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Clock Tower Accords

The Clock Tower Accords commit Saint Louis University to actively strengthen diversity, inclusion and equity on our three Saint Louis campuses. In the spirit of the Gospels, the Accords also extend that commitment to our city and suburban neighbors, particularly to underserved families.

Student teach-ins were a regular part of the October 2014 campus demonstration.

Student teach-ins were a regular part of the October 2014 campus demonstration.

The Accords are another very real, very impactful way for us to live our Jesuit mission. They address college readiness and affordability, neighborhood investment and revitalization, and the extraordinary benefits that diversity and inclusion provide to everyday work and family life. And they further our goal to be a national model for diversity and community engagement by an urban academic research institution.

The 13-point Accords concluded six days of peaceful campus demonstrations and teach-ins in October 2014. The protests occurred following the officer-involved shootings of two African American young men in the nearby Shaw neighborhood and in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Accords were neither insisted nor negotiated. They developed organically, the outcome of many hours of conversations by student leaders, neighborhood activists, faculty members and SLU President Dr. Fred Pestello. The pain of racial and economic injustice permeated those discussions, as did the respect and dignity with which all parties treated one another. 

No doubt, many watched the moral leadership we collectively exhibited that week and in the months that followed. SLU’s Facebook followers more than doubled to 30,000. Faith, neighborhood and government leaders praised us.

And a year later, SLU had enrolled its second-largest — and most gifted — freshman class. New students and their parents said they chose SLU because we live our Jesuit values. First-to-second-year student retention rates also increased. And SLU had its second-best fundraising year ever.

Our progress in addressing the letter and spirit of the 13 Clock Tower Accords follows.

The Accords

1. Increased budget for the African-American Studies Program

The annual budget of the African American Studies Program was increased in 2015. That increase has been carried over in subsequent school years.

Additional funding for African American Studies has permitted more:

  • Collaboration with other academic areas, resulting in expanded, cross-specialty instruction for SLU students. For example, faculty from African American Studies and the Department of Communication prepared and taught a training module for students to learn to be peer facilitators for  intergroup dialogues.

    And Dr. Olubukola Gbadegesin, an associate professor in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, hosted an evening of workshops with local artists who created works inspired by the Ferguson protests of 2014. The workshops were held in 2015 and were attended by students from Metro Academic and Classical High School, Grand Center Arts Academy and Cardinal Ritter College Preparatory High School. SLU students also participated in the workshops.
  • Classroom enrichment and support for students.

The sustained increase in the African American budget underscores the shared leadership role program faculty play with the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement in advancing racial, gender and economic equity on campus and in the larger community.

This Accord also spurred a move by the Black Student Alliance to a larger, more productive office space in the Busch Student Center. The newly furnished BSA home has helped draw in more students to collaborate on developing engaging programs and events at SLU.

2. Increased financial aid resources for retention of African-American students at SLU
Students celebrate at commencement


In 2017, more alumni and non-alumni donors than ever before have directed their donations to need-based scholarships at SLU. They recognize that their support of grants or scholarships can help enable life-changing educations for young women and men — particularly young women and men of color — whose families could not otherwise afford tuition, room and board.

With heightened donor support, SLU has boosted the average total of grants awarded to economically disadvantaged students, including eligible African American students, by 17 percent since 2014.

The number of graduating seniors with student loans to repay has been reduced by 6 percent from 2015 to 2017, due to the efforts of SLU’s Division of Enrollment and Retention Management. In fact, nearly 45 percent of SLU students who graduated in 2017 had zero educational debt.

For economically disadvantaged students, including some who are African American, financial aid has come through such sources as:

  • The Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, which is offered to students who have demonstrated leadership as change agents through their school and/or community activities. This scholarship has expanded its eligibility requirements to second-, third- and fourth-year students, including transfer students.
  • The ACCESS Academies Scholarship a new scholarship which fully funds tuition, room and board at SLU for graduates of ACCESS Academies programs from five area Catholic schools.

