By Deanna Howes Spiro, Director of Communications, AJCU

Welcome back to Connections! We are kicking off the new year with an issue highlighting student activism on Jesuit campuses. From inside the classroom to out in their communities, students are learning how to become advocates for the social issues of our day. This issue will feature two of our schools, as well as updates from the Jesuit Student Government Alliance and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

This issue also features the first government relations report from our new director of government relations, Jenny Smulson. Jenny joined us in June and has taken on the ambitious task of representing the needs of our nation’s 27 Jesuit colleges and universities to the Federal government and U.S. Department of Education. A proud graduate of Georgetown University, Jenny is deeply committed to the mission of Jesuit higher education, and we are blessed by her energy, enthusiasm and dedication to helping others.

Over the next few months, a number of AJCU Conferences and affinity groups will be holding their annual meetings on our campuses; you will find a full calendar in this issue of Connections, along with a calendar featuring events for Jesuit-educated alumni and friends across the country. As always, please feel free to submit your events to me by writing to

We hope that your fall semester is off to a great start, and look forward to keeping you informed of the latest news from Jesuit colleges and universities!

By Lynn Griffith, Senior Director of University Communication, Marquette University

Students gather in protest outside O’Hara Hall in 1969 (photo by Marquette University)

Students gather in protest outside O’Hara Hall in 1969 (photo by Marquette University)

In his 1967 “Interracial Apostolate,” Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, wrote: “The racial crisis involves, before all else, a direct challenge to our sincerity in professing a Christian concept of man. Upon our response and that of like-minded men to this challenge will depend the extent to which the solution of the crisis will bear a Christian character. And this in turn will determine whether the crisis will develop into a great human achievement or a great human failure.”

In the years to come, Jesuit colleges and universities across the country would heed this call, each in their own way. But for Marquette University, it started in the early 1960s.

When the neighborhoods near Marquette’s campus in Milwaukee grew more racially diverse, the faculty and student community began to examine the University’s actions and policies. Mirroring what was happening with Civil Rights protests in the South, students and faculty organized marches on campus, with 700 students and faculty gathering in front of a residence hall in March 1964 on their way to join marchers from other local universities who were gathering at the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

“It is a matter of public record that Marquette has a long history of involvement in Milwaukee’s inner city,” said then-Marquette President Rev. John P. Raynor, S.J. “Literally hundreds of our faculty and students have worked and are working with the disadvantaged. While we are proud of what has been accomplished, we are well aware that more must be done.”

As a step forward, Marquette introduced a course on African American history taught by Arnold Mitchem, Ph.D., who, decades later, would found the Washington, D.C.-based Council for Opportunity in Education.

During the 1967-68 academic year, Marquette students became more vocal following the “long, hot summer of 1967,” when more than 160 race riots erupted across the country. In March 1968, a Marquette student group, Students United for Racial Equality (SURE), marched to O’Hara Hall, which at that time housed the president and senior leaders, and presented a 12-point petition calling for more scholarships for African American students, more classes on African American culture, and additional outreach programs in the neighborhoods surrounding Marquette.

To underscore their seriousness, SURE students began a Lenten fast and ate only bread, water and tea. Maureen Hoyler was among the students who organized the Marquette contingent. Decades later, she became the second president of the Council for Opportunity in Education – a role she holds today.

In response, Marquette established six scholarships for underprivileged residents of the Milwaukee community, in honor of Rev. John P. Markoe, S.J., a Jesuit priest who had long served as a champion for civil rights.

But weeks after the 1968 March, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and the student’s demands took on a whole new meaning. Two days after his death, more than 800 students attended a memorial Mass at the Church of the Gesu on Marquette’s campus. That same day, the University announced an anonymous gift of $180,000 to provide expenses for 20 African American students to secure a four-year college education at Marquette.

“The turning point was the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Hoyler said. “After Dr. King was killed, we held another demonstration and instead of 50 people showing up, 1,000 people showed up.”

In May 1968, 200 students barricaded the doors of the campus union, preventing hundreds of faculty and staff from attending an annual faculty dinner. Rallies continued daily and the protesters adopted a new name, “Respond.”

