Today, on Friday, July 10, 2020 at 4:12 p.m. - at the very end of the work day, at the end of the week - the Xavier administration sent out an email to current students, their families, and affiliates. However, no students from Alumni for Change received the correspondence directly, after continuous appeals to be heard. Xavier has never offered to meet with organizers, despite direct requests for dialogue. This email, on its surface, seems to be compassionate and sympathetic, but in reality, is rife with empty statements that fail to directly address the five action items that have been signed onto by 1,800+ alumni, donors, current students, and their families. Here we outline our responses to Xavier's letter and why this is not enough.
Xavier says that they will “not rest until [their] prayers and actions for healing and justice are heard.”
But it is not enough to pray. Xavier must commit to actions and engage in a dialogue with the hundreds of alumni and families who have voiced their support for ending discrimination within the school and facilitating an anti-racist education at Xavier, in line with Catholic beliefs.
Xavier says, “For over 75 years, Xavier has been fighting injustice.”
But we have heard from more than 600 current students and alumni describing at length experiences of racist discrimination, exclusion, and inequality, against themselves or their peers - from the classes of 1979 to 2024. Xavier rejected the petition calling on the school to fire Mr. Gavin Ahern for distributing racist, misogynistic materials in class; he still remains a teacher.
How can Xavier say they are actively fighting injustice?
Xavier says, “We are unable to respond to every communication as we prepare to safely and effectively reopen for the upcoming school year, please know that we have read and listened to all of them.”
But if Xavier had taken the time to read every letter and every story, they would have responded with their concrete, actionable plans to make change for students at Xavier.
How can Xavier be unable to respond to their students and families who have shared such painful, personal stories of racism?
Xavier says they “are deeply touched by the extraordinary support that [they] have received from the Xavier community amidst these challenging times.”
But the purpose of this petition is to show Xavier that their current curriculum, lack of faculty diversity, and complacent attitude has harmed students, namely students of color, and will continue to do so if they do not make change. Although many of the 1,800 individuals signed the petition to better a place they appreciate, we are all also voicing our dissatisfaction with the administration’s treatment of students of color.
How can they perceive our pain as support?
Xavier says their mission is to “prepare young women of faith with knowledge, skills, and integrity to meet the challenges of a changing global society in a positive and productive manner celebrating unity in diversity.”
But how is Xavier preparing students with knowledge to meet the challenges of a changing global society when in their four-year curriculum, students read fewer than 10 books written by non-white authors - a curriculum they released on June 28th of this year, even after our petition was sent? Students are taught by 150 staff members, only five of whom are Black - only one of whom teaches a non-elective class. Racism is one of the most pressing social issues of our time, and when students are denied an in-depth discussion on discrimination, privilege, and justice, they are unprepared to meet the challenges they will face in college and beyond, as attested to by innumerable students in their reasons for supporting the petition.
How can Xavier claim they are fully preparing our students for their futures - for a price tag of more than $21,000 a year?
Xavier says that their “founding religious community, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary” espouses the virtues of “‘freedom, education, charity and justice.’”
We have received many personal stories of racism at Xavier, which specifically name Xavier leadership:
• using racial slurs to refer to BIPOC and low-income students.
• staging students of color as props in photo opportunities to display the facade of diversity to advertise Xavier.
• denying affinity groups like a Black Student Union because they are "too political"
• continuously mispronouncing BIPOC students' names after being corrected multiple times.
How can Xavier students truly believe that BVM virtues drive their education when Xavier administration is complicit in discrimination?
Xavier says that they will “unite [their] voices with the Black community, people of color, and all who are working for an end to mistreatment, discrimination and injustice.”
But if Xavier truly united with the Black community, people of color, and allies, then they would not have denied several students’ proposals to create a Black Student Union - or Middle-Eastern, Latina, or Jewish Student Union - because they would create “division.” These spaces are meant to allow students to learn from and about their own identities.
How can Xavier claim to unite with students of color, when they refuse to support them?
Xavier quotes Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles in saying that “we must commit ourselves to ‘removing racism and hate from our hearts.’”
But part of removing racism and hate from within our hearts is acknowledging and eradicating all forms of racism within Xavier as an institution. Xavier has not taken responsibility for the harm they have caused students of color in the past, yet that is a fundamental first step to creating a more inclusive and welcoming community.
How will Xavier commit to removing racism from its hearts, when it cannot acknowledge the pain in the hearts of others?
Xavier says that they will “continue to strive with our students to hear Christ’s invitation more clearly and to respond together in faith, hope and love.”
But these are not actions, nor do they signal meaningful change. Our letter has five concrete demands: actionable items that Xavier can use to both acknowledge the environment in which students of color do not feel welcome, and to improve itself for future generations of Gators. This response did not acknowledge any of those demands, nor did it provide concrete steps as to how the school is going to address its documented history of discrimination.
How can Xavier allow its students to hold the institution accountable when it offers no plan of action or commitments, nor has it engaged in a dialogue with alumni organizers of this initiative?
Xavier says that “preparing [its] students academically, spiritually, and morally, within the context of our Catholic faith, to defend human dignity and justice, whenever and wherever they are attacked, is both a calling and a responsibility that we take very seriously.”
But Xavier’s curriculum does not currently include a substantial discussion on issues that contribute to defending human dignity and justice, such as racism, discrimination, and privilege. If this issue is to be taken seriously, then Xavier should amend its curriculum to offer anti-racist educational materials, as well as training for its faculty on how to discuss these difficult topics in a sensitive and meaningful manner. These are actionable items that we have suggested and that Xavier can work with us to enact.
How can Xavier say that its students are prepared to defend human dignity and justice when there are no formal conversations about racism and the true history of race in this country?
Xavier says that they “will lead the way once again by dedicating [itself] to affecting change that is positive, real, lasting, and reflective of [their] commitment to human dignity and justice.”
Show us tangibly how you are dedicating yourselves to affect change - because as far as everyone can tell, very little change has occurred from 1980 to 2020.
Xavier, through what action will you lead the way?
This moment presents an opportunity for Xavier to be a leader in the field of Catholic education, but this response has not shown the leadership that we expect. This is neither the action plan that we have repeatedly recommended, nor has Xavier engaged in even one conversation with the organizers of this petition.
We hope you will continue to stay engaged with us and use your platform to demand accountability and help us drive change at Xavier.
Alumni for Change
Please click here to read Xavier's 7/10 response to our petition with over 1,800 signatures.