Loras Walks the Talk
Loras College took its statue of founder, Bishop Mathias Loras down. Upon learning of research detailing his slave ownership, the school decided that the statue of his likeness looking over Loras Boulevard, Dubuque’s downtown and the Mississippi river was no longer in keeping with the school's ideals. As is too often the case, online commentary has been heated. There’s no shortage of commenters sharing strong opinions about how the college chooses to honor its namesake. Many of the commenters seem as quick to judge anyone holding an opinion different from their own as they are of the decision makers at Loras.
Here’s the thing: Loras is a private college and has every right to do as it determines best with its own statue. Loras president, James Collins issued a thorough explanation behind the decision. Please read it. The college has even created a website dedicated to communicating with the community about the matter. Bravo. The school isn’t hiding its history. It is confronting the reality that uncovering more details about the school’s founder revealed, and meeting that challenge head-on. Transparency and a willingness to engage in dialogue about a topic which can quickly become uncomfortable are welcome, even refreshing as we wade through so much vitriol from the quick-to-judge world of online blowhards. It’s a great example of leadership. Educated people making a careful, thoughtful decision and being willing to discuss it.
Just as someone in your neighborhood might decide to put a sculpture in her front yard, or move one to her shed, Loras made a decision on how it wants its lawn to look. The college has decided that prominently displaying a statue of a man who funded the school’s creation through engaging in slavery didn’t send a message consistent with its values. At some point it may be decided to display the statue in a way that includes more information about Bishop Loras’s life. A way that might, you know, educate people. Respect what the school has done, and thank them for being good neighbors.