Additionally, these scholarship funds — and all SLU scholarships — benefit from SLU’s Go Further scholarship matching program, which matches dollar for dollar all scholarship awards of $100 or more.

Beginning with the 2017–2018 school year, SLU undergraduate students from disadvantaged families are eligible for grants that help prepare them to pursue a Ph.D. The McNair Scholars Program will underwrite work experiences, conferences, research and other scholarly activities. The University plans to award McNair Scholars grants totaling $240,000 annually through the 2021–2022 academic year.

Since 2014, more qualified African American high school graduates have enrolled at SLU. And three in four African American first-year students have returned for their second year at SLU, an increase of 11 percent from 2014 to 2017. Additionally, the graduation rate among SLU’s African American students has increased by 13 percent in that same time period.

3. Evaluation of SLU’s current scholarship programs to better serve African-American populations
Student and alumni at homecoming.


New and current African American students are seeing concerted efforts to make academic life more affordable at SLU. And the University is much more intentional about actively recruiting high-achieving African American juniors and seniors who attend public and private high schools within 250 miles of St. Louis.

More high-achieving students — who also are from low-income families, and/or the first generation to attend college — are receiving more grant dollars to fund their education at SLU. Grants now account for more than 75 percent of the cost of admission, room, board and books for these students. So-called DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students are recipients of these need-based grants, too.

Staff from the Office of Diversity  and Community Engagement and the Office of Enrollment and Retention Management are working together to help remedy the financial challenges that could stress individual African American students and lead to their withdrawal from school.

This collaboration of dedicated student-service professionals is very alert to signs of financial anxiety among students of color and actively intervenes to explore every avenue to ensure money is not a barrier to the next study semester.

Our Go Further scholarships are one such avenue. Through a dollar-for-dollar match, Go Further awards are increasing the financial value of our targeted diversity scholarships, including the Pioneers of Inclusion Scholarship and the Saint Peter Claver Service Scholarship.

With its expanded eligibility requirements for second-, third- and fourth-year students, including transfer students, the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship is benefiting even more students of color.

The Office of Diversity  and Community Engagement oversees the African American Male Scholars Initiative (AAMS). AAMS, pronounced “āms,” promotes academic success in the classroom and laboratory, and personal success on campus through peer education and mentoring.

And in 2017, the U.S. Department of Education awarded a $1.2 million McNair Scholars Program grant to the University to help more graduates from disadvantaged families continue into doctoral studies. Over the next five academic years, McNair Scholars grants will underwrite internships, conference attendance, research and other scholarly pursuits that will assist in pursuits of a Ph.D.

4. Additional college prep workshops for students in the area’s most disadvantaged school districts
Students learn how to program at a SLU summer tech camp.


Saint Louis University is the only institution of higher education in St. Louis with our home city included in the institution’s name. So it’s important that the University help further the academic success of children and teens right in our own backyard, especially those deterred by poverty.

College workshops are one of the most illuminating ways high school juniors and seniors can see what’s required to successfully make that transition to college student — and college graduate.

SLU’s college workshops cover everything from the admissions process and financial aid to study skills and dorm life. In the 2016–17 school year, our admission office hosted more than 100 such workshops, including nearly 40 in Missouri’s most disadvantaged public school districts.

At least twice a year, admissions staff visit 14 middle and high schools in St. Louis city, where the majority of students receive free or reduced-price lunches, another strong indicator of families living in poverty. Disadvantaged students at those schools talk with our admissions staff about after-school and summer programs to help prepare for their post-secondary education at SLU.

Our Office of Admission and the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement also have partnered with our Pre-College and Access Programs office to boost interest and enthusiasm among high school, middle school and elementary school students of color to pursue STEM and other specialized professional careers. The University’s partnerships with Inspire STL and College Bound have been critical to many of these efforts.

In the summers of 2016 and 2017, hundreds of local elementary and high school students — many of whom came from disadvantaged families and school districts — participated in nearly 50 separate academic programs on our campus. Those programs, we believe, exposed students to new discoveries, experiences and role models that we hope will stimulate a commitment to school and studies — and a brighter future.

