The recent success of the Loyola University Chicago Division I men’s basketball team has been met with heightened attention to the university. Though Loyola has been in the limelight for this athletic success, it has also exposed some underlying problems the university has yet to resolve.

Back in February of this year, there was an incident of racial profiling by Loyola University Chicago’s Campus Police, along with the aggressive mishandling and arrest of two students of color. Though some progress has been made with the creation of the #NotMyLoyola movement, the initiation of a body camera policy for Campus Safety officers, and an investigation into the incident headed by Hillard Hientze, students argue the university needs to continue to take action to resolve these racially biased incidents so that all students on campus feel safe and protected.

In addition to these racial tensions, part-time instructors and professors on the non-tenure track (NTT) have begun to organize and protest against the university. They argue that the university does not offer a fair and consistent contract, pays faculty poverty-level wages, lacks job security, and offers little to no path of promotion to this group of faculty. For nearly two years, NTT faculty, represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, have attempted to make negotiations with the university and express their concerns.

One adjunct professor, Laura Goldstein, wrote an article for the university’s student-run newspaper, the Loyola Phoenix, describing her experience as an NTT instructor. She has taught at Loyola since 2005 as an adjunct professor and was only hired on a semester by semester basis, leaving her with little to no job security. Finally in 2012, she was promoted to full-time non-tenure track, but recognizes that this situation is very rare. In her experience, she writes that “we currently don’t see the Loyola administration creating conditions for a work environment where the actual nature and outcome of our work is recognized, respected or responded to.”

Another instructor, who wishes to remain anonymous, shared why she chose to cancel her classes to protest with her fellow coworkers. This instructor has been at the university for 10 years; while working as a part-time instructor, she never received any sort of pay increase. She was later promoted as a NTT temporary full-time instructor, and in that time, she was never offered a teaching contract until July for the fall semester that would begin in August. According to her, “the demands of the union are legitimate and the university has been in very slow negotiations for 2 years. It was only upon threatening to strike that progress on negotiations was made.”

She continues on to say “if Loyola teaches us anything it is to stand up for your beliefs and be the change you want to see in the world. I think it is fair to hold them accountable to that.”

Sarita Heer, professor in the Art department:

“The bargaining process here has been ridiculously slow…the university has been trying the old tactic of ‘stall, stall, stall,’ and they think we don’t have teeth.”

Because Loyola seemingly refused to make a deal with NTT, they threatened a strike if a deal was not reached on April 2nd, 2018, at a bargaining meeting. Because an agreement was not reached by both parties, NTT faculty went on strike on Wednesday, April 4. In addition, many students chose to walk out of their classes in order to stand in solidarity with their instructors.

Some of the demands NTT has included:

    • 67% pay increase for part-time faculty
    • Fair contract
    • Sabbaticals
    • Job security
    • Path to promotion

In response, particularly after the event of the strike, the university has suggested

  • “…reducing the requirements for part-time faculty to become adjunct professors”
  • “…changing the initial appointment of a full-time unionized faculty member from a one year to two and lengthening the times of their reappointments”
  • “…recommended reducing the number of reasons Loyola is allowed to not reappoint faculty”
  • “…proposed changes to the process which allow unionized faculty to request a promotion”
  • “…made suggestions regarding faculty members’ abilities to manage workload”
  • “…suggested doubling the original amount of a professional development fund for faculty up to $30,000 and making it available to all unionized faculty”
  • “…offered faculty the opportunity to apply for grants of up to $600”
  • “Loyola offered pay raises to all ELLP unionized faculty, with amounts differing depending on appointment status and job time”
  • “They also recommended changes to the guidelines dictating the workload of ELLP faculty”

Most recently, the NTT faculty union has continued to organize, this time, during a prospective students weekend at the university, April 6-8. Over the weekend, the union held a panel discussion on Friday, April 6 to offer “insight and information on the negotiations between the union and university administration.”

The university has expressed a clear opposition to these strikes and walkouts. The university argues it does not want its faculty walking out on its students, compromising their education. However, students have argued that the best way to not compromise their education is for their professors to be best equipped to teach, putting it back on the administration. In an email to the Loyola student body, the president of the university, Jo Ann Rooney, stated:

“It is highly disappointing that the SEIU would call a strike and disrupt your education, particularly given the efforts Loyola has made to reach a fair and reasonable agreement. Loyola believes contract issues are best settled at the bargaining table, and we have been committed to transparency and collaborative negotiations.”

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As there are nearly 350 NTT faculty in Loyola’s College of Arts and Sciences, in addition to the faculty in the English Language Learning Program (ELLP), these negotiations will affect a large proportion of the faculty population, and an even larger number of students at the university.

With the success of the university’s Division I Men’s Basketball team, much attention has been cleverly steered from these issues happening on campus, and instead, funneled into a media frenzy surrounding the athletic achievements. According to Lillian Osborne, a recent Loyola graduate, the university has utilized the basketball team, as well as its chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, to “placate people, put on a show, and mask what’s really happening.” Rather than speaking to these issues and thoughtfully address student and faculty concerns, the university’s administration is accused of attempting to bury the issues and, instead, highlight the NCAA tournament as a distraction.
Though the national success of the men’s basketball team is undoubtedly beneficial in bringing good press, merchandise sales, and potentially increased undergraduate admissions applications to the university, this newfound attention also brings a sense of responsibility for the university to do right by its students and all faculty. A campus organizer reported to The Nation, “There’s a lot of excitement on campus about what the team has done so far…But winning basketball games obviously doesn’t do anything to address the underlying problems of a university administration that doesn’t respect the voices of its own students, faculty, and staff.” As a Jesuit institution, many accuse the university of acting hypocritically as it advertises a mission of social justice, meanwhile it fails “to provide its own workers with a fair salary, security and benefits,” the Phoenix reported last month.