A Birds-Eye View of Social Justice at Loyola

Posted on: November 15th, 2012
At a Leadership Workshop for Loyola faculty and staff last spring, Fr. Garanzini said that the “focus on Justice as at the heart of what it means to be a Jesuit university.”  As a faculty member, I get a birds-eye view of Loyola’s commitment – and contribution – to social justice.  And maybe I have an even better view, since I teach in two different parts of the University.  I want to share some of what I see.

I teach ethics in the Institute of Pastoral Studies.  Of course, my course topics assure a prominent discussion of social justice, and it is always met with enthusiasm.  But what really impresses me is the newest degree program in IPS: an MA in Social Justice and Community Development.  The program embodies the core of a Loyola education: understanding and skill.  Graduates come to know what social justice is and calls for and they develop the concrete skills to help it flourish in city communities.
It’s no accident that the MA in Social Justice and Community Development is one of the fastest growing of IPS’ programs and that it attracts a young and vibrant group of students.  The program is blessed to inherit the kinds of students who were transformed by the Jesuit Catholic vision of social justice as undergrads.  Now, perhaps after working as volunteers in a service project, they want a deeper understanding and a stronger set of skills to make it happen.  It’s no accident that they come to Loyola to achieve that goal.

I’m also lucky enough to teach in the Quinlan School of Business.  The old caricature is that business schools are places that hone the devil’s skills for plunder.  At least at this Jesuit Catholic business school, nothing could be farther from the truth.
David Bornstein, a columnist at the New York Times, recently said: “Business is not an exemption from world-fixing.  It a way of world-fixing.”  That’s the message at Quinlan.  I find that my colleagues and I constantly remind our students of their business responsibility to all of the stakeholders: customers, employees, investors, and the wider community.  That’s what’s called Social Responsibility.  Beyond that, we remind them that projects directly intended to “fix” our world require all the skills of business.  That’s what’s called Social Enterprise.
Anyone with any experience of Loyola knows we are committed to Sustainability.  Many people hear that word of focused only on care for the natural world.  But in order for the world to be sustainable, the world-fixing project has to be sustainable.  That’s why Quinlan is – I’m proud to say – a key player in Loyola’s commitment to Sustainability and, more broadly, to Social Justice.
Early in my ethics course in our MBA program, I challenge our students to bring along their whole life.  “I don’t know how many of you go to church or synagogue, temple or chapel,” I say.  “But most all of you come from families with strong religious traditions.  You don’t have to leave that behind when you enter the world of business.  In fact, nothing is more important than your decision to bring it along.”

Knowledge and skill – and the commitment to use them:  that’s what social justice looks like to this Loyola faculty member.

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