Little Medical School, Little Nursing School and Little Sports Medicine School programs brought a kid’s-eye view of medicine and science to K-5 students — and stimulated aspirations. Introductory programming classes offered hands-on desktop and mobile coding with Java, Scratch, HTML5 and Swift for middle school students. Engineering and aviation academies for high school students provided week-long immersive introductions to those careers.

In addition, SLU community members are helping the Diversity in Action program at five middle schools in the Parkway School District, located in west St. Louis County.

Five Catholic elementary and high schools in St. Louis host an intensive study skills and mentoring program for students from disadvantaged families. Called Access Academies, the program works very intentionally to help ensure children are academically successful in each successive grade. Here at SLU, our Access Academies Scholarships will sustain that individual student investment by providing a full, four-year ride to qualified Access Academies graduates.

5. Establishment of a K-12 bridge program, including summer programs, in the Normandy and Shaw neighborhoods to help increase the numbers of college-bound students from neighborhoods in those areas
SLU student tutors an elementary school student.


Our office and staff from Pre-College Access and Programs are working to create summer and after-school bridge programs that engage and excite elementary and high school students in the Shaw neighborhood and the Normandy school district. These efforts are applying valuable lessons from current SLU programs about how to best secure vigorous student participation and sustained attendance.

Founded by SLU faculty member Dr. Norm White, Shut It Down is one such model. The two-year-old program is helping counteract the school-to-prison pipeline that has long destabilized African American families and neighborhoods in St. Louis — and our society.

Dr. White’s Shut It Down team is working with teachers in seven St. Louis public schools to better serve children, so affected by the trauma of poverty that their classroom behavior deters their ability to learn. The schools include the Lyon Academy at Blow, the Mullanphy-Botanical Garden Investigative Learning Center, and the Adams, Ashland, Farragut, Herzog and Monroe elementary schools.

Suspension is not the solution. Teachers are using new skills that help their students better manage stress and other emotions, and return to reading, writing and math.

Another example is the science-discovery initiative for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students from the O’Fallon, Penrose and College Hill neighborhoods. Called The Mad Scientist, this weekly after-school class consistently draws 20 to 30 students to each 90-minute session. Lesson plans and hands-on activities connect basic chemistry theory to real-world chemistry demonstrations. Each class is designed to spark an interest in science, particularly chemistry.

SLU student volunteers, all members of the SLU Chemistry Club, lead The Mad Scientist sessions. They’re held at North Campus, a community-centered after-school program.

6. Establishment of a community center
Patient receives care at a SLU health clinic.


SLU’s partnership in St. Louis City neighborhoods and St. Louis County communities is active and long standing. It includes more than 300 programs working alongside local teachers, nurses, doctors, business people, clergy and activists. Programs such as SLU Legal Clinics, Casa de Salud, and the Girls Academy for Leadership and Engineering have positively affected the lives of our disadvantaged neighbors. 

Our professors, staff and students who lead these in-community initiatives, as well as our community partners, are advising SLU as to how we can best establish a more rooted and visible presence in a St. Louis neighborhood outside our midtown and law school campuses.

Currently, we’re considering a number of sites to house a core group of beneficial community services, from tutoring elementary school students to helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to the local masses. It’s possible we may begin by leasing space from a local non-profit that also is dedicated to making a real difference in the neighborhood where it is located.

7. Mutually agreed upon commissioned artwork

In the spring of 2018, a regional artist of color will begin a three-month visit to SLU as the first Clock Tower Accords artist in residence. This annual residency will be available to regional artists of color, including poets, novelists, painters, photographers, videographers, choreographers and musicians. Residents will be expected to work on site at SLU for at least 10 hours a week, to collaborate with students, faculty and staff, and to visit classes associated with their discipline. Nominations for the spring 2018 residency will be sought in Winter 2017.