Students gather in the EOP Student Lounge at Marquette (photo by Marquette University)

Students gather in the EOP Student Lounge at Marquette (photo by Marquette University)

“The people of color on campus felt that Marquette wasn’t doing enough to get people with scholarships in and diversify the campus. Nothing was happening,” said George Thompson, a former NBA and Marquette men’s basketball player. He and several other Marquette basketball players threatened to quit school if the student protestors’ demands for racial equality were not met.

President Raynor authorized a Special Committee on Scholarship Programs and Courses in Black and Minority Cultures to address the Respond group’s concerns. Sparked by the student protests and based on recommendations from the Special Committee, Marquette formed a program in late 1968 to serve underrepresented students. That program would quickly evolve into Marquette’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). Out of 42 candidates, Mitchem was tapped to serve as the first EOP director in 1969.

“I took the job and told Marquette I’d give them five semesters, and five semesters turned out to be a lifetime,” said Mitchem, who received an honorary doctor of letters degree from Marquette in 2003 for his historic work to found and lead EOP for more than 15 years.

Marquette’s EOP started with just 40 students and one staff member and flourished into what became the model program for other Educational Opportunity Programs and the United States Department of Education’s federally funded TRiO programs, which are located at college campuses throughout the country.

“Marquette’s history is rooted in increasing access to higher education,” said Michael R. Lovell, Ph.D., current president of Marquette. “Marquette was founded in 1881 as a place for children of Catholic immigrants who often were not welcomed into other universities. In 1909, Marquette further delivered on its promise of educational access when we became the first Catholic university in the world to admit women to study alongside men. The development of EOP in 1969 helped ensure educational access for students who were — and still are — underrepresented at Marquette and in higher education overall.”

Since then, Marquette’s EOP has served thousands of students by providing services such as tutoring, academic advising, and graduate school preparation to assist underrepresented and first-generation students in their transition into Marquette and ultimately graduation.

Today, Marquette’s EOP is comprised of five programs: Student Support Services and McNair Scholars are programs for current Marquette students, while Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math and Science, and Educational Talent Search offer pre-college services to Milwaukee-area high school students in partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools.

In his January 2019 Presidential Address, Lovell charged a university-wide steering committee with putting together a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of EOP during the 2019-20 academic year. A series of events are being planned throughout the year, including symposia, speaker panels and celebrations of first-generation students — both on Marquette’s campus, throughout the community and in Washington, D.C.

“Marquette is marking this important anniversary by commemorating the past, celebrating the present and imagining the future,” said William Welburn, Ph.D., vice president for inclusive excellence at Marquette. “Events will highlight EOP’s long and distinguished past, the work that the program does today, and invite opportunities for reflection and discussion of educational access and what might happen in the future.”

The Marquette Forum, a yearlong series of events centered on a different theme each year, is focused on the topic of “pathways to educational access and opportunity” for the 2019-20 academic year, and is offering $500 grants to faculty and staff, departments, academic units or student organizations planning events associated with educational access and opportunity.

Lovell said, “In the spirit of our founding, Marquette continues to strive to be a welcoming, inclusive place that is open to women and men from all backgrounds, faiths and viewpoints.”

Click here to learn more about the history of EOP in “Answering the Call,” a video documentary produced for the 45th anniversary of the program in 2014.

By Rita Buettner, Director of University Communications, Loyola University Maryland

hands up.jpg

When Karsonya “Kaye” Wise Whitehead, Ph.D. set out to create a course on #BlackLivesMatter, she wanted to create an experience that would link the use of social media to post-racial social activism.

“As a black female college professor who is situated at a predominantly white institution, I am challenged to think about the ways in which my personal politics, my activism and my identity shape my teaching,” said Whitehead, an associate professor of communication at Loyola University Maryland.

“It’s hard to separate who I am outside of the University from who I try to be within. It is squarely within this duality, as an ‘outsider insider,’ where I find myself creating courses and intentionally holding space where my students can confront the topics of the world within the safety of the classroom.”

