LMU's response to Black student, faculty and staff demands—and everything they missed

Sunday, September 6, 2020

LMU's response to Black student, faculty and staff demands—and everything they missed

By Christina Martinez

LMU administration has responded to the student demands of #BlackatLMU as well as those of the members of the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA).

Over the past few weeks, both #BlackatLMU and BFSA have demanded better treatment and support for Black individuals in the LMU community. #BlackatLMU’s platform was widely circulated among LMU students, thanks in part to a rapidly growing Instagram presence.

In a letter dated Sep. 4, University President Timothy Law Snyder and Vice President for Intercultural Affairs Jennifer Abe acknowledged the work of Black at LMU and BFSA, and said that they would attempt to make progress towards goals that would benefit Black students, faculty, and staff.

“We ask for the community to keep working with us to realize our goals, as rushing or bypassing certain processes may keep us from realizing fully what we intend to accomplish,” the letter reads. “The changes we enact will be made through prayerful discernment, close consultation, and extraordinary care.”

Agency has consolidated the university’s response below.

Student demands that were addressed:

  • Increase of budgets for The Learning Community (TLC) and the Office of Black Student Services (OBSS)

  • Establishment of a Black Space on-campus

    • The Bird’s Nest will be used as a temporary space dedicated to Black students with a permanent one to be decided in the future. #BlackAtLMU originally asked that the space be Collins Center in Leavey Hall.

  • Acknowledging Black LMU history 

    • Although LMU pledged to work with the relevant officials to set up halls of fame for Black staff and faculty, there was no mention of recognizing the specific figures that #BlackAtLMU proposed—notably civil rights activists Helen and Robert Singleton.

    • The university also mentioned that they would “launch an Inclusive History and Images Project to recognize LMU’s diverse stories,” using archival photos. Alumni will also be invited to share experiences to be included in partnership with the Jesuit Community.

  • Updating the curriculum to include a diversity or anti-racism core class for undergraduate students

    • However, LMU only mentioned that the school’s programs would be reviewed according to normal procedures and timelines.

  • Integrating an anti-racism model into the current orientation program.

    • According to the letter, anti-racism modules were developed over the summer for transfer and first-year students' orientation this fall. 

  • Some Black student recruitment initiative demands

    • Enrollment Management leadership and the Department of Human Resources will partner to set new goals for Black student recruitment.

    • Black Student Overnight will continue in the Spring of 2021 pending public health guidelines.

    • Admission will identify more community colleges to add to the current Transfer Pathway program in order “to increase the number of Black students from different backgrounds and perspectives recruited to LMU.”

  • Increased engagement with Black community organizations

    • A new position will be added at the Center for Service and Action (CSA) to create service and social justice opportunities with Black community-based organizations (CBOs) in LMU’s immediate area.

Student demands that were not addressed:

  • Establishing an ongoing relationship with LMU’s Black students

    • There was no mention of whether or not the University would implement regular town halls or monthly meetings between LMU’s administration and Black students.

    • Updates on the progress towards the goals announced in the letter will be shared via LMU This Week starting Sep. 8.

  • Establishment of a Black Admissions team

    • The letter did not address whether or not LMU would promote Charles Mason to Associate Director of Admissions or provide him with a team dedicated to recruiting Black students. 

  • Increase of financial aid to support the recruitment of Black students

    • The expanded details of this demand were addressed instead, particularly regarding recruitment methods, but the allocation of funds for scholarships was not specified.

  • Opportunities solely for Black students and alumni to curate public art

  • Establishment of a National Pan-Hellenic Council

  • Allocation of $100 million from the next Capital Campaign solely for Black initiatives

  • Hiring of at least seventeen additional Black faculty members and the retainment of current Black faculty.

    • Despite LMU’s ongoing hiring freeze, exceptions will be made “on a case-by-case basis” for certain opportunity hires. No commitment to the demanded minimum amount of hires was made.

Staff and faculty demands that were addressed:

  • Decolonization of the LMU curriculum

    • It was acknowledged, but the letter then said that all programs would be reevaluated and reconsidered for their content.

  • Acknowledgement and funding of the work, research and outreach of Black faculty

    • LMU said it would look into how to honor the work and service of its Black faculty, but funding and compensation were not discussed.

Staff and faculty demands that were not addressed:

  • Release of raw demographic information for Black community members at LMU:

    • Students

    • Staff

    • Faculty

    • Administrators, managers, and directors

    • Student applicants for both four-year and transfer admissions

    • Trustees and regents

  • The following benefits and support for Black faculty and staff:

    • Release of an audit of that details how Black faculty and staff were affected during this summer’s furlough.

    • Salary information and statistics for Black faculty, staff, and administrators.

      • The University only mentioned that they would study salary equities in the coming years.

    • Funding and coordination of a cluster hire of at least 12 tenured Black faculty members.

    • Acknowledgement of the role of the Department of African American Studies, especially with additional named professorships at each college and school.

    • Stronger salary equity and retention for all Black faculty and staff.

    • Promotion of Dr. Cheryl Grills and Charles Mason to President’s Professor of Psychology and Associate Director of Admissions, respectively.

      • LMU only mentioned that the President’s Professor’s line would be maintained and filled.

    • Employment of a Black therapist with expertise in trauma associated with anti-Black racism.

    • Restoration of all jobs held by Black individuals at LMU, and the promise that no other Black employee would be furloughed.

  • The following benefits and support for Black students:

    • Meeting of all #BlackatLMU demands.

    • Increase in scholarship funding and consistency of financial aid packages.

    • Incorporation of Black student leaders in decision-making processes.

    • Acknowledgement of and compensation for Black student leaders.

    • Respect for Black students’ academic work, especially when grappling with race and important community issues.

    • Promotion and funding of student research for Black students.

    • An additional Black (preferably male) therapist trained in anti-Black trauma available for students.

    • Full funding of the Kente Graduation, including an on-campus celebration site.

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