At SLU, we recognize that public art enhances the quality of life across the city, in our neighborhoods and on our three St. Louis campuses. A Public Art Committee will be named soon to begin seeking proposals for distinctive installations by local artists on the public spaces of the local SLU campuses. Installations will range from six weeks to two years in time.

8. Development of an academic center for community and economic development to be integrated with the community center
Students listen to their teacher in their classroom.


Mindful of the depth and breadth of community engagement initiatives SLU has in the St. Louis region, some believe a very focused, neighborhood-based approach may help us provide a more coordinated and sustained impact on disadvantaged children and families.

We’re considering operating from the home of a leading non-profit. We would integrate an economic development component along with core academic, public health and/or social justice initiatives at a single neighborhood site. We hope to have selected a site and specific services by late 2018.

9. Creation of a Race, Poverty and Inequality Steering Committee

We are re-establishing a Race, Poverty and Inequality Steering Committee. The group will help guide how SLU fulfills both the letter and spirit of the Clock Tower Accords now and in the years to come. Members will include SLU students, faculty and staff, as well as neighborhood leaders. We expect to announce a call for nominations by mid-year of 2018.

10. SLU sponsorship of a national conference on racial equality

“Dr. King and the Social Justice Movement” will be the topic of our spring 2018 racial equality conference. Among the invited speakers are Dr. M. Shawn Copeland; Dr. Jeffrey Q. McCune Jr.; Dr. James H. Cone; and Dr. Dwight N. Hopkins. Local clergy and community leaders also are expected to participate during the event, which is being cosponsored by the University’s Bicentennial Committee and our Theology Department. More details are expected in early 2018.

This conference will follow several seminars and conferences hosted by SLU, through its Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, that have promoted the advancement of diversity, inclusion, and educational and economic opportunity — on campus and in St. Louis.

In November 2015, faculty from Jesuit academic institutions throughout the country gathered at SLU for a Jesuits and Race symposium. Discussions at the conference have helped Jesuit colleges and universities begin to confront — and seek forgiveness for — their use of slaves and slave labor prior to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. We intend to revisit SLU’s connection to slavery at a conference we’re planning to hold in 2018 as part of the commemoration of the University’s bicentennial.

Our conference on Race, Faith and Justice was held in August 2016. It was attended by more than 100 people representing a spectrum of viewpoints and experiences, including university students, community activists, faith leaders, public officials and educators. The three-day conference was organized with the help of SLU student-members of the Black Student Alliance and Tribe X.

Panel discussions were moderated by Brendan Underwood, then a first-year-student. The conversations made clear that problems of race, poverty and inequality remain complex and difficult to solve. At the same time, participants shone a bright light on the fact that they and many others are committed, in word and action, to making a difference.

In May 2016, we organized the African-Americans in the Nineteenth-Century West symposium and teacher workshop. More than 30 social studies and history instructors from middle and high schools in the St. Louis area attended the sessions. They learned new and innovative ways to incorporate the history, legacy and identity of African-Americans into their classroom curricula — and truly engage their students.

The Office of Diversity and Community Engagement also underwrites travel and registration fees for students and faculty to attend conferences that promote diversity, inclusion and racial justice.

11. Appointment of a Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Community Engagement
Jonathan Smith speaks to incoming students during Welcome Week.


Promoted from special assistant to vice president for diversity and community engagement, Dr. Jonathan Smith plays a lead role on campus and throughout the St. Louis area, helping the University forge stronger bonds of common human purpose and shared values across the distinctions of race, class, gender, sexual identity and faith.

Dr. Pestello first encountered Dr. Smith’s leadership style, creative problem solving and dedication to SLU’s core mission in October 2014, just three months after Dr. Pestello became SLU’s first lay president.

Students and neighborhood residents had initiated a series of campus protests promoting racial equality and social justice. They were showing support for acts of civil disobedience occurring in and around Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown. Protests also took place at many colleges and universities across the country.

