Catholic Colleges and Universities Act
Catholic higher education has responded in a variety of ways to the events of spring 2020, as campuses work to make inroads against the tide of systemic racism. Some are looking with candor at their own institution's past, while others are educating a new generation of leaders to move the country forward.
Four Lasallian educators took part in a webinar to help participants understand and learn how to act in response to systemic racism. View the recording here.
Loras College made the decision to remove a statue of its founder, after discovering that Bishop Mathias Loras had enslaved a woman from 1836 to 1852.
In Minnesota, the University of St. Thomas convened a group to discuss the renaming of Loras Hall after the revelation about Bishop Loras came to light.
The University of Dayton released a historic letter that demonstrates systemic racism at the institution, along with a video aimed at helping educate and put the letter into context.
In June 2020, the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University hosted a Public Dialogue titled, "Racism in Our Streets and Structures: A Test of Faith, A Crisis for Our Nation."
Catholic Higher Education Responds to Executive Order
In September 2020, President Trump signed an executive order that "prohibits the federal government, as well as its contractors, subcontractors and grantees, from offering diversity training programs on racial and gender biases," according to the Wall Street Journal.
Opposition to the order came swiftly from leaders in business and non-profit organizations, including higher education. ACCU signed a letter, along with more than 50 other higher education groups, urging the president to rescind the order, which is "creating a chilling effect on the good faith and lawful efforts of campus officials to build and sustain non-discriminatory and non-hostile workplaces and learning communities."
ACCU President writes, "Trump's order interfering with diversity efforts: The wrong move at the wrong time"
Regis University Will Continue to Provide Anti-Bias Training
Chaminade University hosted the online presentation, “Racism in Hawaii: A Faith Response,” via the Marianist Center of Hawaiiʻs YouTube channel.
Boston College launched its Forum on Racial Justice in America with a Service of Hope and Reconciliation. Visit the webpage to view videos of events.
Saint Joseph's University announced a new concentration in diversity, equity, and belonging for master's students in criminal justice and organization development and leadership.
Following are excerpts from a sampling of statements made by the leaders of ACCU member institutions. If you would like your institution’s statement listed here, please email Paula Moore.
'Our Faith Condemns Racism and Discrimination,’ The Catholic University of America President John Garvey
“I want to take this occasion to restate a few of the key beliefs of this University community. Our faith condemns racism and discrimination of any kind. They have no place on the campus of The Catholic University of America. Saint Paul wrote in the letter to the Galatians that we ‘are all one in Christ Jesus (3:26-28).’ Our Church teaches that ‘[e]very form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design.
“For members of our community who are living now in DC, please take care and be safe. We ask that everyone abide by the citywide curfew. If you are participating in the protests, please be witnesses of peace.”
Regarding Continued Unrest Across the Nation, Seton Hall University President Joseph Nyre
“As we begin another week marked by shocking unrest in scores of American cities and towns, we as a University and as a nation are fighting two deadly afflictions — the diseases of COVID-19 and endemic racism.
“Universities were among the first to respond to the threat of COVID-19, long before any national guidance or executive orders. So, too, must higher education help lead society to overcome racism and violence. So let me reiterate and advance the University's statement of Saturday afternoon: Seton Hall condemns in no uncertain terms the sin of racism and the acts of degradation it engenders against members of our human family and particularly our black community.”
Renewing Our Commitment to Peace and Social Justice, La Roche University President Sr. Candace Introcaso, CDP
“Seeing the Floyd family rise from their grief to plead for peace and justice helped me bring clarity to my feelings and to find my voice. The example set by this heartbroken family, with their plea that we honor George Floyd’s shortened life by becoming a nation of more caring individuals, should be forever written on our hearts and minds.”
"We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life." – Pope Francis
St. Mary’s University Stands With Those Who Have Been Denied Justice, President Thomas Mengler and Rev. Timothy Eden, SM, Rector and Vice President for Mission, St. Mary’s University in San Antonio
“The video of George Floyd dying under the knee of a policeman is obscene. The image is obscene, the sound of the dying man struggling to speak is obscene, and the casual indifference of the policeman on Mr. Floyd’s neck is obscene. But what was perhaps most horrifying was the fact that this latest death of a black man was only the last of a long list of brutal deaths involving policemen and people of color. The legacy of slavery and racism continues to this very day, and we fool ourselves if we believe that we can stand off to the side and let others solve this problem. If we are American, this is our disease, and it must be with our minds and hearts and hands that we work for the cure. If we are Christians, this is our failure, and it is in the heart and teaching of Christ that we must find healing for this sin.”
"Prayer for Unity, Walk for Justice": Remarks from University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins, CSC
"We gather tonight not just to reflect on police violence against a single man in Minneapolis, but on a legacy of violence, often conducted with impugnity against Black people in our nation. We confront the heavy burden of a legacy of racism. ... It is difficult to find words adequate to that challenge."
Letter from Boston College President Rev. William Leahy, SJ to the BC community
“It is essential that we remain people animated by faith, hope, and love and not let frustration, anger, and violence prevail. I believe especially helpful and appropriate for us today are words in the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke: ‘Pray and not lose heart.’ And strengthened by our faith and bonds with one another, we must recommit ourselves to promoting a society where all have the possibility of life, liberty, and justice.”
