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Letter to the editor: Understanding the Oath of Inclusion

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As we approach the sixth anniversary of the launch of the Oath of Inclusion, we wanted to take the opportunity to educate our SLU community about the context of its drafting and the intent in its creation.

In the fall of 2009, a number of bias incidents struck our campus. By the Spring of 2010, there were seven formal reports of racial slurs and threats of intimidation, predominantly directed at black students. Students did not feel safe on our campus. We were all there. Our community felt very divided, broken and hopeless. The pain and emotion of these injustices were far too real, and it was the responsibility of the University community to come together and take action.

This was a time when SLU needed to reinstate the sense of community that de- fines our University and its Jesuit vision. SLU students and faculty who felt personally impacted by the bias incidents demanded that the university act by providing a student creed—a guiding document for all SLU students, establishing the expectation for all to promote diversity and inclusion as a part of our collective existence. From that demand, the Student Government Association took the initiative to develop the student creed. They extended invitations to students beyond SGA, and the group then developed several drafts of the student creed, which, after much deliberation, came to be known as the Oath of Inclusion. Ten months later, on April 19, 2011, the Oath of Inclusion was born.

Of course, that was just the beginning. We all recognized that creating the Oath of Inclusion was step one of many more. Implementing its meaning would be years in the making, and living the Oath authentically would be a never-ending journey. Our vision was to weave the Oath throughout the fabric of the entire SLU community. We knew this would require meeting with others, whether or not they were seeking change, so that its impact would remain years after the drafters left campus.

To genuinely and holistically incorporate the Oath, we resorted to the unique opportunity provided at SLU: shared governance. SLU has long honored its commitment to offering students a “seat at the table” in its decision-making process. By collaborating with the administration and campus partners, we coordinated and multiplied our efforts to institutionalize the Oath of Inclusion. By working in partnership and starting our conversations with civility, we strategically placed ourselves in positions to help design and direct the initiatives around the Oath’s embodiment.

This took the form of various initiatives: promoting intergroup dialogue courses on race and ethnicity, offering Halal dining options, adding lactation spaces for pregnant and parenting students, providing golf cart services for students with disabilities and creating interfaith and veteran awareness. Additionally, the Oath was made more visible through the installation of plaques and the distribution of buttons. Neither was intended to be “promotional,” but instead to make the Oath more accessible to all members of the SLU community.

Six years later, the discussion continues.

Any calls to suspend the use of the Oath of Inclusion by non-students (which, by the way, seemingly includes invested alumni), or to claim that SGA has ownership of the document are misinformed of its original intent. The Oath is a living, breathing document meant for our entire SLU community. It is an expression of our expectation that all Billikens— students and non-students alike—are held to the high standards of inclusion. We can only accomplish that vision if we work together as a university community.

Therefore, we call for SGA to repeal SR007-17 and allow the Oath to return to its original vision. We support SGA in attempting to hold the SLU community accountable for living out the Oath genuinely, and we recognize the process to establish a fully welcoming and inclusive community is never ending. Yet, efforts to do so must be done in partnership and solidarity, recognizing the dignity in all.

We cannot become exclusive in our never-ending journey to become inclusive. We must continue to work for social justice in the Saint Louis University community and beyond. This is the SLU we believe in. This is our SLU.

Sincerely,

Jamie James, 2009-2010 VP of Diversity and Social Justice

Oscar Vazquez, 2010- 2011 VP of Diversity and Social Justice

Kripa Sreepada, 2011- 2012 VP of Diversity and Social Justice

Sean Worley, 2012-2013 VP of Diversity and Social Justice

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Letter to the editor: Understanding the Oath of Inclusion