But few campus actions achieved the calm and remarkable outcome witnessed at SLU. Dr. Smith, a professor of African-American Studies, was one of several faculty members who supported Dr. Pestello’s strategy to live the University’s Jesuit values and secure a peaceful and constructive resolution to six days of student protests and teach-ins. The University’s reaffirmation of Jesuit values and its formal commitment to inclusion, diversity and community engagement are embodied in the 13-point Clock Tower Accords.

The following summer, Dr. Smith was appointed special assistant to the president for diversity and community engagement and to oversee the University’s fulfillment of the Accords, in both letter and spirit. Since then, Dr. Smith has been a key advisor and proxy for Dr. Pestello, as well as a trusted and go-to administrator for students, faculty and staff on issues of diversity, inclusion and economic justice.

12. Establishment of a diversity speakers series

Inspirational human rights leaders from across the country have visited SLU to promote inclusion, diversity and equality in our communities — and to inspire our students to challenge social and racial injustice in meaningful ways. In collaboration with numerous deans, faculty and student organizations at SLU, the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement has hosted a wide range of energizing human rights champions at campus events.

Among our partners are: the Black Student Association, Great Issues Committee, Communication Department, Women’s and Gender Studies Department, American Studies Department, School of Education, African-American Studies Department, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and the Missouri History Museum.

Past Speakers

Dr. Ashon Crawley
October 2017

More than 60 students, faculty and staff welcomed Ashon Crawley, Ph.D., author of Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility. Dr. Crawley, an assistant professor of religious studies and African American and African studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, took listeners on a personal journey of identity and belonging, alienation and reconciliation from his youth to his time in London pursuing his doctorate, “searching for something that will ground you.” Imagination was a key to his personal growth and resilience, he said. “And the practice of imagination is needed if we’re going to pursue peace and justice.”

Ntozake Shange
April 2017

St. Louis native Ntozake Shange wrote the Obie Award-winning and groundbreaking play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. In an event co-sponsored by the Office of  Diversity and Community Engagement, Shange read poems to musical accompaniment at the Missouri History Museum before a captivated audience that included members of the SLU community. Shange also authored the novels Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo; Liliane; and Betsey Brown, and a book of essays called Lost in Language & Sound. She co-wrote the children’s books Coretta Scott and Ellington Was Not a Street.

Dr. Talitha LeFlouria
March 2017

“Black Women and Girls in the U.S. (In)Justice System: Historical and Contemporary Struggles” was the topic of the 2017 Bridge Lecture featuring Talitha LeFlouria, Ph.DDr. LeFlouria is an associate professor of African-American Studies at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. Her academic focus is the imprisonment of black women in the post-Civil War South. She is the author of the award-winning history of Georgia’s system for incarcerating women, Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South. Dr. LeFlouria’s research and commentary on black women and convict labor was featured in the Sundance award-nominated documentary Slavery by Another Name. She is researching and writing her second book, Doctoring Captivity: Prison Physicians and Incarcerated Patients in the Post-Civil War South.

Janet Mock
March 2017

Writer and transgender activist Janet Mock was a keynote speaker as part of Free to [Be] Week at SLU. She is the founder of #GirlsLikeUs, a social media project that empowers trans women. Her second book, Surpassing Certainty, a memoir about her 20s, was published in June 2017. Mock’s first memoir about growing up as a transgender youth in Hawaii, Redefining Realness, was a New York Times bestseller in 2014.

Dr. George C. Fraser
October 2016

Ohio entrepreneur and author Dr. George Fraser was a keynote speaker at the sixth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial tribute. The event was sponsored by SLU and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. The key to racial equality is economic empowerment, Dr. Fraser told the gathering. Speaking to African-Americans in attendance, he said, “There is no one to save us, but us.” And he urged black Americans to start and build businesses that “employ our people.” Dr. Fraser is chair and CEO of FraserNet, Inc., a company he founded nearly 30 years ago. FraserNet connects black entrepreneurs, professional managers and investors through networking. He is the author of four books: Success Runs in Our Race: The Complete Guide to Effective Networking in the African-American Community; Race for Success: The Ten Best Business Opportunities for Blacks in America; Click: Ten Truths for Building Extraordinary Relationships; and the children’s book, Who Would Have Thunk It!

Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou
October 2016

In remarks to the SLU community, the Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou recalled the societal impact of the Ferguson movement and its engagement of SLU students, faculty and staff, during events honoring the student protests of October 2014. Later his musical group, The Holy Ghost, performed selections from their just-released album, The Revolution Has Come. A frequent speaker in SLU classrooms and for student organizations, Rev. Sekou also spoke at SLU’s 2016 conference on Race, Faith and Justice.  In 2015, Rev. Sekou was named to Ebony magazine’s Power 100 list. Four years earlier, the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, Alabama, honored him with its Keeper of the Flame Award.

DeRay Mckesson
May 2016

“Telling the Truth in Public” was the title of activist DeRay Mckesson’s address to the SLU community. The event was cosponsored by the Black Student Alliance. An ardent champion of America’s Black Lives Matter movement, Mckesson harnessed social media to bring compelling audio, video and images of racial protests of Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, to young people around the world. He also is a cofounder of Campaign Zero, a policy platform to improve police interactions with people of color and ensure accountability. He currently hosts the podcast, Pod Save the People.

Alison Harding Buchanan
April 2016

The acclaimed British soprano Alison Harding Buchanan shared songs celebrating diversity, social justice and inclusion at College Church. The performance was part of Atlas Week at SLU. She has performed with opera companies and symphony orchestras, including those in New York, Detroit, Baltimore, Boston, London and Sao Paolo.

Dr. Toniesha L. Taylor
March 2016

Toniesha Taylor, Ph.D., talked to the SLU community about the use of digital media to build and foster social movements. Dr. Taylor is an assistant professor of communication in the Department of Languages and Communication at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. Dr. Taylor’s most recent publication was the essay “Transformative Womanist Rhetorical Strategies: Contextualizing Discourse and the Performance of Black Bodies of Desire,” published in Black Being, Black Embodying: Contemporary Arts & The Performance of Identities.

Dr. Ayesha Hardison
March 2016

The guest speaker at the 2016 Bridge Lecture, Ayesha Hardison, Ph.D., shared insights about the portrayal of black women in novels, magazines and newspapers during the Jim Crow era, gleaned from her 2014 book, Writing through Jane Crow: Race and Gender Politics in African American Literature. Dr. Hardison is an associate professor of English, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, where she teaches African-American literature. She currently is researching and writing a literary history of the Civil Rights Movement.

Diane Nash
January 2016

An icon of the Civil Rights Movement, Chicago native Diane Nash was a witness to some of the most historic episodes in American history. She helped lead the sit-ins of segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1960 with other Fisk University students. A year later, she helped coordinate the Freedom Rides, a new non-violent tactic by student activists that would trigger segregationist violence and shame the Kennedy administration into action. In 1963, Nash played key roles in the boycott of Birmingham, Alabama, merchants and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. And she helped organize the 54-mile march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. Nash was keynote speaker at the fifth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial tribute, where she was awarded the 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Civil Rights Award by SLU and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. “Social change,” she told the SLU community, “is part of the human condition.”

Laverne Cox
November 2015

A packed auditorium greeted activist and actress Laverne Cox at an event cosponsored by the SLU Rainbow Alliance. Costar of the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, Cox talked of her extraordinary journey from Mobile, Alabama, to Hollywood as a black, transgender woman. The Emmy nominee was featured on the cover of the June 9, 2014, issue of Time magazine and in its story “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier.”  

13. Bi-weekly meetings with an inclusive group, including the president, to continue to advance SLU’s efforts to address inequality and poverty in the community

Dr. Smith is meeting regularly with the executive boards of multicultural chartered student organizations, the vice president of diversity of SGA and members of the president’s Diversity Council. Among the topics are the University’s sustained efforts to abide by the letter and spirit of the Clock Tower Accords.