A Stand Against Hatred and Bigotry

Dear Loyola community,

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to faculty and staff at our annual Convocation and shared what we all know to be true and feel all the more resolutely following this weekend’s horrific events in Charlottesville. Our community is pained and saddened by the tragic loss of life and hate-inspired violence, and we extend our deepest condolences to the families of those affected.

As a Jesuit, Catholic university, we condemn all forms of hate speech, racism, intolerance, and social injustice, for they fly in the face of our deepest values and our mission’s fundamental belief that all people are children of God, worthy of dignity and respect. Our university, our Jesuit mission, and our Catholic faith are all centered around a devotion to our fellow humans and a commitment to service to others. At the heart of all three institutions is a commitment to love.

At Loyola University New Orleans, we celebrate our diversity and we believe that diversity makes us stronger — as it has the nation. We strive to create and foster an environment where everyone not only feels included but thrives. We believe that argument and discourse go beyond social media and strengthen and clarify our views, ideas, and choice of actions. Our university mission says that we welcome students of diverse backgrounds and “prepare them to lead meaningful lives with and for others; to pursue truth, wisdom, and virtue; and to work for a more just world.”

And so, I urge us, as members of one Loyola, united by our mission to work for justice, to support one another actively and to stand together against intolerance and injustice. Our Office of Diversity and Inclusion exists to support our efforts, to help us learn and grow, and to move us beyond the particulars of any given moment.

On August 1, we welcomed Sybol Cook Anderson, our new chief diversity officer. Under her leadership, 40 staff, faculty, administrators, and students participated last week in three days of Crossroads anti-racism training, devising strategies for institutional transformation. You will have many opportunities to join the work of promoting diversity and inclusion at Loyola and beyond. I urge you to accept these invitations when they come your way and to take what you’ve learned out into the world.

As we head into the school year and welcome back our students, I believe it’s important that we not only promote inclusion but also empower conversation about these challenging topics, even when it may prove difficult. We are a university founded on the ideals of critical thinking, ethics, and social justice. What we do here and what we do out in the world, as educators, staff, and students, is important, important to us and to our nation. And so, in our personal lives and in our community, as well as here on campus, we also must lead. We must examine our own hearts. We must choose not to remain silent in the face of struggle but to reject all forms of hatred and bigotry.

Kevin Wm. Wildes, S.J., Ph.D.