In Fall 2016, Whitehead designed a special section on #BlackLivesMatter in her U.S. Film and Television course. The next semester, she created an interdisciplinary communication seminar called #BlackLivesMatter: Social Media/Social Justice. She structured the course to help students define and discuss aspects of social justice; describe and deconstruct the impact of social media on the individual and society; list and explain the functions of the various forms of mass media and how they are used to support and organize activism; critically examine the long and short-term effects of the Black Lives Matter social movement; and explore, write and share their own stories.

“I believe that my classroom must be a place where students are taught how to engage with the hard topics and how to be involved in the messy work of helping to change our world,” Whitehead explained. “As an activist scholar and public intellectual, my teaching, research and service crosses many boundaries reaching deep into the fields of communication, history, education, cultural studies (specifically race, class and gender issues), women’s studies and black history. I work hard to design courses that fit into the parameters that I have set as a researcher, clearly understanding that it is far easier to create a dynamic and challenging course than it is to get students to sign up and immerse themselves in the experience.”

Whitehead created the class at a time when there were ongoing discussions and debate about Black Lives Matter, especially in Baltimore, a city that has seen its share of racial tensions in recent years, illustrated most vividly during the unrest in spring 2015. Students at Loyola were craving opportunities for conversations about these issues: “Every seat was filled,” said Whitehead, who offered the course again in spring 2019.

The Seminar is designed to try to foster a platform where students can openly talk about and wrestle with the issues of police brutality, racism and white supremacy. Whitehead said, “I wanted to integrate activism into their assignments, so in addition to writing weekly reflections on the reading material, students had to find and participate in at least three off-campus activist activities, from participating in a march to attending a community meeting.”

The Seminar explores the use of communication technology to influence and participate in national conversations about race and racism; the foregrounding of history and the ways in which it has shaped and influenced social movements (from the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter); the use of social media to democratize protest and political, social and economic engagement; the ways that new communication platforms support the growing populist nature of decentralized protest movements in the United States; and the rise of the U.S. prison industrial complex and the education industrial complex, particularly as they pertain to communities and public schools in America’s inner cities.

Setting the stage for a successful semester begins on the first day of class. As students get settled into their seats, Whitehead shares her statement on Black Lives Matter. She asks them to reflect on her piece, respond in writing, and then turn to the person next to them to share what they wrote. After that initial sharing, the students tack their essays to the classroom wall. Then they each take down another person’s essay to read it aloud—without identifying the author—so they can discuss them as a group.

“The activity gives the students a bit of anonymity, but it also helps to set a tone for our discussions. In setting the ground rules, I ask everyone to be honest with themselves and with one another; to be respectful of differences and give people the space they need to grow; and to honor the space by agreeing to actively share, participate and hold one another accountable,” she said. “It is a lot to ask for on the first day of class, but Black Lives Matter—as a rallying cry and course description—is hard. It is emotional, and it is designed to challenge how you see yourself. So, the clearer that I am about the rules of engagement, the easier it is to create community.”

One former student shared with Whitehead a reflection after taking the seminar:

“In order to solve the injustice in the United States regarding people of color, changes have to be made in the court, on the street, and in the hearts and minds of individuals,” she wrote. “Words can cut. Words can tear down, make one tear up, break hearts, destroy souls. However, words can also heal. Words can cause a smile, laughter, happiness. Words bring people together. Words have the power to make someone like me—a white, privileged, female student—be able to imagine what it might be like to be a black man caught in the flashing blue lights of a police cruiser.”

By Kaylee Wong (Fordham University ‘20), Sara Manjee (Marquette University ‘20) & Abigail Hughes (Canisius University ‘20)

At Jesuit college and university campuses across the United States, Student Government Presidents are called to serve as a bridge between the student body and university administration. Each president focuses on a slate of issues that affect their campus community, thereby helping each student to unify their hearts, minds and souls. As campus leaders who seek to be agents of change, they are doing so within the values of the Jesuit mission: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (“For the Greater Glory of God”) motivates each campus leader to act in best practice for and with God, human beings and the environment.

