On receiving the 2017 Loyola University Chicago Faculty of the Year Award

By Mark Kuczewski, PhD (9/10/2017)

 


In the selection of Maria Vidal de Haymes and me for this award, it is clear that the Faculty Council was sending a message.  We believe that this award is not so much as us as about the entire university.  It is about the wisdom Loyola University Chicago has shown in taking the plight of undocumented immigrants so seriously. This is your award – we are here to accept it on your behalf.  So, congratulations.

You richly deserve these awards.  You really are something. It’s unbelievable what you’ve accomplished.  We live an era in which our dated immigration laws have sentenced millions of people to lives in which they cannot access opportunity and have few realistic prospects for full participation in our communities.  They are systematically excluded from things like buying a health insurance policy, obtaining a student loan or, of course, working for an on-the-books salary.

You have not looked away from this travesty. Instead, you have created opportunities for many young people who would otherwise be segregated from the chances to develop their hearts and minds that we and our children take for granted. For instance,

  • Your undergraduate students have been inspired by your values and actually tax themselves to provide the Magis scholarships to several of their undocumented peers.
  • Your Arrupe College refuses to accept that undocumented students must reconcile themselves to educational institutions that fail to provide the kind of environment and support that enables their success.
  • Your medical school didn’t just open a door that had been closed to undocumented students but attempted to blow it off its hinges by creating loan programs that would enable any student who successfully competed for admission to enroll.
  • And we have a university-wide DREAMER advisory committee that works closely together to address the needs of these students as they are rapidly evolving.

Wow! That’s incredible.  But you can’t rest on your laurels.  With the devastating announcement that the federal government is winding down DACA, your agenda has expanded dramatically.

  • You must advocate in every way possible for a permanent legislative solution for your students, the bipartisan DREAM Act. This has failed to pass many times but with all the attention the demise of DACA has received, Senator Durbin told us when he visited the Health Sciences Division on Friday that he believes the window is open for about 90 days.

At the same time, we cannot just focus on bringing about the best possible outcome but have to prepare for the worst and every outcome in between.

  • We must keep our students as safe as possible. Dr. Rooney has led us in propagating a sound “front door policy” to respond appropriately if ICE comes to our campus seeking a student.
  • But we must also be ready to respond if any of our students are detained and placed in deportation proceedings.  We cannot simply wish them luck and let them fend for themselves.
  • Perhaps most importantly, we must face the challenge of maintaining a sizable community of persons who are marginalized.  We have empowered these students by creating a community.  For instance, the AMA President has visited the Stritch DACA medical students to consider how he could be an advocate.  If we let their numbers fall away and they are no longer a sizable constituency of such organizations, we disempower them.  I think this will require that we faculty follow the example of the undergraduate students and open our wallets. We may need some faculty-funded Magis scholarships to offset the lost funding caused by the demise of DACA.

As you consider this to do list, it is natural to want to just go back to the simple predictable life of being a scholar and teacher.  But, as we used to say where I grew up in New Jersey, “Fuhgeddaboudit."  Your work has transformed you.

This week, as we heard the devastating news that the DACA memorandum has been set on fire and your students were told to go back into the shadows, you acted.
You walked out with them
You marched and rallied with them.
You promised to advocate for them in every way possible.
And you pledged to always accompany them, come what may.
And in the finest tradition of Jesuit education, you listened to your most marginalized students and in their cries for justice, you heard the Voice of Your God!
There can be no going back from that.

I look forward to continuing to work with you. Thank you.