Gonzaga University Statement on the Death of George Floyd
“At this critical juncture in US racial and ethnic history, it is important to remember that a founder of the Jesuits, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, was a member of a group now minoritized in their nation; a respect for difference is also at the heart of many Ignatian teachings. The fear equated with differences based on color, in this country, is profound, and has a particular pattern of having been codified and institutionalized in law, in practice, and in social and cultural values; it is a fear worthy of acknowledgment and of analysis. We are called, as is stated sometimes in common vernacular, to "own" this history as much as we obligate ourselves to resisting, interpreting, and evaluating behaviors borne out of racialized pasts.”
Stay Home, Be Safe and Stand Together in Honoring the Memory of George Floyd, University of St. Thomas (MN) President Julie Sullivan
“George Floyd – a father and family member, a colleague and friend to many – should be alive today. We must encourage and protect the rights of all to grieve, unite in peaceful protests and publicly demand justice for his tragic death. However, we also must condemn damaging personal property, arson and looting in our commercial districts and neighborhoods. These outrageous acts tragically perpetrate more injustice on the innocent. Many small and minority-owned businesses have been especially hard hit.
“I am very concerned that many of our St. Thomas community are living in the very neighborhoods most impacted by the frightening events of the last two evenings. I encourage everyone in our St. Thomas community to heed the calls of our governor and community leaders and to abide by the 8 p.m. curfew this evening and to use your networks and social media outlets to encourage others to do the same. I also encourage you to reach out to older or vulnerable neighbors and ask them what they need tonight and in the coming days. We are stronger as a community when we collaborate and care for one another.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reflection on Racism, DeSales University President Fr. James J. Greenfield, OSFS
“We have been self-quarantined for ten weeks by the coronavirus, and many of us now see the pain of the pandemic of racism in a stunning way. We know that communities of color have been more greatly impacted than white communities due to inadequate access to healthcare, the lack of affordable housing, chronic unemployment, and poverty.
“As we re-emerge from our homes, how will we change? Will our hearts be stretched, souls softened, and hands strengthened to work for societal justice?”
Message from University of Scranton President Scott R. Pilarz, SJ to the community
“As a university, we seek truth. As a Catholic and Jesuit university, we insist that truth be accompanied by freedom, justice and love. St. Oscar Romero once said, “let us not tire of preaching love. It is the force that will overcome the world.” At this time of strife and struggle, I ask you to join me in prayer that the love that defines our University of Scranton community focuses for us the moral mandate to be a source for peace and healing for George Floyd’s family, for African Americans, for law enforcement, for our leaders, and for all who long for justice. Reading the signs of the times, we must also as The University of Scranton community examine our hearts for the shadow of racism and indifference.”
A Message Regarding Racial Injustice, D'Youville College President Lorrie Clemo and senior staff
“To our students and community members of color, we see you, we hear you, and we know that you are tired and angry. Please know that should you no longer have the strength to support yourself we are here to support you.”
Responding to injustice, Georgian Court University President Joseph Marbach
“We are troubled, disturbed, angered, and saddened. But more than anything, the events of the last week mean that we are called—called to fight institutional racism and to embrace non-violence. Both are among the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy, the founding order of Georgian Court University where we equip students to “shape a just and compassionate world.”
Ending Systemic Racism and Oppression, Carlow University President Suzanne Mellon
“I ask that each of us take action that is anti-racist. Call out actions, statements, humor, anything that seeks to diminish and make light of racism, wherever you encounter it. Only our collective actions will demonstrate the integrity of our values as a community.
“Today, more than ever before, we need to overtly participate in bringing about change in our country. We cannot allow bitterness and anger to prevail; we must find constructive ways to create equity and justice in our society. To that end, I am charging the President’s Council on Equity, Inclusion and Community and the Social Justice Institutes to set this as a priority for this upcoming year and lead our campus community in a call to action with the focus on calling out and ending injustices everywhere and further building on what we have done and further engaging us as a community.”
Thomas More University President Joseph Chillo Addresses Recent Events of Racial Injustice
"While we all are struggling to make sense of these recent tragedies, we can be pointed to our mission as a reminder of what we – as the University community – stand for. As our mission states, we have a responsibility to others. Each of us have this critical responsibility, and I urge you to respond with compassion and understanding as we navigate the dialogues about racism, social injustice, and privilege taking place in our country, communities, and homes."
University Statement on Race and the Community, Fordham University
"The plight of Black and Latinx people here in our borough and across the country is heartbreaking and unacceptable. Despite our ongoing and current efforts, we understand that Fordham by itself can never address every ill nor meet every need, yet we can—and will—do more."
Addressing Racism and Injustice, University of St. Thomas (Houston) President Richard Ludwick
"We often say that diversity is one of our greatest strengths. It certainly is, but only if we make sure that it remains more than a talking point. That 'strength' exists because the fabric of our diverse community is woven tightly together. If some of those threads are lost, our fabric weakens, strength is gone. We stand together, or not at all."
An Open Letter to the University of Dayton Community from Members of the President’s Council Regarding Steps Toward Becoming an Anti-Racist University
"As administrative leaders of the institution, we understand that each and every one of us shares in the responsibility to enact meaningful, action-oriented change at UD. To create an anti-racist university of authentic inclusivity that is full of opportunity for all, we are committed on our campus to working for justice and human rights and doing what will improve the diversity, equity, and inclusivity of UD. As a Catholic, Marianist university, we believe every person has innate dignity because all people are made in the image and likeness of God. We are called to embrace human diversity, communicate with respect, and to understand, disrupt, and dismantle systemic racism. Black lives do indeed matter."