In order for Student Government Presidents to act as servant leaders of their respective campuses, it is vital for them to reflect on the characteristics of their Jesuit education that have shaped their growth as leaders. Through Cura personalis (“care for the whole person”), we recognize the inherent value and dignity of the students we represent. This means that we have a responsibility to advocate for the best resources that can help contribute toward the development of students’ minds, bodies and spirits.

Standing for and with others means standing in solidarity with and advocating on behalf of all students to ensure that their voices and experiences are heard. This means that each Student Government President is called to share the gifts of leadership, pursue justice for all, and have concern for the poor and marginalized. As we strive for Magis (“more”), we are challenged to look beyond just ourselves and our individual campuses and strive for excellence as a Jesuit community.

As a result of this reflection, we have found allies among ourselves: ones who we can serve alongside for and with at Jesuit institutions across North America. This has created a new community centered on collaboration and advocacy, allowing each Student Government President and their respective institution to enact change on a broader, collective scale.

In September 2017, Student Government Presidents representing 28 Jesuit colleges and universities* from across the United States came together to issue a joint statement on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), advocating for action to be taken on and off campus to protect the nearly 800,000 people who would be impacted by any changes to the program. Joining together to release this statement proved how much stronger campus leaders can be when they come together not only to advocate, but to stand in solidarity with others.

Members of the 2018-19 Jesuit STudent Government Alliance met at Saint Louis University for the inaugural JSGA Winter Summit in January 2019 (photo courtesy of former JSGA co-chairs, Katlyn Martin & Patrick Marta)

Members of the 2018-19 Jesuit STudent Government Alliance met at Saint Louis University for the inaugural JSGA Winter Summit in January 2019 (photo courtesy of former JSGA co-chairs, Katlyn Martin & Patrick Marta)

Following this statement, Student Government Presidents from 28 Jesuit institutions signed on to form the Jesuit Student Government Alliance (JSGA). This partnership aims to ensure representation of all students from members of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) and a unified promotion of Jesuit principles. Greater connection between Jesuit colleges and universities strengthens our commitment to the broader Jesuit Catholic mission while providing opportunities to share unique perspectives on campus issues, government structures and processes, and global concerns. The establishment of a Jesuit student leader coalition such as this provides a vehicle for national understanding and solidarity among Student Government Presidents and their institutions.

The Jesuit Student Government Alliance (JSGA) continued their partnership with the release of a second statement after a number of Jesuit schools experienced hate crimes and bias incident reports. In the March 2019 Hate Crime and Bias-Related Incidents statement, JSGA addressed and condemned the racism and discrimination that were dividing our campus communities:

“Jesuit, Catholic institutions are not exempt from ingrained cultural norms that discriminate against individuals on the basis of identity. These norms are further expressed through micro-aggressions and day-to-day incidents, both inside and outside of the classroom that degrades our students’ sense of safety and belonging. Identifying and reacting to only the most prominent examples of bias cannot fully deconstruct the attitudes that encourage them. It is far past time that each of our institutions takes comprehensive and impactful steps to build more equitable communities, and we are committed to addressing the normalization of prejudice in collaboration with our respective administrations. Change must come from all levels of our community students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni and the Board of Trustees. We as students need to hold ourselves accountable and address these issues at every level at our institutions.”

The Hate Crimes and Bias-Related Incidents statement included an action plan and called upon students, administrators and trustees across the country to take action to protect and stand in solidarity with students of color.

In the upcoming year, JSGA hopes to work together to advocate for and with marginalized and underrepresented communities to ensure that all students feel at home and included on their respective campuses. During our meetings at the JSGA Winter Summit in January 2019, the annual National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference (NJSLC), and online, we have worked together to advocate on a larger scale while also working toward our common goals as student leaders. JSGA members held their third official in-person meeting in July during NJSLC at the University of Detroit Mercy, where we discussed pressing issues on our campuses relating to sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and LGBTQ+ resources. We hope to continue these conversations throughout the academic year and at our second Annual Winter Summit this January.

