University Mission and Identity

10.11.2016 Message from President Niehoff to JCU Community announcing the Slavery Working Group

In my earlier email to the University community regarding Archbishop John Carroll and his owning at least one slave, I announced that I would convene a working group charged with developing a participative campus process to help us learn about the historical record and to make recommendations about how we acknowledge this history and grow in our commitment to justice for all people. My thanks to those who responded to my request and submitted suggestions and to all who offered to serve on the Working Group.

I write today to share with you the group’s membership:

  • Martin Connell, SJ (ED) co-chair
  • Sherri Crahen (SA) co-chair
  • John Ambrose ’15 (Administrative Assistant, PO)
  • Diane McTier (M&I)
  • Tina Facca-Miess (MML)
  • Jean Feerick (EN)
  • Theron Ford (ED)
  • Dr. Evelyn Jenkins-Gunn ‘72G
  • Dan Kilbride (HS)
  • Scott Labuda ’87
  • Terry Mills (P)
  • Ed Peck (M&I)
  • Donald Phillip, JD ’95
  • Alexa Van Maaren ’17, (History Major with Concentration in American Slavery)
  • Dwight Venson ’17, President of AAA (African American Alliance)

I am grateful to these individuals who have agreed to serve our community by helping to lead this important conversation. Vice President for Mission and Identity Dr. Ed Peck and his administrative assistant, Ms. Diane McTier, have generously agreed to provide organizational and administrative support to the co-chairs in order to support their leadership and to facilitate the efforts of the Working Group.

I ask the Working Group to use University resources to assist in its work — we are fortunate to have many people whose research and teaching can contribute to our learning and discussions. That said, I am committed to providing the resources to bring visitors to campus as needed to help the committee and the University in this important work that is so closely related to the University’s mission. I expect that the Working Group will include all of the University’s constituencies in the conversations that will serve as an important resource for their report and recommendations. In particular, I encourage the committee to include our alumni, many of whom have expressed their interest in participating in the conversations about this matter.

I think that the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP) can serve as an important resource in establishing the process of the work to be done. The IPP (which includes the following elements: context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation) is a practical framework for addressing the issues before the Working Group and is consistent with and effective in communicating the Ignatian values and worldview.

In the First Week of his Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius invites the retreatant to admit before a loving and compassionate God their need for healing from fear and guilt. Our facing the legacy of John Carroll relative to what some have called America’s “original sin” is a response to an invitation to us as a University community to do the same: To consider the failures and graces in our history relative to racial justice, starting with our namesake’s participation in chattel slavery.

Facing the history of Archbishop Carroll and his Jesuit companions and our history will be challenging for some, but relying on the grace of God we will press on and grapple with the truth of the past to help us address the circumstances of the present. No one grows if they are unwilling to examine their history and name what they must do better; the same is true for institutions. In this regard, I expect that the Working Group will help us to know the history of our namesake and the University’s legacy regarding racial justice and to suggest what we can do now as a community to live more justly in light of their study and the conversations that they sponsor.

The Working Group will provide opportunities for our community to learn about this history and will update campus on their progress and plans each semester. I anticipate that the Working Group’s final report and recommendations will be shared with campus next fall. I look forward to the Working Group’s recommendations and the conversation and learning that are such an important part of the process.