President Robert L. Manuel > Notes from Rob > Moving Forward, Together

Moving Forward, Together

Among my first promises as DePaul’s president, I committed to deeply engage the questions of bias and equity that exist in our community. This engagement is particularly complex as our community is so diverse, our world’s problems are so deep, and there are many areas that call for our care and focus.

 If we want to unlock our full potential to become THE national model for higher education, we must directly confront bias in all its forms, including but not limited to, gender bias, religious intolerance, homophobia, racism, and ableism.

As a first step, we must acknowledge that in our university’s 125-year history, there have been times or practices that did not live up to our Catholic, Vincentian values. In the early 1930s, our university archives show there were times when DePaul changed its admissions standards to discourage and even prevent African American and Black students from enrolling. Further, there also was a tradition of supporting minstrel shows earlier in our history where performers were in blackface on the stage. While the timing of these instances are far removed from our current context, the vestiges of what they represent remain part of our daily lives. My sincerest hope is that we do not uncover any more of these abhorrent past practices; however, for what we have and may discover over the years to come, I offer my deep and profound apology, and my pledge to address the obstacles and practices that remain. We are actively working as a community to fully understand our university’s history and promise to be transparent as we do so.

I do find solace in the work and commitment demonstrated by many people in our community to actively address issues of bias and equity. I have witnessed their work and heartfelt dedication to defining specific needs and programming. Building on discussions that began with my predecessor, I pledge to match their expertise and energy with the university support (which I have outlined below) required to deliver measurable outcomes.

I realize that these initial actions do not address all the diversity, equity, and inclusion questions in our community. As we develop our understanding of how we will design our university for the future, I promise our work will evolve to comprehensively eradicate racism and bias from our community. I do hope that you see these actions as concrete commitments and a real vote of confidence in all the work that has been done to date.

We must be bold and brave to ensure that every person who entrusts their scholarship or their career to DePaul has the possibility to live life to its fullest potential. Thank you for your continued work and dedication to making DePaul a unified and equitable university.

Immediate Actions to Address Questions of Bias and Equity at DePaul University

  1. Respond to the Black Equity Initiative and Task Force to Address Vincentians’ Relationship with Slavery
      We will immediately adopt many of the requests outlined by the Black Equity Group and the Task Force to Address Vincentians’ Relationship with Slavery. This response is critical to understanding the long-standing effects of racism that are present in our daily community. If we want to change the course of racism around the world, we can begin right here on our campus by:
      1. Focusing our research to assess how funding and debt inform access and graduation rates for our underrepresented populations. This work will also recommend strategies to inform our fundraising for scholarships and generate new ideas about how to admit and serve our underrepresented student populations at DePaul.
      2. Promoting Shajuan Young to a full-time position in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity as a university-wide equity coordinator. Shajuan will report to Liz Ortiz, vice president for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity.
      3. Funding a “Presidential Scholar” for the 2023-2024 academic year to work within the university and Vincentian archives to increase our ability to understand DePaul’s connections to racism.
      4. Raising funds to create a permanent display of our archived materials to ensure our community can readily access information about our history.
      5. Celebrating the renaming of both the Rosati Room in the Richardson Library and the Vincentian-owned residence known as the Rosati House on Racine Ave.
      6. Celebrating the renaming of Belden-Racine Hall to Aspasia LeCompte Hall, recognizing the historical significance of her efforts in the emancipation efforts in our country. Born into slavery and baptized by the Catholic Church in 1804, Aspasia, her mother and siblings were held in bondage by multiple, and different, Catholic enslavers including Bishop Rosati. In 1827, she filed her first suit, a legal process in which enslaved persons could petition for their freedom based on having lived in a free territory. She finally won her freedom suit in April 1839, after which time she provided support to her family members. By 1844, Aspasia and all five of her family members had managed to obtain their freedom through their determined use of the courts. (Source: Kelly L. Schmidt, “Slavery and the Shaping of Catholic Missouri, 1810-1850,” Missouri Historical Review 116, no. 3.)
  2. Strive to become a Hispanic Serving Institution
    • Our collective efforts to date position us close to achieving the distinction of being a Hispanic Serving Institution. We will immediately reconstitute the exploration committee to proactively design our experiences for our Hispanic and Latinx community. The Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity will work with other university leaders to coordinate this committee and make recommendations on how we can best serve our Latinx and Hispanic students. This committee will focus on both making DePaul the university of choice for Latinx and Hispanic students, faculty, and staff, as well as supporting their academic and professional development while they are a member of our community.
  3. Apply for federal designation to become an Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander Institution
    • We have achieved the benchmark for the federal designation, and last year, the university convened a task force to complete the application process. The Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity will work with university leaders to complete the process.
  4. Design a modern, robust support system for our student organizations
    • Our student organizations are one of our greatest strengths. They showcase the diversity of our community and represent the broad interests of our student body. While we consistently strive to increase student engagement, it also is critical we support current efforts, provide more guidance on their initiatives, and how they interact with one another as well as the broader world. Student Affairs will manage this process and report back to me by the end of this academic year. We will then make these findings and actions public.
  5. Increase the number of our Presidential Fellows for 2023-2024
    • Expand the existing Presidential Diversity Fellows program for 2023-24. We will offer up to five fellowships to focus on discrete questions of equity for any of the affinity groups we have on campus at DePaul. It is my hope that these Presidential Fellows can provide research into the lived reality of our diverse communities and extend our understanding on how to improve their experiences at DePaul. Applications for these fellowships will be circulated in early February.
  6. Establish a working group to engage topics of religious intolerance
    • We will convene the members from our various faith groups to build bridges with one another and gain broader understanding about the impact of religious intolerance within our community. I have asked Fr. Memo Campuzano, C.M., vice president for the Division of Mission and Ministry; Liz Ortiz, vice president for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Equity; and Gene Zdziarski, vice president for Student Affairs, to join me in leading this conversation and create an action plan for us to consider by the end of this academic year.