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President Tetlow Addresses Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Efforts at Loyola

By Loyola University on Thu, 06/04/2020 - 17:59

CORRECTION: Online town hall planned Friday, JUNE 12 at 2:30 p.m.

In the wake of protests against racial injustice happening around the world, Loyola University New Orleans President Tania Tetlow sent an email to students, faculty and staff about ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at Loyola, a forthcoming conversation with the national president of the Urban League, Marc Morial, and next steps as we look toward the future.

Her letter to the campus community can be found below:

 

Dear Loyola,

We watch protests around the country with anxious prayers -- for progress, for peace, for justice. 

Right now at Loyola we are separated both by our normal summer break and more dramatically by the pandemic. This is a frustrating time to attempt to come together physically as a community. I am working with the Student Government Association to find virtual ways we might do so, to express our pain and fear, to listen harder than we ever have and to work to find the answers. We will start with a conversation with the national president of the Urban League, Marc Morial, who will join our community on a call on Friday, June 12 at 2:30 p.m. Additional details to come. 

First, I think it’s important to talk about what Loyola itself is doing – how do we live our values? How can we do better? Because while we are rightfully proud of serving a student body that reflects this country, diversity does not guarantee either equity or inclusion. Let me give you specifics of what we have done thus far and what we are committed to doing better. 

Last fall, we mandated annual diversity and inclusion training for every member of the faculty, staff and administration. Many have also participated in additional intensive training, from the Crossroads Antiracism Workshop to an in-depth, four-week online course from Cornell, “Teaching and Learning in a Diverse Classroom.” We continue to offer (and when needed, to require) training on the understanding and skill necessary to treat students equitably and to navigate difficult class discussions around critical issues. Every single one of us has more to learn.   

Starting with orientation, we have specific diversity and inclusion training for entering first-year undergraduates. This sets the stage for the lessons we will teach throughout their four years, and require as part of the core curriculum. For some, these orientation messages are preaching to the choir, but serve as reassurance that Loyola takes these issues seriously. For others, this may be the first time they have really thought about the harsh realities of our history and continuing inequality – a moment of learning the requirements of acting as a true member of a community. Our intention is not to make anyone feel judged or excluded by those messages, as some inevitably do; it is to set the tone of what our faith and our values demand of us, of what we expect of Loyola students.  

Each of our many graduate and professional programs also tackle equity and inclusion issues head-on, as critical to the skills and doctrines they teach. Each of them will work to do more. 

I need you to know that our highest priority as a University, as reflected in our budget, is to create opportunity through financial aid and merit scholarships. I raise this issue because economic opportunity is so intertwined with racial injustice. We have been able to keep the average tuition that Loyola students actually pay much lower than our peers.  We do that – provide excellence, at a lower cost – through the passionate commitment and shared sacrifices of our faculty and staff. Know that. They have stayed at Loyola when they often could have made more elsewhere because they care so intensely about you. 

We have made great efforts at improving retention, particularly among students of color and first-generation students. Through student success coaching, early warning systems that allow us to reach students who need more support, and the constant hands-on effort of our faculty and staff – particularly the Student Success Center – we have almost closed the opportunity gap in retention. 

We are in the final round of interviews for our new chief equity and inclusion officer, with help from students on the search committee and more involved in the interviews. I can’t imagine we will ever fill the shoes of the extraordinary Dr. Sybol Anderson, but we have a remarkable group of finalists.   

We work to understand and be honest about our own history, as a University founded in 1912 as a segregated institution. Some of you witnessed a remarkable panel in February about Loyola’s fitful progress towards racial justice in the 1950s and 1960s. You can watch it here (the program begins at the 20:00 mark). Loyola professor Justin Nystrom is also working to create an oral history of Loyola’s first African-American students and their experiences.  

And we need to do so much more.  For two years, Dr. Anderson worked with students, faculty and staff on Loyola’s Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence.  In that plan, Loyola commits to (1) strengthen our course offerings to fulfill the learning outcomes on diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice included in the core curriculum, (2) improve the diversity of faculty and staff through detailed hiring and retention efforts, (3) continue to strengthen the enforcement of our values, through student and employee conduct processes and bias response efforts, (4) continue to improve our efforts at training, curriculum and programming, and (5) strengthen our advocacy and support efforts.  There is much to achieve, but we have very specific action items and timetables.  

The Mission Priority Examen process identified equity and diversity as a fundamental component of our core mission, as will the University Strategic Plan.  This is core to who we are and what matters most to us.  

I wish we had the power to fully protect our campus from the racism that infects this country, a virus that we have been living with far longer than the one we’ve all been talking about these last months. What I know is that, as a university, we have the power to bring people together across every type of difference. We have the power to model our values and set high expectations of how we treat each other. We have the ability to research, teach, and learn about the roots of racism in this country, but more than that, to start to find the complicated answers. We have the power and responsibility to matter as a university in the world, in the way our law students did recently as they worked with Professor Andrea Armstrong to persuade our state to change its constitution and require that convictions must be by unanimous jury verdict.  

We will come together virtually soon, but please feel free to email me to tell me how you are doing, what you want to be sure that we know, and how we might do more. 

All my best,

Tania Tetlow
President