Beyond Words

June 16, 2020

Dear LMU Community,

I am honored to serve as your president as we uphold the values and mission for which we stand. In my letter “Speaking Up and Taking Action,” I promised that our reflection would lead to action. The killings of Black people—of Rayshard Brooks, Tony McDade, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and many others—resulted from anti-Black racism. Today, I share the work dedicated to eradicating systemic racism at LMU and addressing the histories and systems of injustice perpetrated against people of color, while also taking responsibility for our institutional complicity in the perpetuation of white supremacy.  

Action Through Listening and Learning

  • On June 3, at the “Racism and Trauma in the Modern Moment” forum, hosted by Intercultural Affairs and attended by more than 600 community members, we learned important lessons from the voices of LMU’s Black students and faculty. Among the concerns: we need more Black faculty and Black therapists, and we need to be more proactively anti-racist.
  • On June 6, while participating in a Black Lives Matter demonstration organized by LMU students, I was reminded that the police violence and systemic racism that infects our society by killing Black people is a system in which I, as a white person of privilege, am complicit.
  • And last Thursday, on June 11, when I hosted the first of what will be regular meetings with Black student leadership, I learned that we have much to do to support our Black students to increase inclusivity and equity.

I am grateful and humbled by our Black community’s leadership and willingness to impart its experiences, pain, and anger; I am not in a position to understand fully how exhausting and burdensome it must be, especially given the persistent nature of experience in a racist society. Amidst this understanding, LMU’s duty to our Black students, faculty, and staff is, and will remain, steadfast. We are committed to a process of institutional transformation that addresses systemic racism and oppression. 

Action Through Sustained Institutional Change

We will address systemic oppression and anti-Black racism in a comprehensive manner that demonstrates that Black lives matter. I am holding all levels of leadership accountable to ensure the following commitments:

  • We will increase the diversity and inclusiveness of our LMU community and commit resources to doing so.
    • We will hold ourselves to a higher standard of accountability, using an equity scorecard to document progress in recruiting and retaining Black students, faculty, staff, and executive leadership. We will make the same commitment for members of other underrepresented populations.
    • We will add hiring for mission and inclusive excellence training for search committees and entire units for executive leadership and key staff positions, and we will accelerate efforts to increase the racial diversity of our governing boards and university leadership.
  • We will assure that our organizational climate and culture are anti-racist, equitable, and inclusive, with particular attention to anti-Black racism.
    • All units at LMU will analyze their infrastructure, policies, and processes and will report their findings and steps for change to the LMU community.
    • We will increase our capacity to address and eliminate systemic racism and oppression and to build a more inclusive, equitable community through education and training. Units will be accountable to report commitments, action steps, and progress to the community.

  • An LMU education must be unequivocally inclusive and anti-racist.
    • We will encourage the faculty to move toward a more inclusive, decolonized curriculum that addresses systemic racism and oppression.
    • We will mobilize resources to increase integrated curricular and co-curricular collaborations and partnerships for greater understanding and awareness of how systemic oppression is manifested across different sectors, issues, intersectional identities, and communities.

Ongoing and Imminent Actions

  • As a result of feedback from the Racism and Trauma virtual forum, Ethnic and Intercultural Services and Student Psychological Services staff, including two Black therapists, Tracy Shaw, Ph.D., and Kristin Howard, L.M.F.T., are now available to address student concerns.
  • We are increasing resources for cross-unit partnerships that will equip students for action and advocacy in the community as well as increase connection, engagement, and partnerships with the Black community in Los Angeles. 
  • This fall, we will begin a three-year President’s Leadership Initiative to educate the community on systemic oppression and what an anti-racist education and climate entails, building on the Implicit Bias Initiative, which was founded in 2016 and has continued since. A forum will be held in fall 2020 to launch the initiative.
  • We will change the art and images in University Hall as part of a broader effort to ensure that LMU reflects more inclusive and diverse representations of our shared history and community, under the guidance of the Committee on Public Art and Images.
  • As announced on April 6, LMU waived the ACT/SAT requirements for 2021-22 academic year applicants; we will extend this moratorium to include 2022-23 academic year applicants as we explore ways to further our commitment to access and equity in admissions.
  • We established a feedback form for community members to share ideas or perspectives on how LMU may work towards an anti-racist, inclusive environment and education.

Day of Reflection and Action 

This Friday, June 19, 2020, Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery, will be a paid university holiday. For our LMU community, I ask that it be a day of reflection and action. I ask that each of us attends a Black Lives Matter protest, volunteers for a social justice organization, donates to a bail fund, calls our representatives to demand that they support initiatives that seek to end police violence, registers to vote, or expands our understanding through reading or use of other media. I ask that on this day we learn about the lasting impacts of slavery, including the lies associated with inferiority and supremacy, and that we pledge to create an organizational culture and institutional climate that honors Black lives. Please visit Intercultural Affairs’ Anti-racism and Inclusion Resources page and the William H. Hannon Library’s staff-curated Black Lives Matter resource guide. Human Resources will share more information about the Juneteenth day off tomorrow.

Action through Accountability and Assessment

Intercultural Affairs, led by Vice President Jennifer Abe, will track and report our progress in a systematic, ongoing, and transparent manner that keeps our institution and its leadership accountable for these outcomes. Intercultural Affairs will seek close partnership with Black faculty, staff, undergraduate, graduate student, and alumni leaders, along with representatives from the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA), the African American Alumni Association (AAAA), LMU Loyola Law School’s Black Alumni Chapter (BAC), the Black Law Student Association (BLSA), and the Umoja Alliance, among others. While the assessment process will be guided, vetted, and informed by this diverse representation of Black LMU community members, we must ensure that the burden of leading this effort does not fall solely on those members–every member of the LMU community is responsible for helping to change the system and culture of the university. Analyses and equity scorecard reports will be generated by each college/school and division, in collaboration with the Intercultural Advisory Committee. LMU will continue to refine its commitments with the abovementioned group of representatives from our Black community to ensure that their goals and concerns are prioritized.

As is so with all of American society and culture, our pathway to justice, and its clear goals, will require renewed and reformed reflection, conversation, commitment, and action. We must be sure that each of us holds each entity of our community—person, organization, program—accountable. We need to be open to calling out what needs to be called out, and accepting what others witness in our behaviors and actions as loci for revision. As actors within our larger society, we must do the same. Let us champion dignity. Let us champion justice. Let’s get to work.

In solidarity, strength—and, always, love,

Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D.