Through JSGA, Student Government Presidents have established a strong network of support, solidarity and collaboration, which has allowed us to expand our platform to further amplify students’ voices on a national level. We have found that through the similar obstacles we face as student leaders, we can find strength and success in the common bonds of our shared Jesuit mission and identity.

Through our joint efforts, we strive to continue to reach for Magis, build upon each other’s achievements, and uplift one another as we work to better Jesuit campuses across the country and advocate for social justice in the larger world.

*At the time of signing, Wheeling University was a Jesuit institution known as Wheeling Jesuit University.

Kaylee Wong (Fordham University ‘20) and Sara Manjee (Marquette University ‘20) serve as co-chairs of the Jesuit Student Government Alliance; Abigail Hughes (Canisius University ‘20) serves as Communications Chair.

By Kelly Swan, Director of Communications, Ignatian Solidarity Network

Student participants in the 2019 Ignatian JUstice Summit on Immigration (photo by Ignatian Solidarity Network)

Student participants in the 2019 Ignatian JUstice Summit on Immigration (photo by Ignatian Solidarity Network)

“When I see the news and hear about immigration issues, I feel really small—like I don’t know how I can help. But, being here this week sparks so much hope, because you feel like you have a team.”

— Karletnicol Pyron, Saint Peter’s University

From July 23-26, 2019, a new “team” of immigration advocates gathered at John Carroll University for the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s (ISN) 2019 Ignatian Justice Summit on Immigration. This team was comprised of twenty-seven students from fourteen Jesuit schools across the United States, all entering the immigration justice conversation from a wide variety of life, faith and justice backgrounds and worldviews—encompassing everything from lived migration experience to allyship.

The goals of the Summit are twofold: to educate and equip students with tangible tools to create action plans and work for immigration justice on their campuses, and to connect advocates to build a network of mutual support and idea-sharing.

Students began their experience by framing the Summit in a reflective assessment of immigration and broader justice efforts on their campuses, considering what each school does well and where improvements can be made—a first step toward building a complete action plan throughout the event.

José Arnulfo Cabrera addresses participants at the Summit (photo by Ignatian Solidarity Network)

José Arnulfo Cabrera addresses participants at the Summit (photo by Ignatian Solidarity Network)

Summit participants were invited on the first evening to see justice work through an Ignatian lens in an opening session led by Marcos Gonzales, S.J. Gonzales currently works in the Office of Faith and Justice at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, where he has been involved in the humanitarian response efforts for Central Americans seeking asylum. He framed the week in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, grounding participants in the parallels between the saint’s lived reality and their own—that “Ignatius, in the 1500s was encountering a world equally broken. Equally desiring to be loved.”

Day two brought a dive into social analysis with Gonzales, followed by an immigration policy briefing with Joanna Williams, director of education and advocacy at the Kino Border Initiative. She was joined by José Arnulfo Cabrera, ISN’s director of education and advocacy for migration, who attended the 2017 Ignatian Justice Summit as a student at Xavier University; spoke at the 2017 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice Advocacy Day Public Witness; and presented at the 2018 Summit as a recent graduate.

Cabrera also led students in a dynamic and interactive storytelling training, a new component at this year’s Summit designed to illustrate the impact of thoughtful, skilled storytelling in the context of activism and advocacy. Karletnicol Pyron, a student at Saint Peter’s University said, “I personally found the storytelling presentation really impactful because the way you tell your story is how you’re going to reach people. I liked the exercises that [Cabrera] made us do because it took me out of my comfort zone but showed me that with practice and willingness, you can do anything.”

The third and fourth days of the Summit centered around a framework for advocacy and organizing, equipping students with tools for coalition-building and campaign-planning on their campuses. This included a young alumni panel with Cabrera, Li Adorno (Saint Peter’s University ‘17) and Miriam Uribe (University of San Francisco ‘17), who discussed immigration justice work from the perspective of a college student. Michelle Nealy, vice president of communications and digital strategy at Faith in Public Life, provided a media training session in which she guided participants to consider visual and digital messaging, imagery and media engagement in their action strategies.

