Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Clinicians:
Without question, the fall of 2014 shook the St. Louis region. After the death of
Michael Brown in Ferguson, Saint Louis University students, staff, faculty and alumni
were among the many citizens spurred to use their skills as activists, clergy, legal
observers, and educators in response. The death of VonDerrit Myers, Jr., son of a
SLU employee, in the Shaw neighborhood was the catalytic event that brought these
issues home to our campus.
Next month, we will remember and honor the six days of campus protests and teach-ins,
known as OccupySLU, that roused this University in October 2014. Perhaps more than any at other event or moment in our 200-year history, from October
12-18, 2014, voices from within and without our community clearly called us to live
our mission of social justice right here in the neighborhoods adjacent to our campuses,
especially here in St. Louis City where, by nearly every metric of health and well-being,
African Americans fare far worse than their white neighbors. We heard the call that enjoined us to help educate, empower and uplift families restrained
by generations of racism and poverty.
The events of OccupySLU sparked conversations on race, poverty and inequality in classrooms
and residence halls. They inspired increased participation by students in the hundreds
of social justice, education and public health programs we run throughout the St.
Louis region. And they required a declaration of our own accountability to act with
purpose and passion, harnessing our intellectual, economic and spiritual energies
to help heal our region’s — and America’s — deep, social wounds.
Much of the University’s declaration was embodied in the 13 Clock Tower Accords
The University continues to make progress in our commitments under the Accords. For
example, Go Further funds are providing dollar-for-dollar matches to Pioneers of Inclusion
Scholarship awardees, as part of Accords 2 and 3, which address improvements to financial
aid for African-American students. We also have expanded eligibility for the Martin
Luther King Jr. Scholarship to include second-, third- and fourth-year students. And
the Saint Peter Claver Service Scholarship is funding grants to students from urban
As recently as last month, benefactors funded a four-year, full-tuition, room and
board scholarship for graduates of the Access Academies initiative in local private
high schools to attend SLU. This is an extraordinary gift because it sustains work
begun with individual students of color during middle school and continued through
high school. We hope more donors can expand the reach of this new Access Scholarship.
Accords 4 and 5 address college preparation and bridge programs for elementary and
high school students in disadvantaged neighborhoods. In the 2015-2016 school year,
our admissions office hosted more than 110 college workshops covering everything from
the college admissions process to study skills and dorm life. Our Pre-College and
Access Program offers workshops to high school students in some of our region’s most
underserved high schools. Will Perkins and Ryan Wilson in the Pre-College Access and
Programs office are working to create summer and after-school bridge programs that
engage and excite grammar and high school students not only in the Shaw neighborhood
and Normandy school district. Currently, staff in our Pre-College Access and Programs
and in Admissions are working to create a test-prep/tutoring program for students
in underserved North County school districts.
Our Student Educational Services Talent Search Program serves students in grades 6-12
in the SLPS. Talent Search educates these students on college admissions requirements,
scholarships and financial aid programs. And through the Office of Diversity and Community
Engagement we are increasing our activity in grant writing. Last year we built partnerships
with Harris-Stowe State University, Washington University in Saint Louis, BioSTL and
Green House Ventures to pursue funding for a STEM enrichment and bridge program in
Shaw. Those partnerships are ongoing and supported by our Office of Research.
Next spring, we will convene a national conference on racial equity, per Accord 10.
This follows a Race, Faith and Justice conference held in August 2016 and a Jesuits
and Race symposium in November 2015. The Spring 2018 conference will be co-sponsored
by the Theology Department and the Bicentennial Committee. This conference, focused
on Dr. Martin Luther King and Social Justice will bring in such nationally recognized
scholars as M. Shawn Copeland, Jeffrey McCune, James Cone and Dwight Hopkins along
with local clergy and community leaders.
In response to Accord 7, we are announcing an artist in residency program that will
bring underrepresented artists to campus to work as artists and to engage our community
in discussions of public art and social justice. Additionally, in October we will
be hosting the “Ferguson Voices: Disrupting the Frame” exhibit in the Center for Global
Citizenship. The “Ferguson Voices” exhibit, currently on display at the Saint Louis
Public Library Schlafly Branch, comes to us from The Moral Courage Project at the
University of Dayton
Accords 6 and 8 require a much greater portion of our institutional thought and resources.
The sixth accord commits us to establishing a community center from which we can operate
some of our public health, social justice or educational initiatives right in the
neighborhood. The eighth accord commits us to establishing an academic center for
community and economic development. These two remain the most far-reaching and ambitious
accords. Completing them will be a big undertaking, especially while the University
works to strengthen its own financial health and to transform the university into
what it needs to be for the 21st century and beyond. We will work collaboratively
with faith and neighborhood leaders to be sure that our efforts are smart and thoughtful.
Ultimately, we want to be sure that effort is effective for neighborhood families
and their children, and that it becomes a catalyst for economic investment by others
We will continue to post updates on our progress to our website
Finally, while some have construed the Accords to be check boxes for which one can
announce, “done,” I believe we have to think about the spirit and context in which
the accords came to be. A look at their spirit indicates that the accords call us
to work and live in a way that moves us in the direction of what Martin Luther King
called “beloved community.” Or as our mission frames it, “the greater glory of God
and … the service of humanity.”
Sadly, I am not convinced that the fight for racial and economic equity will be won
in my lifetime. I am convinced however, that it will be won. It will be won if we
remember and act upon the fact that the difficult and diligent efforts to fight for
racial and economic equity do not fall on any one person. They fall on all of us.
Jonathan C. Smith, Ph.D.
Diversity & Community Engagement