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Black Loyola students want to ‘eradicate focus on Western Civilization’ in honors program

Student who doesn’t like reading the Bible also said the curricula is too ‘whitecentric’

Black and other minority students at Loyola University Chicago want to change the Honors Program curriculum away from its focus on Western civilization.

The Honors Black, Indigenous, People of Color Coalition described a number of goals in an Instagram post. The group appears to have deleted its entire Instagram page, as it no longer can be seen as of April 20, however the Loyola Phoenix has a screenshot of it.

Students want to “Eradicate the focus on Western Civilization and Tradition and expand the scope of the Honors 101/102 to have a greater emphasis on global intellectuality” the post said, and “Diversify faculty that will honor and respectfully teach each text with cultural competency.”

Other goals include better support for racial minority students in the honors program and recruitment of a diverse student body.

The most recent syllabus posted is for the 2018-19 school year, but based on comments made by the students, it appears to be still in use.

Students are asked to read works such as “The Prince” by Machiavelli, “Persuasion” by Jane Austen and the writings of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare.

One historical work that students are upset about is the Bible.

“I personally did not like reading the Bible whatsoever, in any capacity,” honors student Himani Soni said during an Honors BIPOC townhall in March.

She said she “absolutely hated” reading the foundational text of Catholicism at the Catholic university.

She also said during the virtual meeting that “my freshman year I felt out of place…mainly due to the fact that the education is very whitecentric.”

“Considering that so much of the honors program is based around diverse perspectives of the texts, but when you come at it from such as religious background, it can be really difficult to use,” Gia Clarke, an Honors BIPOC Coalition leader, said during the March townhall, attended by The College Fix.

One leader in the group, Diya Patel, declined to answer questions from The College Fix.

“Unfortunately, I do not think it is best for us to participate,” Patel said via email.

The College Fix asked for a list of texts the group wanted replaced for the next year and who it wanted to see used instead, an update on a response from the administration and a copy of the current curriculum.

While the intro courses primarily focus on the classics, the program includes a variety of courses, in areas such as “Science and Society,” “Encountering Asia,” and “Encountering Africa.”

Director tells student paper that ‘times change’

The director of the honors program would not address questions on if she would be open to making the program less Christian-centric and address comments about the studying of the Bible.

English Professor Virginia Strain, the director of the honors program, responded to an initial inquiry on March 26 and asked for more information about The College Fix. She has not responded any further in the past three weeks.

The Fix also asked her if the syllabus on the website is the most up to date and if she had responses to the BIPOC Coalition.

“One thing to remember is that times change,” Strain told the Phoenix. “The people who designed this program in its current iteration thought that they were welcoming diversity. Students and academics today want us to reflect on this curriculum and see whether or not it still works.”

She is new to the program and did not develop the current syllabus.

The university, which met with the group in April, said it plans to continue to review the course texts and authors.

“Loyola University Chicago commends the Honors BIPOC Coalition for calling on the Honors Program to review and consider implementing a more diverse curriculum,” Anna Shymanski, a spokesperson for the university, said.

“These student leaders represent the very best of our Honors Program and we welcome the dialogue,” Shymanski said in an email.

“As we strive to become a more inclusive community,” the spokesperson said, “we will continue to closely assess existing programs and curriculums to ensure they are consistent with the University’s Jesuit mission and values.”

MORE: Student success conference segregates by race

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Rachelle Hernandez is a graduate student in public policy at Liberty University. She holds a bachelors degree in kinesiology. She is a podcaster at Facts, Faith, & Freedom.