Loras College removes founder’s statue after discovering ties with slavery

Loras College has taken down a statue honoring Bishop Mathias Loras after it was confirmed that he had enslaved a woman in the 1800's.
Published: Sep. 9, 2020 at 4:34 AM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Members of the Loras College community in Dubuque received a surprising email Tuesday morning: the university announced that it would be taking down a statue honoring its founder Bishop Mathias Loras.

The email said a researcher who was looking into the Bishop’s personal records to advance his scholarship work confirmed that Loras had enslaved a woman in the 1800′s for 16 years.

For student Daniel Feldhake, the news came as a complete surprise.

“My roommates and I were all working on homework and all of a sudden this email came through and the shock of trying to get through the whole thing and trying to understand what the message was but also take time to comprehend what implications and what kind of impact that has, not only for our namesake, but how that is going to impact our campus as well,” he said.

He and fellow student Emanuel Rivera said employees started working on cleaning the area just minutes after they got the email. Even though everything happened quickly, they appreciate the decision.

“For me it feels good just because it shows their openness to, not just Black students, but minorities and I think it is a step forward for all of us,” Rivera said.

“As a student I want to make sure there is diversity, equity and inclusion that is promoted across the entire campus,” Feldhake said. “This sheds a positive light and a positive message for both faculty and students.”

James Collins, president of Loras College, said removing the statue was more of a symbolism component.

“The statue issue was one less of not recognizing Bishop Loras for his many contributions, but more instead to know that the placement of the statue on Loras' campus is one of prominence and it’s also one of prominence of the city of Dubuque,” he said. “Based on who we are, particularly around issues of human dignity and catholic identity, we did not think that, based on today and our future, that that should be the symbol of who we are.”

The statue will now go into storage until the community decides where to place it or even if it will be placed somewhere at all.

The decision sparked reaction on social media and many wondered whether or not the university would now change its name as well.

Collins said that will not happen.

“Anyone who comes here or leaves here talks about the experience they had, the interaction with the faculty,” he said. “The educational experience, their growth and their faith is unrelated to the Bishop, it is unrelated to the founder and it is more about who we have become is much bigger than what we were when we were founded.”

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