Diversity & Social Justice

Posted on: September 10th, 2012
Loyola University Chicago, through its curricular and co-curricular programs, demonstrates the significant importance of learning outcomes we believe will prepare students to live extraordinary lives.  Whether students are engaged with issues of community service or service learning, understanding the plight of those most disenfranchised in our society, exploring the concepts of race, culture and inter-religious dialogue, sexism and homophobia, or deeply engaging with both the head and the heart issues of social justice, we have a vision of a socially just Loyola educated student.
1. Students will be able to express ideas, identify behaviors, and actualize practices that promote social justice and equity.
2. Students will be able to articulate ideas and exhibit behaviors that cultivate teamwork, critical thought, and communication skills needed to function in a diverse workforce and global community.
3. Students will be able to demonstrate techniques and utilize tools to interrupt micro-aggressions and bias behaviors that adversely impact under-represented and disenfranchised communities.
Yet, in order to prepare students for life in a world that is increasingly diverse and changing, we must provide opportunities for them to interact with and learn from the diverse people that make up our world.
Recently, students and their staff mentors sat in front of the television and watched a political convention.  Students asked questions about issues of social and class mobility, school choice for the poor and marginalized, access to health care, and opportunity to vote.  Indeed, it was interesting to watch students engage and grapple with these issues.  Interesting, of course, until students began to question why many of the students having the conversation looked alike, came from similar backgrounds and the very diversity they were longing for was absent in the lounge in which they were sitting.  Indeed, the homogeneity of the group was palpable.
Without using direct words, students asked questions about the diversity of the student body.  Staff mentors shared that 33% of our students identify as persons of color and first generation college students.  Yet, the students present in the room were not.  Other students, excited by this conversation began to ask about the diversity of the faculty and the staff…the very educators charged with the delivery of an extraordinary education.  Unfortunately, the staff mentors had no numbers or percentages to share but were able to offer anecdotes and platitudes.  Students left their staff mentors with a variety of questions around not only the diversity of the faculty and staff, but also the cultural competence and preparedness of the educators to deeply grapple with the issue  of social justice.
Watching the political conventions continues to bring up big issues and it goes to show that deep questions and opportunities for learning can arise anywhere…even in the lobby of a building.  Walking down the street, in the chapel, on the playing field, in the residence hall, in the lobby of the student center are all places where students and educators can engage in difficult discussions… in addition to these places, and in order for students to be truly transformed, we need a diverse campus community (faculty, staff, administrators AND students) to bring their backgrounds, biases, experiences and education to the exchange of ideas.
At Loyola University Chicago, we consider the lessons of social justice in the academic, spiritual, and social fabric of The Loyola Experience.  However, it will take all leaders and faculty, staff, and administrators with a proven track record of engaging difference to aid others in understanding the true benefits of diversity not only for ourselves and our learning environment but because of who our students will become and what they can contribute to the world.
Robert Kelly, PhD
Vice President for Student Development
Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago's Social Justice Web Portal is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. Comments will be screened for tone and content. All comments must include the first and last name of the author and a valid e-mail address. The appearance of comments on the Web Portal does not imply the University's endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.

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