Given the inspiring and unifying Mission of Lewis University, it is most appropriate that the University be experienced as a community of mutual respect and appreciation of the enriching diversity that characterizes us. By contrast, intolerance and lack of knowledge regarding all dimensions of diversity can create unnecessary tensions and unwelcomed conflict. Moreover, signs of prejudice occur all too commonly in our society, sometimes making us somewhat immune to the pain and injustice experienced by the victims and their loved ones. If we remain silent in the face of injustice, it can indirectly contribute to an environment where such very regrettable incidents are tolerated. Sadly, hostile and highly disrespectful incidents are not unknown on college campuses. After all, university communities reflect many of the larger issues and tensions being experienced throughout society, even though they should be exemplary in their openness to diverse perspectives and varied characteristics evident in their composition. Civility, mutual respect and reasoned dialogue should characterize our relationships and interactions.
Guided by its Catholic and Lasallian heritage, Lewis University is firmly committed to fostering a campus atmosphere that is permeated by its Mission-based values of Fidelity, Wisdom, Knowledge, Justice and Association. As such, we seek to be “A Place and a People Committed to Diversity.” Accordingly, we have declared our University campus to be a Sanctified Zone, which means that Lewis aspires to be a campus where people are committed to working to end racism, bias and prejudice by valuing diversity in a safe and nurturing environment.
At a special Mass during Founders Week in 1997, the campus was first dedicated as a Sanctified Zone as the University declared its commitment to and appreciation for diversity, proclaiming the campus to be a place where respect for the dignity of each person is to be promoted. Members of the University Diversity Council formulated the Sanctified Zone initiative. That group of faculty, staff, administrators and students called upon the entire Lewis community to reflect the Mission values by helping everyone, whatever their personal background, to feel comfortable, accepted and respected here at the University. Furthermore, they urged us all to speak out in opposition to intolerance and in support of diversity, demonstrating an appreciation for the unique gifts and traditions of every individual and group they may be part of. Their call to a greater and more genuine appreciation of our differences continues on campus today, especially in the light of the rededication of the Lewis University as a Sanctified Zone on November 5, 2009.
This active promotion of diversity and the opposition to all forms of prejudice and bias are a powerful and healing expression of our desire to be “Signs of Faith,” in keeping with the Signum Fidei (Sign of Faith) component of our Mission Statement. The first Sanctified Zone symbol displayed on campus featured hands reaching out to each other. The current logo features the Lasallian star which reflects the Mission-based values of Fidelity (representing many faith traditions with similar core values), Wisdom (the integration of reflection and action to work for Justice) and Association (a community of mutual respect, collegiality, collaboration and service).
When the Sanctified Zone was declared originally, it was dedicated in the memory of the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, the highly respected and revered Archbishop of Chicago, who was such an inspiring model of all that is symbolized in its goals. Our hope is that as we progress in a determined effort to build a community of respect and concern, all students, faculty, staff and alumni will be better able to contribute to a spirit of reconciliation locally, regionally and globally. Now, nearly a dozen years after our original declaration, we renew our pledge that Lewis University shall actively provide a Sanctified Zone environment in support of respect for all persons and greater social responsibility. We now do so with special regard for the ongoing legacy of such visionary leaders as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day and Pope John Paul II. May we live and relate and learn in their spirit, as we seek to grow in social responsibility and to help further transform our society.
Brother James Gaffney, FSC