Eyes to See: An Anti-Racism Examen

The Examination of Consciousness — or Examen— is among the anchors of the spiritual life for Jesuits and all people who find a path to God through Ignatian spirituality. It is a reflective practice for helping us to make choices and act in ways that better the world.

Using the Examen in a University Setting

The practice of the Examen is as applicable to colleges and universities as it is to individuals. This Anti-Racism Examen further focuses on matters of race and racism that are specific to those of us at Jesuit colleges and universities.

Former Jesuit Superior General, Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J., called upon Jesuit higher education to help students let the “gritty reality of this world into their lives, so they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering, and engage in it constructively.” We are compelled to face the gritty reality of racism within and outside of our schools, in order to transform them—and to be transformed ourselves.

Linking the Personal and the Institutional

Many Jesuit colleges and universities have conducted campus Examens on racism, particularly in the days following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020. We have learned from, but do not wish to replicate, those experiences. Rather, the Anti-Racism Examen has been designed to strengthen the link between personal reflection and institutional action. We hope that you will find it to be a flexible, shared experience among all AJCU institutions.

Key Elements

The Anti-Racism Examen can be used in groups of any size with senior leadership teams, boards of trustees, academic and operational departments, and others who share common work at Jesuit colleges and universities. It is rooted more in questions than answers, and it links individual reflection to the path of institutional growth.

The Examen experience is organized into three parts:

Part I: Composition of Place Video

This video sets a tone of candor for the group’s reflection and discussion. Through the voices of colleagues, trustees and students across the AJCU network, it brings the racial reality of Jesuit colleges and universities into view. The Spiritual Exercises refer to this kind of context-setting as a “Composition of Place.”

Part II: Guided Examen

The Anti-Racism Examen may be done in one, two or three sessions. A Leader’s Guide (in PDF format) provides those who lead the experience with a structure that can be adapted according to the needs of the group. Leaders may also use the Eyes to See Supplemental Materials page for links to videos, articles and music tracks that may help bring the Examen experience to life.

Part III: Resources for discussion and planning

The third part of the Examen consists of two documents that may be used for ongoing discussion and planning:

  • The AJCU Racial Justice Resource Page is an online repository featuring successful initiatives in anti-racism education at Jesuit colleges and universities.
  • Ideas for an Anti-Racist Future consists of recommendations from colleagues across the AJCU network for programs and initiatives that could be explored in the future.

These documents are designed to spark creativity among participants in the Anti-Racism Examen as they think about how they will work toward creating a more racially just campus and world. They are updated regularly; we welcome your recommendations and suggestions.

For more information on the AJCU Anti-Racism Examen or to provide feedback on your school’s experience of using it, please email: mission@ajcunet.edu.