Benedictine Leadership in Diversity with Dr. William Carroll, President, Benedictine University


William Carroll: the World Surely Needs an Organization like Niagara Foundation

Niagara Foundation’s recent initiative – luncheon forums were founded to foster interfaith dialogue and friendship and bringing presidents and managers of important civil society institutions as well as governmental agencies and educational institutions together so that participants get to learn about particular institutions or intellectuals’ approach to multiculturalism, plurality, diversity and their institutions commitment to diversity and plurality in their institution. Pointing out all deeds that Niagara Foundation has been accomplished so far, Hilmi Cinar, the Associate Director of Niagara Foundation, spoke a little bit about Niagara Foundation and its recent highlight activities within the framework of luncheon forums. Then he went on presenting Dr. William Carroll, the president of Benedictine University, also the keynote speaker of February 28th luncheon Forum and without further ado, he invited him to the tribune. Once, Dr. William Carroll stepped up to the stage, he talked about his experience as a fire fighter and a story that occurred on the last day of his training by trying to relate his fireman picture.

The topic that he was supposed talk about was Benedictine University’s commitment to diversity and plurality. Dr. William Carroll added to his resume that he worked in formal black school (HPS) for 20 years. Then he worked in a Catholic university and at last, in 1995 he came to Benedictine University. ‘All these experiences were of huge help in having commitment at Benedictine University’ said William Carroll. He told that Benedictine University was first founded by Czechs and Slovaks and they are joined by Irish people later on. Benedictine University does understand that 21st century is a century of dialogue of sciences so that Benedictine University also wants it to be part of this dialogue. At first, Benedictine University needed help in those areas; however, today it made a far more advance in diversity affairs. Even Benedictine University is the only university that has its name on the moon. While Radiation Detectors sent to the moon, Benedictine University wrote its name on it. He kept on stressing Benedictine University’s role in sciences. He told that Benedictine University is so vibrant in sciences so as to they have well-known physicians all around the nation. ‘If you happen to check out physician in Illinois hospitals, you will find scores of Benedictine University alumni physicians. Benedictine University had ranked 5th in the whole nation in 1980s. Jumping in to diversity issues at Benedictine University, Dr. Carroll told that it has a long history of diversity at Benedictine University. First waves, may be not important, were polish and Czech diversities. Benedictine allowed women in 1968 in huge numbers so as to women consist of 63 % of overall student body. “When I arrived at the university in 1995” he claimed, “there were no colors in the area”. Even before, black males would be pulled over; they would be arrested for being black. He told if a black man comes to a restaurant, administrator would call 911 because there is one black inside. In those though times, where there were racial wars going on on campus and white kids would beat up black kids, gangs would walk freely and you have, literally, arm camps on campus. There were arsonists who terrified beating up those who don’t look like them. However, Catholic tradition has a long history of tradition of hospitality and welcoming people. We gradually turn out this old generation and new young cadres came in. Diversity is a spark that fills up the catholic. He talked about an incident that happened in 1989. While people were eating lunch, there was one blind man who couldn’t walk and while having lunch, white males saw that a black girl holding from shoulders of white blind man and trying to help. There was a huge silence in the café. After this event, many things have been changed since then in diversity and tolerance issues at Benedictine University.

Then he went on to talk about Benedictine University’s value system which still enlightens its bright diversity policy.  The first one is listening with silence. One should not speak while others are talking; students understand that they should listen with their heart and get to know what’s going on. Otherwise, you can’t understand what another person wants or has desire for. The second value for Benedictine University students and staff is hospitality. We do appreciate other people and ‘there was no any single man who said to me that I am not welcome here’ claimed Dr. Carroll. Benedictine University is one of the most diverse universities in the nation. While I was in black college, there was no diversity, everyone was black. But at Benedictine University, we have even a special prayer room for Muslims and we are intending to build a mosque for them. ‘I will never forget’ said Dr. Carroll, ‘how people from different traditions, cultures and religions be it Hispanic, Asian, Muslim, Christian, Jewish made a chain in front of the university for condemnation the 9/11 event, in 2001. They were not condemning anybody; they were praying God for a better world to live.

Benedictine University has a huge diversity. Average Muslim student population in the country is around 0.2 %; however, it is 13-18 % at Benedictine University. Benedictine University has 14% African population, 14% Hispanic population and very large Asian population. When people ask where from those Muslims are coming from or whether or not we call them from Arabic or other Muslim countries. ‘I answer like Lombard, Elmhurst, and Naperville…” he added. They are third-fourth generation American kids who go to American Universities and schools. Benedictine University, which is a diverse, small and science-oriented university, is given a gift of friendship. Dr. William Carroll told that we are not afraid to send our students to outside world, because we know that how they will approach to people who are not from their origin and country because that’s the thing they learned here at Benedictine University. “I am very worried and afraid of religious and ethnic incidence on campus” told Dr. Carroll while articulating his excitement. As he noted before they pulled out old generation staff; however, it is difficult to change faculty. There are also big problems with curriculum so as to administration has to change it. Because all these textbooks have been written by white males and if you are Hispanic, Muslim, Asian probably you won’t find yourself there. However, minorities have contributed to the overall development of the world in huge numbers. ‘Islam was a center of civilization’ told Dr. Carroll, “if not Islam, Catholicism would be not the place that it is right now. All those early Islamic scholars contributed to Western philosophy in huge amount” He then went on stressing inventions of different innovations by minority groups, particularly black people.

He finished his speech with some examples that he brought from the real life. He told that God created us in the image of Him and He wants us to be generous and constructive like Him. God, in fact, will not be happy to see what we have done in the world. He told that he has contests in the university about the religions and religious-cultural traditions and people get prizes for that. There were students who answered very shameful answers to simple questions asked about Islam and Judaism. He also promised that he will have a campus-wide contest by three religions – Islam, Judaism and Christianity and those who win will get the full semester covered by the University. Dr. Carroll also stressed the fact that gender equality is as important as diversity issues at Benedictine University and they certainly take care of these issues.

After addressing the questions, M. Hilmi Cinar gave a gift of Turkish handicraft to Dr. William Carroll. The event had been concluded by a delicious, home-made Turkish lunch. Dr. William Carroll told that “I am extremely excited discovering Niagara Foundation. If there was no any organization like that, someone would have invented it, because the world surely needs it” in his interview to Niagara Foundation.

The next luncheon forum is announced to be by John Rowe, the president of Exelon Corporation on 7th March, 2007 at Niagara Foundation venue.

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February 28, 2007

12:30 pm

205 North Michigan Avenue, Suite 4240
Chicago, IL, US, 60601

The views and opinions expressed on The Falls are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Niagara Foundation, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.