Confronting The Other ‘BC Lookaway’

A forward looking student body is bound to overlook a lot: student protests, performers, missing sculptures, and a deteriorating campus climate.

I look away, hoping they don’t notice. Our gazes miss narrowly—in fact, so narrowly I swear I can feel the weight of their eyes on the side of my head. I hurry off to class, a slight feeling of annoyance creeping down my spine. My thoughts soon drift elsewhere, away from the small protest staged in the Quad. I spend little energy assessing the matter, and it’s only later that I try to imagine what these six or seven students might have told me, had I the consideration to stop. The scene of students, picketing in Chestnut Hill, Mass. and demanding action on climate change or whatever—it was familiar enough, and to be fair to the demonstrators, it was slightly less disruptive than last semester’s pretend oil spill in front of O’Neill.

For all our talk of setting the world aflame, hundreds of students must have passed that demonstration on the way to class that day, very much unmoved.

There’s a second “BC Lookaway,” one we seldom talk about. It’s what we do when someone has the nerve to play that out-of-tune piano in Eagles Nest. It’s what we do when someone’s pushing fliers for God-knows-what in the Quad. It’s what we do when we’re passing through the Mods in the morning, and notice a woman, collecting empty beer cans to deposit for cash.

People can be an incredible time constraint. The more you ignore them, the more freedom you have to go about your day. Music, too, can be a pain, and if you stopped every time you saw a street musician, you’d never get too far.

I can’t help but notice how our campus is physically designed to promote this sort of efficiency of travel and thought. The main academic Quad was once a marketplace of ideas, music, and thought, with carefully crafted banners strung on either side, communicating details on events and causes.

Now, a diagonal path runs through it. On your walk to class, the only banner you’ll pass is a massive three-story advertisement for Espresso Your Faith Week. The bizarre sculptures that were once icons of the Quad have disappeared, and the most activity you’ll see on it is that of the University, laying out new grass.

The arts have found odd enclaves on campus—Robsham Theatre, the photo labs in Devlin’s basement, the fine arts department on the top floor. A few times a semester, we might make some time to see a friend’s a cappella group, but in most cases, there’s no real benefit in shaping our weekends around such events.

At our four years’ end, there will have been a world of activity we’ll just barely notice. Those years will pass quickly—so quickly that in our periphery the protesters in the Quad will begin to blur into all the other things we looked away from, and when we arrive where we’re going, we’ll hardly remember the walk there at all.

Those protestors were not the distraction, just like those sculptures in the Quad were not the distraction—and when we don’t stop to notice these things, they tend to disappear around here. There’s a pervasive attitude here at BC, suggesting wherever we’re going is where we so desperately need to be, and whatever we’re doing is what we so desperately need to do. We look for utility in everything we do, and indeed, it’s this forward-looking approach that helped most of us get here in the first place.

But in some cases, this “forward-looking approach” means we’re not stopping to look around. It can make it difficult to empathize with other people, or appreciate strange music in the Eagles Nest, for that matter. We might not notice a sculpture disappear, or see that random banner cut down.

We might not notice anything change at all around here. In the morning, we’ll catch the landscaping crew, laying down fresh grass.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

About John Wiley 98 Articles
John Wiley was the Editor-in-Chief of The Heights in 2015. Follow him on Twitter @johnjaywiley.

2 Comments

  1. Nice article, very much in agreement. Has anyone noticed that construction at St. Mary’s led to the huge Christmas tree being taken out? I noticed a big emptiness in that area of the O’Neill quad a few weeks ago and really hope that it’s not permanent. The Christmas tree lighting ceremony every December is a really great BC tradition that we shouldn’t do without. Maybe they preserved the tree somewhere so that it can be replanted soon!

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