road. It’s another to realize the problem is the Jericho road, and that’s what you need to address. That’s a more systematic thing. That’s the other part of what we’re doing in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, to try to provide the structures that are needed long-term so that you’re not just addressing those individual situations, but you’re offering some long-term structure to try to move things forward.
Q: What else?
A: Retention is so important. Making sure the people we have here feel they are appreciated where they are. We’ll go back to my background as an actor and an acting teacher. If I’m teaching my students how to take on a character, the first question to ask about that character to figure out who they are is: What do they want? Then, what’s in the way of what they want? What obstacle? Third, what do they do to overcome the obstacle to get what they want? Actions and desires really say a lot about who a person is.
When people enter the academy, almost across the board, if they’re intelligent enough to do this work, they’ve got other options. Most people want to make a difference: that is the objective, not just making oodles of money. My colleagues realized the things that are important to me, the things that I wanted, and my colleagues helped retain me by making little choices along the way, such as asking “What plays do you want to do?” I wanted to do an August Wilson, but we didn’t have enough African-American students to do an August Wilson. They said “Take a look at this play by Lorraine Hansberry. Is that something that you could do?” They cared enough to figure out what I valued and how my values line up with the institution’s values and the mission for the department.
Q: Why is this role important especially now?
A: Everybody in the country, every school in the country, now more than ever in the history of the academy, realizes that the demographics have to change. The complexion of the universities in the United States has got to change. The Black Lives Matter movement has moved the needle. When a university protest will unseat a president and will have administrators tendering their resignations or trustees demanding that employees tender their resignation, the game has changed.
Schools have raised the value of having faculty of color, meaning Asian and Black, Latino, Native American, Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander, all those groups are people of color. Also gender diversity, particularly in the sciences: Who’s teaching those classes? Do you have females that are up in engineering and in physics? It’s really important. Can I see myself in that field? Those questions are just being asked now, they are on blast!
People are looking at demographics as a sign of how successful your university is. Who wants to be there? Who wants to attend there? Who wants to work there? What kind of education can I get there? Because people know that perspective is important.