A group of top Boston College administrators responded Wednesday to the recent actions of Eradicate Boston College Racism, condemning the student group’s tactics in calling for institutional change. Those involved in the movement—which is led by graduate students—most recently staged a silent protest during a visit from race relations author Ta-Nehisi Coates and soon after posted flyers across campus reading “BC SILENCES ANTIRACISM” in response to the Provost office’s rejection of a poster created by the group to promote a lecture series.
Earlier this summer, David Quigley, BC Provost and Dean of Faculties, met with three Eradicate leaders. In that meeting, he said all voiced their concerns, discussing various Provost office initiatives in regard to racism and inequality.
“There was a clear statement made to me by three of the leaders that they prefer to work outside of University channels, outside of student settings, outside of any of the typical channels whereby change and progress has been brought to bear on this campus,” Quigley said.
A few weeks ago, Quigley found out that the Center for Human Rights and International Justice planned to use an infographic by Eradicate outlining action steps to combat institutional racism as promotional material for a panel event.
He then set out to contact the participants and cosponsors of the event to see if they were aware of the poster’s planned use. Quigley explained that he received a wide range of responses—some knew about it while others did not. He said some individuals were worried, while others were supportive of the graphic. The disruption at the Coates event during the same week deepened Quigley’s worries.
Thomas Mogan, dean of students, explained that the administration received various complaints from attendees because they could not see or hear Coates. Mogan then met with the leaders to discuss the disruption at the event. He was also concerned about the group’s unwillingness to comply with University procedures. Mogan said that following the Coates talk, he met with several members of Eradicate and explained that if they were involved in unauthorized demonstrations, they would be subject to conduct action.
“I let them know that they have the right to express themselves, but demonstrations, as per University policy, need to be registered and approved,” Mogan said. “And that I expected them to register any future demonstrations or protests.”
Mogan said that if they were asked to stop in the future and did not, they would be charged with failure to comply. The leaders agreed to these terms, according to Mogan, and said that they understood what the consequences of their future actions would be.
Given this background, Quigley explained, he expressed his concern with the flyer to Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J., the Director of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice, saying he believed that the poster did not adequately highlight those featured in the event, particularly Vincent Rougeau, the Dean of the Law School.
He also felt that University resources should not be used to promote the message of “Eradicate Boston College Racism,” which he believes diminishes the work of BC faculty who have focused their academic careers on fighting racism—particularly given that the group had disrupted several faculty-planned events and criticized the work of multiple BC departments.
After Quigley expressed his concerns, the Center for Human Rights opted not to use Eradicate’s poster.
In response to the poster’s rejections, members of Eradicate posted flyers criticizing Quigley’s decision across campus, describing it as an attempt to silence anti-racist sentiments on campus.
“BC touts a Jesuit principle, ‘preferential treatment for the poor,’ but within its walls, it displays preferential treatment of the powerful,” said Sriya Bhattacharyya, a member of Eradicate and GLSOE ’16, in explaining the group’s decision to protest the Provost office’s decision.
Quigley said he believes some of the posters with the infographic were then distributed at the event the following Friday.
Quigley said that both he and Mogan have been willing to talk with the students of Eradicate, but the group has made it difficult.
“The supposition that BC is an institutionally racist place is a difficult argument to make,” said Jack Dunn, University spokesperson and director of the Office of News and Public Affairs. “So this group is formed based on that supposition and if they said we’re opposed to racism all of us would work with them—we all are. All of us abhor racism in every form.”
Dunn said BC was founded to serve the Boston immigrant population of the mid-nineteenth century, and that the administration still strives to oppose racism and provide opportunity.
Dunn explained that the issue lies in the fact that Eradicate makes BC seem institutionally racist.
“I think that’s a false assumption, an unfair assumption, and impugns the integrity of so many good people on this campus who’ve joined this community precisely because they’re people of good will who oppose all elements of bigotry,” Dunn said.
Mogan added that much of his conversation with Eradicate members centers on the problems with their tactics, not so much their goals.
Mogan pointed out that productive conversations have been going on for a while, even before students staged a die-in protest in St. Mary’s Hall last semester, and that these conversations led to changes on campus.
Dunn said that Eradicate is not the only group, as they make it seem, that wants to combat racism.
“None of us is opposed to having difficult conversations,” Dunn said. “But the expectation is that they be respectful, civil, consistent with steadfast academic principles. So if they’re willing to work with us, we’re willing to work with them. But this policy with disruption at the expense of communication, at the expense of dialogue, we think, is unproductive.”
Correction: This article has been clarified to reflect the fact that it was Quigley who indicated that he and Mogan met with members of Eradicate.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Staff