Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of essays written by students of the Fall 2018 Public History course and based on research at Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections. Check back over the next seven weeks for new stories.
With their Jesuit affiliation, social justice has been at the forefront of the missions of both Loyola University and Mundelein College. With the approach of the 1960s, however, students and faculty felt particularly empowered to make their voices heard— at their home institutions, in their communities, and around the world. In this post, we’ll look at a few examples of Loyola’s participation in social activism and political discourse over the past 50+ years.
“Every time we’ve escalated it’s because another policy has failed,” Loyola sociology professor Clark Kissinger, one of the “doves” on the panel, is quoted as saying in the Skyscraper, addressing the motivations behind the United States’ escalation of its involvement in the Vietnam War . Reporters at the entirely student-run, Mundelein College newspaper were covering the April 26, 1967 Vietnam War Teach-In, an opportunity for discussion and reflection about the causes and implications of our nation’s continued involvement in the conflict abroad. While the headline clearly addresses the tension between those on either side of the debate, the panel distribution hints at the majority political leanings of the school’s student body and staff as well.
“…probably the first time university administrators were criticized to their faces…” In 1969, Loyola’s “very best” students were invited by the administration to attend the Honors Convocation and share their “opinions and perceptions” about the past year. What the administration and attending parents got was a succession of admonishments about the university’s dismissal of students’ voices and the “radical change” that needed to occur within the university’s walls and policies. While many parents in the audience responded with gasps and rebukes of the speakers, the Loyola News does note that “administration took the remarks graciously as the sincere reflection of responsible students’ opinions” .
“The future of both cultures hangs precariously on our decision.” Black students at Mundelein spoke as one voice and presented a list of five demands to the university faculty. On May 26, 1970, they received a response at the town hall meeting in McCormick Lounge. “We have chosen not to ignore [these demands],” responded Sr. Virginia McDermott to the “several hundred” people in attendance. Money was pledged to assist the families and honor the memories of the two students who had been killed at Jackson State, recommendations were made to the white community at Mundelein, and university president Sr. Ann Ida Gannon promised that the administration would “move to meet the black students’ needs as quickly and as fully as possible” .
“…the more or less calm satisfaction…” The September 25, 1975 editorial in Loyola Law School’s Blackacre speaks to the tumult that the university had experienced in the first half of the decade, and the present “contentment” felt after a year of “news and controversy.” There had been faculty resignations, “publicity controvers[ies],” and a rift between the law school and the university about a proposed Legal Aid Clinic. However, the start of 1975 brought a year of all seats on the faculty being filled, a functional Legal Aid Clinic, and the redesign of classrooms. The editorial attributes these changes to the “student activism of the past two years” that was “instrumental in effecting a change in the University’s position toward the law school,” as well as the new Dean Murdock .
On March 19, 1982, the Loyola Phoenix published a political cartoon depicting Uncle Sam grabbing Central America and clenching it between his fists as Cuba’s Fidel Castro shoots arrows into his behind . Later, in a continued attempt to shine a light on the United States’ military involvement in Central America, Loyola students and faculty published a full page ad in the Chicago Tribune, calling for the withdrawal of economic and military aid from El Salvador after a string of brutal killings of Jesuit-affiliates by the Salvadorian military .
Current examples of activism and it’s coverage in student publications is evident on October 17, 2018, as graduate students crashed a budged meeting “calling for higher wages and union recognition.” Long a source of tension in university environments, the demands of many graduate students workers—demands that often require a set number of hours per week, in addition to grading papers, holding office hours, and attending their own classes—felt untenable to many, and they voiced these concerns. “We are fed up,” members of the union are quoted in the Loyola Phoenix as saying. To date, they have not been able to negotiate with the university, as Loyola representatives have expressed that graduate student workers are “students in every sense of the word” .
Like most Jesuit-affiliated institutions, the student bodies of Loyola University and the former Mundelein College have a deep sense of the importance of social justice and the power of political activism. We look forward to seeing their ongoing commitment to social change and the reporting on it through their myriad student publications.