Students shared stories and ideas during group break-out sessions (photo by Ignatian Solidarity Network)

Students shared stories and ideas during group break-out sessions (photo by Ignatian Solidarity Network)

Marissa Ocampo, a student at Santa Clara University, discussed the ongoing engagement challenges shared by students from campuses across the country. “It is hard to get people involved,” she explained. “To get them to the same understanding—that what is happening is inhumane and unjust.” She went on to share that the big picture policy briefings were vital to her understanding of migration issues, strengthened even more by on-the-ground advocacy training. “They created the baseline to get your actual population involved,” she said. “And look at us now, more challenged than ever! That is the challenge then, to get people involved, and then you do the big picture work on the policy and advocacy itself.”

Throughout the Summit, the foundation set by Gonzales on the first evening was evident: that faith and a commitment to justice provide the framework for action. “My whole life, I’ve always been told not to mix religion and politics,” explained Pyron. “But the way ISN makes those two go hand in hand so seamlessly…I don’t even think twice about how we pray and then go off and talk about political issues.”

“I was raised traditionally Catholic. Family and faith were center,” shared Maggie Rahill, a student at John Carroll University. “I was lucky in that the sense of justice and helping one another has always been a part of our family as well. Not just go to church and pray, but go to church and pray to act. But, I never really wanted to get into immigration as an issue because I hate politics…But, the biggest takeaway for me this week is the humanness of this issue—how it is so linked to our faith, which is centered and rooted in human dignity. If you say you’re a faithful person and you believe in human dignity because of your faith, then you can’t be silent on this issue.”

Students returned home from the Ignatian Justice Summit with a complete action plan—a step-by-step map of how they plan to take action on immigration as a justice issue this fall on their campuses—and a new “team” of network-wide connections to support them in this work.

Ocampo explained that, as the daughter of a migrant farmworker, she has always been passionate about the issue of immigration, seeing how it plays out in the lives of the people she grew up around, especially in relation to labor issues connected to immigration status. “Seeing what I can actually do, what action I can bring back to Santa Clara, has been so powerful,” she shared. “I have a vision now for what action I want to take as an advocate in the future.”

The 2019 Ignatian Justice Summit was supported by a grant from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Additional sponsorship was provided by Faith in Public Life. Participating schools included: Boston College, Canisius University, College of the Holy Cross, Creighton University, Georgetown University, Gonzaga University, John Carroll University, Loyola University Maryland, Saint Joseph’s University, Saint Louis University, Saint Peter’s University, Santa Clara University, University of San Francisco and Xavier University.

This article is re-published here with permission from the Ignatian Solidarity Network. To learn more about ISN’s work on immigration advocacy, please write to José Arnulfo Cabrera, Director of Education and Advocacy for Migration:

By Jenny Smulson, Director of Government Relations, AJCU

The news of the day and the fractured bipartisan spirit of cooperation is certain to have an impact on the Congressional agenda and Congressional action over the next few weeks. At the midpoint of any Congress in a congressional and/or presidential election cycle, the chances of reaching agreement, resolution or bipartisan achievements become slimmer. Even before reaching this halfway mark, the 116th U.S. Congress was at a stalemate over legislative proposals that matter to AJCU, like the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), repeal of problematic tax provisions, and the protection of Dreamers. Looking ahead, all of these issues face increasing hurdles.

The challenges before us don’t mean we slow down: there is always an important role for advocacy, and engagement remains an effective tool in holding Congress and the White House accountable for increasing educational opportunities for all students. AJCU will continue to encourage our elected leaders to protect Dreamers, assist students seeking access to a college education, and ensure that public service careers are a viable option for our nation’s graduates.

Higher Education Act Reauthorization
This coming week, we anticipate a burst of activity on HEA reauthorization in both the House and the Senate. Last week, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced legislation reauthorizing parts of HEA. AJCU expects comprehensive reauthorization legislation from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), in the coming days. Both bodies are advancing partisan proposals, making their path forward more challenging. While still a long way from becoming law, these actions move the HEA reauthorization process forward and keep the issues of college access, affordability and success on the national policy agenda.

