On Friday, September 29, Saint Xavier University inaugurated our twentieth president, Dr. Laurie M. Joyner.
At 10am, SXU’s Shannon Center was a sea of red as student leaders and athletes sat in the bleachers to watch the ceremony. But it wasn’t just students in the crowd. Members of the surrounding neighborhoods were present, as was President Joyner’s family.
The inauguration of a university president is a prestigious event, and SXU used this inauguration to invite distinguished guests to the campus.
From the 18th District, Illinois State Senator Bill Cunningham; from the 36th District, Illinois State Representative Kelly Burke; the Cook County Commissioner John P. Daley; and from the 19th Ward, Alderman Matt O’Shea were all present and all congratulated President Joyner on her dedication to the school and the students.
Now, students have shared what hopes they have for the university’s future under Joyner.
Tajah Thomas, SXU’s Women’s Soccer player, says, “I don’t know too much about President Joyner, but I do know that if you send her a complaint, she’ll try to fix it right away. The one thing I’m hoping for is that we can see a more diverse faculty on campus. I think that would be important.”
Faculty members have also expressed ideas they hope to see happen with the new president.
Professor Cyndi Grobmeier from the Communication department and SXU alum says, “I think Saint Xavier just needs to continue moving forward. The landscape of higher education is changing.” Katy Thompson, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, says that although she is not looking for any particular changes, she believes the community will be open and receptive to President Joyner.
“She is the right fit for our institution. She is student-centered and mission-driven, and she is very present on this campus. While many celebrated the historic event of President Joyner’s induction, others were not too keen on joining in on the festivities.
Adjunct faculty members boycotted the inauguration ceremony in response to the university’s refusal to acknowledge them as a union.
The faculty members chose the inauguration of President Joyner to boycott because, according to one adjunct faculty member, “President Joyner is the one who has spearheaded this whole ‘we’re not talking about this’ stance.
“Under her, they won’t sit down with us.They’re just going to try and roll the dice as many times as they can until they get the outcome they want. So, this is in response to her and her refusal to sit down with the union.”
“We are a certified union, but the school refuses to recognize us as one,’ another adjunct faculty member explains. “The institution claims their refusal is based on the separation of church and state.”
While this may seem like a reasonable claim, adjunct faculty has pointed out that it is a hypocritical statement.
“In spite of being a private institution, the school accepts money from the state. They also allow full time faculty to have a union. So, they cannot make the argument that they are separating church and state.” Matthew, an adjunct professor in the philosophy department, explains.
“But more than that,” Matthew continued, “I have never talked to a priest or a religious official who has come here and said, ‘you should teach this way.’ And I am not religious, anyway. And neither are all the other professors here, or all the other students.
“This is not a purely Catholic university. We are a diverse campus, with diverse religions represented on the campus.”
Moreover, a representative from Detroit’s Mercy School said they actually have seven unions on their campus.
At SXU, adjunct faculty members make a meager $2,500 per class, with their total salary for the school year ranging only around $10,000.
Professor Errol Magidson from the psychology department says, “They recognize full time faculty, and they recognize the engineers as a union. But they won’t recognize us, and I think it is because they feel they are losing control.
“Because we are not a union, they can pay us whatever they want. If we are to unionize, we would receive benefits and higher wages.”
Magidson continues, “I have been here ten years, but I make the same amount as someone coming in for one year as a full time faculty member. We should have a longevity scale in place at this university, but we don’t.
“The raises that we have made over the past ten years has been less than 1% each year. The issue for me isn’t about money, it’s about respect. But, there are other adjunct faculty members here who are teaching at four different universities just to eke out a living that’s barely above poverty levels.”
In an effort to fight adjunct faculty, Saint Xavier has hired two expensive law firms, an action that Magidson claims is unfair.
The adjunct faculty is also reaching out to students, sharing the issue with their classes in hopes to raise awareness. The response has been positive from students, many of whom have signed the faculty’s petition.
As it is, the inauguration of the university’s twentieth president was, according to the president herself, “Remarkable.”
“I’m not sure there has been a more proud day in my entire life,” President Joyner said at the end of the day, “I am so grateful to be part of this community. I love our mission and I look forward to working with faculty, students, and staff to further it. I am very excited!”