To the Editor:
We recently read The Heights article “Administrators Criticize Tactics of Eradicate Boston College Racism” and were surprised and disappointed by the comments attributed to Dean Mogan, Provost Quigley, and University Spokesperson Dunn in the piece. They contain erroneous claims about our group and also display a lack of understanding and concern about institutional racism as it affects students, faculty, and staff of color at BC. We found it particularly regretful that the administrators cited chose to frame us as disrespectful and uncivil in taking action against institutional racism within the University, rather than demonstrate respect themselves and take responsibility for ongoing racial injustice which students in our group and other groups have pointed out to them.
First, to correct the misstatements attributed in the article to Provost Quigley, Dean Mogan, and Mr. Dunn: Members of our group have never avoided meeting with these individuals or any other administrators of BC, and we have in fact held meetings with Dean Mogan on multiple occasions, most recently when Cedrick-Michael Simmons and Chad Olle met with him just a week before the article in question was published. We invite them to produce any evidence to the contrary and to share it with us and the readers of The Heights. During the summer, we were offered a meeting with Provost Quigley with one day’s notice and were unable to make it because of other commitments. However, we immediately responded with attempts to reschedule. We of course did reschedule, and Cedrick-Michael Simmons, Sriya Bhattacharyya, and Chad Olle met with the Provost as soon as he made yourself available to us. If this is the episode to which the article referred, we ask administrators to represent it accurately in the future. Mr. Dunn is quoted as saying that our group “make[s] it seem” as though we are the “only group that wants to combat racism.” This statement is inconsistent with our public praise and thanks to multiple student and faculty groups who have taken action against institutional racism at BC, both in our recent LTE in The Heights and on our website: among them, The Heights Editorial Board, the Center for Human Rights and International Justice, Climate Justice Boston College, FACES, the Undergraduate AHANA Leadership Council, the African and African Diaspora Studies Program, the Black Law Students Association, the Graduate Students of Color Association, the Black Student Forum, the ONE movement, and the TRUTH movement. We ask him in the future to familiarize himself with our actions and institutional relationships before making public claims regarding them.
Acknowledging these errors, we are more deeply concerned about Mr. Dunn’s misrepresentation of institutional racism at BC, and Provost Quigley, Dean Mogan, and Mr. Dunn’s collective failure to address what University leaders are doing to rectify it. Mr. Dunn went so far as to state: “The supposition that BC is an institutionally racist place is a difficult argument to make. […] 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.”
These comments do serious disservice to the BC community and the readership of The Heights if they are intended to educate these groups about the nature of institutional racism and our group’s critiques of its existence at BC. Institutional racism refers to policies and practices that systematically generate unequal outcomes in an institution for people of color, regardless of individual sentiments or intent. Given the long and well-documented history of institutional racism in the U.S., in higher education, and at BC specifically, we find it surprising that anyone could so easily dismiss its present reality in the University. This is particularly true in light of the stark inequalities in representation of people of color among the faculty, administration, and board of trustees, the open Eurocentric bias of BC’s curricula, and other indicators of racial inequity publicly documented by our group and observed by the University itself.
Critiques of institutional racism are not indictments of individual character, and, despite Mr. Dunn’s comments, our group has never intended them as such. We believe we are all implicated in the continuation of institutional racism at BC and have the choice and power to act to end its existence, as we have publicly stated in The Heights and elsewhere. Institutional racism is our collective social inheritance and our responsibility to transform. Those in positions of institutional leadership, of course, hold unique responsibility and power to make these choices, and we ask Provost Quigley, Dean Mogan, Mr. Dunn, and other administrators to do so promptly and comprehensively at BC. People of color who attend and work within the University should never have had to face inequitable and unjust conditions, here or in any of the other countless institutions in this country in which these conditions persist. Every day that they continue is unacceptable. We speak publicly and take action with these convictions in mind, and we hope that BC leadership will do the same.
In an effort to continue dialogue about, not simply abhoring racism, but eradicating institutional racism at BC, we invite Dean Mogan, Provost Quigley, Mr. Dunn, and any other administrators to meet with us to discuss our group’s goals and tactics. We believe this should be a public meeting, open to the campus community, that is centered on discussing what institutional racism is and strategies that have historically created material change. We challenge the notion that dialogue alone dismantles white supremacy. However, we do believe that community discussion, informed by people who actually experience marginalization, can be valuable. We look forward to working with Provost Quigley, Dean Mogan, Mr. Dunn, and other administrators on organizing and publicizing this public meeting, which we hope to hold before the end of the semester.
Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism, Campus Organization
Featured Image Julia Hopkins / Heights Photo