We continue telling ourselves BC’s problem is pastel-colored shorts rather than privilege, skirting the conversation on real inequality altogether.
I’ve never actually met a “BC bro” or “biddy,” although I’ve intersected paths with plenty. The perceived “bro” culture—like our view of many other subcultures at Boston College—is a matter of projection. The myth that a hyper-masculine, J. Crew-wearing class of the student population dominates the University’s social culture allows us to continue ignoring the fact that our school is still very much segmented along lines of socioeconomic status, race, and gender. We tell ourselves the problem is pastel-colored shorts rather than privilege, and it’s a convenient illusion.
It’s far easier to poke fun at eccentric fashion choices than it is to address how social structures have perpetuated a history of segregation in higher education. The “BC bro” is referred to almost affectionately—he’s a goofy “guy’s guy” with a love of Vineyard Vines and button downs. He’s most likely in CSOM, and he almost always travels in a pack of similarly minded students. When we think of the “game-day experience,” he’s usually at the center of it, hanging out at a tailgate with either his parents or a friend’s parents who happen to be alumni.
Reading this relatively simple description of what the “BC bro” might be, you’ve already likely imagined this student in terms of race, economic status, the college education of his parents, his class year, and the privileges he’s afforded at BC. By talking about these issues from the perspective of a made-up student, we just entirely skirted a conversation on a crippling culture of exclusion at BC.
Before even arriving at BC, students are offered different types of housing packages, with zero transparency as to why some students are offered four years and others three. We are placed on different listservs, and consequently we are marketed different events. BC consistently ranks among the worst schools in the country for interaction between races, according to U.S. News and World Report. It’s something I’m ashamed of as a student here, in part because I can frequently catch myself falling into groups that do not reflect the diversity of the University as a whole.
This is the rule, not the exception, as a quick visual scan across any BC dining hall will likely prove. We feel shame about a conversation we don’t know how to start, and we continue along our four years in the shadow of a stereotype.
Last semester’s “Yik Yak Awareness” video, produced by the FACES Council, pointed out just how much stereotyping is ingrained in our humor at BC. Students who fell into a certain “grouping’” read off anonymous Yaks composed by BC students relating to their demographic in the four-minute film.
It was a confrontation the purveyors of these stereotypes never expect to have, and perhaps never will. I believe very few students actively work to exclude others from the BC experience, but to accept the status quo is enough to affirm your stereotype. It is to allow the institutional structures that have directed the University to be divided along the lines of race and socioeconomic class to reign.
Take a look at the “game-day experience,” for example, something some of us hold up as quintessential to our experience as BC undergrads. Only University donors of at least $1,500 are allowed tailgating spots, with the most desirable spots costing upward of $10,000 per season. Children of alumni are far more likely to be included in that experience, the wealthiest of the lot enjoying a better location and extended privileges.
At orientation, when everyone in the incoming class is handed a Superfan shirt, we’re led to believe that these experiences will be universal—that if you choose not to be a part of the game-day tradition, you are somehow a lesser member of the BC community.
But one shirt does not fit all.
Ripping up an institutional fabric that segments the BC experiences means our discussion of privilege must go beyond benign quips about Northface jackets and Sperry shoes. If you find yourself sinking into the comfort of language that characterizes inequality at BC to be as simple as a goofy CSOM boy in high shorts, you’ve already ended the conversation.
We must abandon the “BC bro” myth, and stop projecting stereotypes that steal away from the real conversation on inequality at BC. I’ve never actually met a “BC bro” or “biddy,” and I’d be remiss to dismiss anyone as such. One shirt does not fit all, and the BC experience will never be universal—but we can certainly find ways to stretch it.
Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Editor