Loyola’s handling of a recent student event in the news: A message from Loyola President Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J.
Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., president of Loyola University Maryland, sent the message below to the Loyola community on Nov. 23, 2016.
Dear Members of the Loyola Community:
Over the past few days, you may have seen media coverage of concerns Loyola administrators expressed about a “Party in the USA”-themed event our Student Government Association held for the senior class last week. Some media outlets are representing the situation as if Loyola is not a place that supports dialogue and diverse perspectives—and even as a university that lacks patriotism.
Those misperceptions could not be further from the truth. Loyola University Maryland is a Jesuit, Catholic university where we seek out opportunities for our students to engage in discussion and deepen their understanding of our nation and our world. Our community is enriched by that diversity of thought and that conversation—particularly as we keep in mind that while people’s dignity and rights and well-being should never be challenged, ideas should be challenged and that that conversation will only strengthen us.
Every year the Student Government Association plans a series of events to mark their countdown to Commencement. This past summer, prior to the presidential election, they chose “Party in the USA” as the theme for last Friday’s Senior 200s event, where the students would wear costumes around that theme. As the event drew closer, we heard from members of our community who were concerned that some students intended to manipulate the theme to create an unwelcoming environment at the event. Loyola leadership brought these concerns to the SGA and suggested they consider their options for how to proceed, including possibly changing the timing of the theme to later in the academic year when our country, overall, will be less politically charged.
The SGA chose to keep the theme and hold the event as scheduled after sending an email to all seniors encouraging them to be kind and respectful and to uphold our institutional core values. The event was a great success with strong attendance and wonderful energy. As they do again and again, our students made us proud.
As I reflect on the discussions prior to the event, I recognize that we could have demonstrated more faith in our students. However, my senior leaders and I have a responsibility to create an intellectual and social environment where all students feel welcomed, included, and supported—an environment where students of all political viewpoints can engage in substantive, meaningful dialogue in the pursuit of truth. The intent of our dialogue with SGA leaders before the event was focused on the timing of the event’s theme, out of concern for all members of our community, and was a reminder to them, as student leaders on Loyola’s campus, of our mission-centric values.
Loyola will always be a place where those conversations can and will occur. As a Jesuit, Catholic university with a commitment to liberal arts education, we celebrate diversity of thought.
Tomorrow, all across this great nation, people will gather to express their gratitude for the many blessings in their lives. Today I feel deeply grateful for our Loyola community and for our nation, where this type of conversation can occur, and where we can come together to work toward a bright future.
May you and your loved ones experience many blessings this Thanksgiving.
Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J.