At Loyola University Chicago, where fewer than 6% of undergraduates are Black, Marcus Mason-Vivit’s presence comforted minority students who rarely found someone who looked like them on campus.
© Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Marcus Mason-Vivit, shown on Loyola University Chicago’s campus, resigned from his job in the admissions office, citing a “toxic atmosphere … particularly pertaining to people of color.”
A Black man himself, Mason-Vivit led the private Jesuit university’s efforts to increase racial diversity among first-year students in his role at the Undergraduate Admission Office. He was known to send high school seniors handwritten letters encouraging them to attend Loyola and for going out of his way to forge relationships with the Black students he met.
But last month, Mason-Vivit stepped down from his position in multicultural recruitment. In a scathing resignation letter that quickly circulated on social media, he called the admissions office a “toxic atmosphere of hostility, intimidation, fear and manipulation … especially pertaining to people of color” and described an incident where his boss, the dean of undergraduate admission, allegedly made a racially disparaging remark. His departure has prompted Loyola to initiate an investigation.
Now, students and faculty are rallying behind Mason-Vivit, raising questions about Loyola’s newly stated goal of “becoming a fully inclusive anti-racist institution.”
“We do not think that this initiative will achieve much credibility until the issues, such as those raised by Marcus Mason, and the school’s handling of such complaints have been thoroughly addressed,” leaders of a Loyola faculty organization wrote in a letter to university President Jo Ann Rooney.
In an interview with the Tribune, Mason-Vivit, 34, said he tried reporting his concerns to the human resources office in July but felt brushed aside, leading eventually to his Aug. 24 resignation.
“I will no longer work in an environment diametrically opposed to my principles and the obligation to respect my existence,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
The dean of undergraduate admission, Erin Moriarty, declined to comment, saying by email that she does “not want to jeopardize the integrity of this investigation in any way by speaking out of turn.”
Loyola spokeswoman Anna Rozenich confirmed the investigation, related to “allegations of discrimination” in the office, is ongoing but would not say who is conducting it. After Loyola’s Office for Equity and Compliance began an internal investigation, the school decided to hire outside experts to lead the probe “due to the charged nature” of the allegations, Rozenich said.
“Out of respect for the rights of all parties, we must maintain that all parties deserve to be heard, and allow the investigation to be thoroughly conducted and conclude while refraining from judgment or condemnation,” Rozenich said in an emailed statement.
She said “appropriate action” will be taken at the end of the investigation and emphasized Loyola’s policy prohibiting discrimination.
Mason-Vivit, however, said he could no longer remain silent. His last day as Loyola’s associate director for multicultural recruitment was Sept. 4, and he previously worked in the admission office from