Senator Alexander’s bill, the Student Aid Improvement Act, offers a partial reauthorization linked to the must-pass Futures Act, HR 2486 (legislation extending the mandatory funding authority in Title III, Part F, for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Minority Serving Institutions and Hispanic Serving Institutions that expires on September 30). The Student Aid Improvement Act also includes modified text of eight bi-partisan bills that simplify the FAFSA, verification and award letters; permit Pell for incarcerated individuals and short-term skills and job training programs; extend the TRIO programs; and reauthorize the Education of the Deaf Act. The legislation does not update many of the other higher education programs or titles within HEA (Title II, Title VI, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness). Moving a mini-reauthorization bill does not have support from the Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), or many of her Democratic colleagues.

In the House, the majority staff is hard at work drafting a bill that will likely draw heavily from the 115th Congress’ Aim Higher Act (HR 6543) and will have positives and negatives for AJCU institutions and the students whom they serve. The bill is likely to revive the Federal Perkins Loan program; renew and reauthorize the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and Federal Work Study programs (campus-based aid programs); and strengthen Pell. AJCU is a champion for campus-based aid programs and Pell because they play a foundational role in increasing access to higher education and the timely completion of degrees.

On the flip side, AJCU will closely review proposals that could have a negative impact on student choice and student success. For example, AJCU is concerned about proposals that seek to hold institutions accountable by dictating strict standards on funds spent on instruction. These measures of expenses spent on instruction have not included activities for student engagement, health and wellness or campus ministry, all of which are central to student success. Many policies introduced in the Aim Higher Act are likely to be included in a Democratic reauthorization bill introduced in the 116th Congress.

22nd Annual AJCU Government Relations Conference
AJCU hosted its 22nd annual Government Relations Conference on September 17-18 in Washington, D.C. Sixteen Jesuit colleges and universities were represented by their government relations officers and/or financial aid directors. The conference provided an opportunity for open dialogue among colleagues and a robust discussion of emerging issues on individual campuses. Several AJCU government relations and financial aid leaders presented to attendees about important issues on their campuses including the 2020 Census, TRIO programs, income share agreements and tuition discounting, betting on college sports, and payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT).

On the second day of the conference, AJCU welcomed Representative Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Worker and Family Support; Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee; and Representative Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), co-founder of the Friends of Jesuit Colleges and Universities Caucus. In addition, participants engaged with Democratic and Republican professional staff on the House Education and Labor Committee, about the soon-to-be-released HEA reauthorization bill; an expert on immigration policy from the American Council on Education, who provided an overview of the many regulatory and executive order changes to immigration policy related to DACA and foreign influence on college campuses; and Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, who discussed strategies for communicating the value of a Jesuit education.

The conference wrapped up with the Committee for Education Funding (CEF) Gala on Wednesday evening. There, AJCU’s beloved Cyndy Littlefield was honored with the establishment of an award in her name. This award will be presented at future CEF Legislative Conferences to a staff person who embodies Cyndy’s passion for the mission of CEF, as well as her commitment to helping young people achieve their dreams through education.

I have been welcomed so warmly by the AJCU family since coming on-board in June. Effective engagement with policy-makers, strategic coordination with national associations, and responsiveness to the needs and requests of the AJCU Government Relations Network are my main goals for the year and beyond. As my predecessor Cyndy Littlefield would say, it is an honor to represent the nation’s Jesuit colleges and universities.

The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) sponsors over 35 conferences and affinity groups within the AJCU network. The Conferences provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, information and best practices; support the professional development of their members; and present opportunities for AJCU representatives to discuss collaboration and challenges in Jesuit higher education.

Most of the AJCU conferences host meetings at least once a year, and many of them facilitate regular communication among members through listservs. The following meetings will be held this fall:

This fall will also see a number of events for Jesuit-educated alumni and friends across the country. Click on any of the listings below to learn more: