Loyola’s got some work to do.
If you ask the Admissions office what things are like here, I’m sure you would hear much about how green Loyola is, and indeed it is very green. Our urban sustainability initiatives are the envy of universities around the country. But the lights still burn all night in every hallway of every building, regardless of the LEED certification sticker on the front doors.
If you ask a neighbor in Rogers Park about Loyola, you’ll probably hear bitterness about the “Loyola Bubble” among neighborhood schools and streets. But if you ask a different neighbor, you may hear about how a Loyola student helped them find housing, like my friend Kristin who works at LIFT, or you might hear from a refugee about the furniture donated by Loyola students to help them get a footing in the United States.
If you ask a student, you may hear that Loyola just doesn’t do enough. You’ll hear grumbling about tuition rates and loan debt. If you approach a staff member, someone who cleans the toilets or cooks the food, the conversation gets very dicey about food and worker’s rights. Imagine if instead we had a collectively-owned dining hall, imagine if the food was local, imagine if we knew the names of the people who gave us our bagels the same way we know the names of our professors.
The difficulty in capturing the essence of justice culture of Loyola lies in the almost extravagant differences between perspectives here. We have all benefited in some ways and have been maligned in others–and this happens at every level of the institutions infrastructure, from our friends in Mertz to the Board of Trustees.
The more time I spend at what will soon be my dear Alma Mater, the more I grow proud of the people it is forming and the work it is doing. But the moment we become satisfied with what we have (or, the moment we stop looking for people who are unhappy) is the moment we abandon our Jesuit and justice values. Loyola must always strive for more. There is a way to cut tuition way down. There is a way to advocate for justice for the cleaning and food service staff. We can turn off more lights. We can talk to our neighbors more. We can speak the truth of our experience to the powers that be.
A culture of justice is built, and Loyola’s got some work to do.