#BlackatLMU Is Striving to Create a More Inclusive Community at LMU

Screen shot taken by Sara Pool Courtesy of #BlackatLMU’s website

“The number one goal of all of this is to make lasting change. I’ve said it a thousand times and I

will say it again, I want to come back in 25 years for the alumni picnic and see that these changes

are still standing and that Black students are still benefiting,” explained Lauren Morrison a senior

at Loyola Marymount University (LMU).

This summer as protestors mobilized on the streets of America’s cities against police brutality

and the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Black students at LMU came together on a

community healing Zoom call. The purpose of this call was to create a safe space for Black

students to rant and vent their frustrations.

“Within that call, we said, ‘well we are dealing with a lot of stuff at the university that is

definitely not okay, and we should probably address,’” Morrison said, “And then we just kind of

mobilized and decided we should bring back the name #BlackatLMU and form committees for

the things we wanted to address with administration.”

The current form of #BlackatLMU was born. It is not a club or a registered service organization

on campus. “Instead, envision #BlackatLMU as the overarching idea propelling LMU’s Black

organizations to strive for inclusion and promotion within LMU,” their website states.

Morrison serves as one of the five undergraduate students that act as liaisons between the Black

student body and administration. She and the rest of her committee meet monthly with President

Snyder and members of his Cabinet to bring forward concerns and address perceived failings

within the university.

Part of her job on this committee was to help draft up a 16-page demand document for LMU to

address. Within this document #BlackatLMU demanded items such as establishing a Black space

on campus, allocation of capital campaign money to fund Black initiatives, and increased

recruitment of both Black students and staff.

“Initially, we received way more support from the university than any of us expected. I think

when we released the demands, we expected more push back than we got,” Morrison said.

However, while the university has been willing to work with #BlackatLMU, the process has not

been entirely smooth sailing. The university’s first response to the demands received backlash as

they released a letter that was not addressed to the Black community but rather the wider LMU


“While they were accepting of the demands and acknowledged there were things that needed

changing, I don’t think they necessarily understood how we wanted those changes to happen or

how we wanted them to respond,” Morrison explained, “By addressing it to the whole

community they only put out a vague response that didn’t address a lot of the things that we

asked for.”

However, after hours of Zoom meetings spent working through this misstep and explaining they

were asking for a timeline and clear point by point response to each demand in the document, the

administration worked to improve their response.

LMU created a website for #BlackatLMU to design and also published a point by point response

on the Office of Intercultural Affairs (OIA) website . In this response, LMU color-coded each

demand and their response by green, yellow, and red depending on their timeline or if they found

the demand feasible.

“Each semester, the university will report on the progress that has been made in addressing the

demands,” said Jennifer Abe, Vice President for Intercultural Affairs at LMU and the university

point person for #BlackatLMU student leaders.

While this was more in line with what #BlackatLMU envisioned as a response, they believe there

is still a lot of work left to be done. As of now, only nine of the demands have been marked

green, which signifies completion or that the demand is currently being fulfilled. One of these

being the promotion of Charles Mason to the assistant director of admissions. Mason has worked

at LMU since 1990 and is responsible for initiating the Black Family Barbeque and running the

Black student overnight through the admissions department. In the demand documents

#BlackatLMU explained that Mason has played an “integral role in the recruitment of Black

students and that he deserves a title that reflects.”

“I am humbled by it. I appreciate it. Everytime I see them I say thank you,” Mason said in

response to his promotion, ”I have devoted myself to helping students and I am passionate about

the mission of LMU. This allows me to continue to serve and enhance the university. To promote

visibility in underserved communities and in the Black community specifically.”

Mason is not directly involved with #BlackatLMU, but sees himself, Black faculty and staff, and

the wider community as mentors and a source of support for the students of #BlackatLMU.

“They are leaders. They exemplify the values of LMU,” Mason explained, “The students are like

our children. We are there to help them, inspire them, and support them. Because they didn’t

have to take on this challenge. They didn’t have to take on this mission. They could go to class

and do papers and take exams, but they felt compelled to do more.”

However, while #BlackatLMU has made significant progress, as of the last update to the site on

Nov. 23, 12 demands are still marked yellow or red, meaning that the demand either needs

modification or that it will not be addressed by LMU at this time.

“They definitely need to work to bring these demands to fortition. So far, I think we have

fulfilled some of the demands by establishing a Black space on campus and getting Mr. Mason

promoted, but there are a lot still unfulfilled,” Morrison said.

One of #BlackatLMU’s demands that still remains out of reach is the allocation of $100 million

in capital funds to Black initiatives. On their website, LMU explained that the number is not

currently feasible with their current level of donation.

“I want to see that donation, because money talks. It is the root of most of our problems and I

feel like if we could get that money, we could do a lot,” Morrison explained, as it is still one of

her top priorities.

While not every demand has been fulfilled, there is a lot of gratitude and pride from the

community of what the students of #BlackatLMU have accomplished so far and in what they are

striving to do.

“Candidly, we the Black faculty and staff, alums, and the LA Black community see them as

young people who are heroes and sheroes,” Mason said, “I am very involved in the LA

community in general, and specifically the Black community and there are people who are in

leadership roles, elected officials, and community activists who ask me about the students of

LMU and they are thoroughly impressed. They acknowledge them as being amazing young

leaders and I think that needs to be known.”

#BlackatLMU has also recently gained another advocate with the Jeffery Do lliole who was hired

on as the new Office of Black Student Services (OBSS) director, after the previous director,

Nathan Sessoms resigned in July. Dolliole took over the role on Nov. 23, after a nationwide

search by a dedicated committee of both students and staff. Dolliole is a double alum of LMU,

earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the university.

Just before starting his new role, Dolliole sat down for an interview with the #BlackAtLMU

magazine . This magazine was established over the summer as a medium to amplify Black voices,

Black stories, and Black creatives on LMU’s campus.

“We are in a space in history when the things that you all are doing, are going to create a new

change and new wave in what higher education is. We are in a space where we pretty much have

a free canvas. We can create the college experience we have always dreamed of as African

American students,” Dolliole told the magazine, “I am excited to see what creative and

innovative ideas are brought up and partnering with you all to see them to fruition.”

For now the work continues. It will not be a sprint to the finish line, but one which will take

continual work on both sides. There is not one simple fix or an easy answer, but rather something

that will take work and constant communication.

“A lot of times it is dealing with the nuance of understanding that the ideas and things that are

brought up today, won’t come to fruition until later down the line, but we understand that we

have a huge impact on making that change,” Dolliole told the #BlackatLMU magazine.

LMU has stated their support and dedication to continue to listen and work with the students to

create a better environment and community for all of their students.

“We want an ongoing relationship that is not just about responding to crises, but about making

LMU into an anti-racist institution that provides the kind of education that future students will

seek,” Abe said.

For now, #BlackatLMU and the administration plan to continue to work together and try to

create a better, more inclusive space for Black students at LMU currently and in the future.