Allowing our vision of BC to obscure the realities of it ultimately damages that initial vision.
Early onset panic, eagerness. Chris Marchese, executive vice president of UGBC and A&S ’15, announces to the Student Assembly Sunday night that he’s stepping down, and campus all but burned down to the ground. Headlines. Conflict. Quotes. Lots of quotes. Angry tweets. Student rights—yeah, we should probably think about how that fits into all of this. By some accounts, the whole bureaucratic framework of Boston College was falling apart. An outpouring of grievances, criticisms lodged against the University, frustration.
Please, I beg you, bring in the dancing Jesuits.
We need another “Happy” video, and I don’t care how much it costs. We need smiling students, synchronized dancing—no, synchronized swimming. We’re going to get some synchronized swimmers for this one. Pencil that into the budget.
And diversity. What’s a video without diversity? The people want diversity. Give the people diversity, please. A dance crew or two would also be nice, throw in a few popular kids on campus, maybe a professor or two who does well on the PEPS, and all will be well.
We need people to see BC, but not “that” BC—our BC, the one we love. We need them to remember they love BC. We need them to remember what it’s all about.
But what is it all about?
After slaving through info sessions and applications, Admitted Eagles Day and Orientations, most incoming freshmen have a stronger sense of what the University is than I do. That’s not to say this first sense of BC is especially right, but it is coherent, to say the least. If you asked me two years ago what BC was, I’d tell you about a Jesuit university in Chestnut Hill, conveniently located on the outskirts of Boston, with a strong focus on service, social justice, and the liberal arts.
From time to time, I find myself slinking back into the comfort of this description. I imagine the school as I did when a senior in high school, first reading about BC in U.S. News and World Report. It’s pretty simple when you frame it like that, and the definition is useful in a way. When someone or something makes us feel differently about our school, it becomes the tape to pull the school back together.
It’s useful, and it’s remarkably limiting.
I came from a public school system, and when something bad happened at Bloomfield High, you’d never hear the administration refer back to what the institution was about—and I guess it would sound a bit odd. (“According to the middle-class values of this underfunded high school in Northern New Jersey, we are going to renounce what those two students were caught doing in the wood shop classroom.”)
What I found at BC was a separation of identity and function, where I was made to feel proud of my school because of what it was, rather than what it did. And maybe a privileged few get to attend the BC we were promised, but for most of us, that school is little more than illusory.
When the promised BC breaks down the possibility of something new, stifles the flow of ideas, and makes us irresponsive to the realities of our school, the benefits of going to a Jesuit university in Chestnut Hill—conveniently located on the outskirts of Boston, with a strong focus on service, social justice, and the liberal arts—don’t seem so great.
Reeling the school back in to a set of abstract values is ultimately going to limit its growth, and while administrators are right in leading according to a “vision,” it is simply that. Allowing this vision of BC to cover up what’s actually going on is precisely what leads us to lose touch with it.
If need be, bring in the dancing Jesuits—just know that it comes at a cost.
Photo Courtesy of Church in the 21st Century