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Student Union president signs letter in support of people of color

April 6th, 2016

 

John Carroll University Student Union President Will Hudson signed a letter in support of people of color at Jesuit colleges and universities. Student Union presidents at the other 27 Jesuit colleges and universities across America signed the letter as well.

 

This letter is the first collaboration between student body presidents of all 28 Jesuit colleges and universities.

 

David Tassone, Student Body President at Loyola Marymount University, contacted Hudson via email in January to introduce his idea of writing a collaborative letter in support of people of color. Hudson presented the idea to the Student Union Executive Board, who unanimously supported the idea. “Everyone was pretty excited,” said Hudson.

 

Back in June, Canisius College held the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference (NJSLC) in Buffalo, New York. The Canisius student body president Richard Kubiak called a meeting of all student body presidents at the conference, where they exchanged contact information. The student body presidents wanted to be able to collaborate on various topics in the future.

 

In November, Loyola Marymount’s student government felt the need to address current race issues at colleges and universities, in particular at the University of Missouri.

 

Tassone explained his reasoning behind the letter: “We realized that this would be a great opportunity for all Jesuit colleges and universities to stand behind one issue, an end to racial inequality in the higher education system.”

 

According to America Magazine, Jesuit institutions have a moral obligation to address racial inequality. In one of the magazine articles entitled, “Breathing Space,” Alex Mikulich argues that Jesuit colleges and universities must help undo racism because of their Ignatian mission to be men and women for others.

 

Mikulich explains that there are three shared Jesuit goals that inform this argument. First, Jesuit institutions must analyze and understand racism. The administrators cannot move forward to solve the problem without first understanding it. The second goal is transformation. The institution must be dynamic, open minded, and willing to learn and change. As these Jesuit colleges and universities begin to understand racism, they must change their policies to combat it. Third, liberation from racism is necessary. These institutions must let go of their prejudices so that all may once again celebrate the multicultural face of God.

 

When drafting the letter, Tassone saw these same Jesuit values, which is what caused him to ask for collaboration between all Jesuit colleges and universities.

 

After several months of discussion via email, all 28 Jesuit higher education institutions had signed the letter in support of people of color. The final letter was released March 28.

 

Since a student union president initiated this idea, Hudson did not need approval from the administration or the Rev. Fr. Niehoff to sign the letter.

 

The letter is not a plan of action, rather, a statement of support and solidarity. It reads, “As Jesuit institutions, we are prepared to engage in conversations of race, microaggressions, representation, intersectionality, and the injustices that exist within flawed systems.”

 

Sophomore Casey Bednarski reacted to the letter. “Signing this letter is an amazing step forward for this university,” she said. “Our participation shows that we acknowledge racial inequalities at this institution and elsewhere. As a Jesuit university, we are striving to create a wholesome, welcoming environment for everyone.”

 

Gloria Vaquera, a professor on the sociology department and advocate of diversity and equality, is pleased to see student union’s support of people of color, but also wants to see further action taken.

 

“As Jesuit institutions that advocate for creating ‘men and women for others’, this kind of negative racial climate goes counter to our mission,” said Vaquera.

 

She continued, “We should be doing more to challenge racist attitudes and to educate our students, staff, faculty and administration.  I am happy to see our student union signing on to this letter but I hope that real action follows that challenges the status quo at JCU.”