Alongside the AHANA Leadership Council, students and faculty gathered around the fountain in O’Neill Plaza—in the center, a modern sculpture of figures dancing. Behind them is St. Mary’s, where many of them staged a die-in protest last winter. In front of them is Gasson Hall, where they are about to demonstrate in a sit-in.
This afternoon, Afua Laast—vice president of diversity and inclusion for the Undergraduate Government of Boston College and LSOE ’16—and James Kale—chair of AHANA Leadership Council and LSOE ’16—organized a demonstration to bring awareness to the number of AHANA faculty on Boston College’s campus, which is disproportionately low compared to the breakdown of AHANA undergraduates. The demonstrators marched from the statue outside of St. Mary’s to Gasson 101, where they held a sit-in demonstration to show their support for ALC’s new initiatives. The room was almost completely filled with students and faculty showing their support for ALC’s cause.
“One thing that BC says that they like to see is students actually out together to support something,” Kale said. “So we had to have this campaign and this demonstration to make sure we are all in support of increasing AHANA faculty and staff for the administrators on campus.”
Originally, Laast and Kale planned to stage a die-in protest, where students would lie on the ground, showing student solidarity behind a cause. They decided, however, that a sit-in would be more appropriate as die-ins normally signify a loss of life, and they thought it would take away from the overall meaning of the demonstration. Kale met with Dean of Students Thomas Mogan to receive the permits for the demonstration.
During the sit-in, Laast and Kale called up volunteers to speak about their experiences with racial discrimination at BC. Giancarlo Sanchez, MCAS ’16, spoke about how he is still afraid to speak in class and attend office hours because he said he does not always feel comfortable with his professors.
“There is a lot of ignorance on this campus and the reason why is because [students] are not being educated, and they are not being educated by people that know the other side of the story,” Sanchez said.
Kyle Katamba, MCAS ’19, then spoke about his experiences discussing race in class. He said that racial topics are uncomfortable because students look to him to carry the discussion as a student of color.
The demonstration is a part of a campaign led by the AHANA Leadership Council, held from Nov. 17 to 21 to address the lack of AHANA faculty and administrators on campus. ALC hopes that, through its efforts to create awareness among students, the University will take initiative to employ more AHANA faculty, create positions of leadership for current AHANA administrators, and expand the curriculum to include a greater diversity of writers and histories.
“We tend to talk about diversity within our student body, but we don’t ever really look towards our faculty, administration, and staff,” Edouard said. “That was our intent: to get people to start thinking, ‘Have you ever had a professor that was not white, or have you ever taken a class because you wanted to have a professor that looked like you if you are an AHANA student?’”
Earlier in the week, members of ALC hung up posters around campus with statistics about the number of AHANA faculty members at BC and quotes from students, faculty, and administrators about their experiences at BC. ALC held a series of three-student focus groups to discuss the issues and solutions that are being presented to the administration.
Laast also created a Facebook campaign called “#TakeNoteBC,” for students to share personal stories of marginalization, discrimination, and racism on campus. She hopes that students will document their stories with the hashtag #TakeNoteBC to start grassroot momentum to address the issues.
Lisa Edouard, Director of Policy for ALC and LSOE ’16, sent out a letter on Monday to students, faculty, administration, and alumni with information about the campaign and a letter to sign to show support for the new initiatives. As of Tuesday night, the letter had almost 200 signatures.
Currently, 14 percent of faculty at BC identify as AHANA and there are no AHANA vice presidents. There are 117 AHANA faculty and 700 Caucasian faculty members, the letter said. While there are eight Caucasian students to every Caucasian faculty member, it said there are 28 AHANA students to every AHANA faculty member.
“Essentially the consensus when you research is that a majority of [AHANA faculty] feel over-burdened because they are not only representing themselves, but are representing those who come after them,” Edouard said. “They are not only teachers and researchers, but they are also mentors for a lot of students on campus. They kind of feel obligated to do it because there is this idea of ‘who else would do it?’”
“People from backgrounds like my own probably don’t want to come and teach in Boston—it’s not a very friendly city to be in. If people do want to come here, there are other universities that seem more attractive.”
-Lisa Edouard, Director of Policy for ALC and LSOE ’16
Associate History professor Martin Summers agrees with Edouard’s statement that AHANA faculty are spread too thin. Summers believes that this is also due to the professional responsibilities that AHANA faculty have, like sitting in on panels and serving as representatives for discussions on diversity.
“Boston College has more resources than public universities do,” Summers said. “There shouldn’t be an issue of not being able to afford or expand the faculty in order to diversify it.”
ALC hopes to create a new position—vice president of Diversity and Inclusion—and a Postdoctoral Fellowship Program for AHANA scholars as part of their initiative to diversify campus.
Edouard said that one reason BC has not made great strides in attaining more AHANA faculty and administrators is because of the University’s location in Boston.
“People from backgrounds like my own probably don’t want to come and teach in Boston—it’s not a very friendly city to be in,” Edouard said. “If people do want to come here, there are other universities that seem more attractive.”
In recent months, other schools around the country, including Brown and Yale University, have created action plans to increase the number of AHANA faculty members on campus. Brown has pledged to double the number of AHANA faculty on campus within the next 10 years, while Yale has allocated $50 million to diversifying the faculty and administrators.
“We are benchmarking against other schools, but what we have noticed is other schools have taken steps to try to remedy the situation,” Edouard said.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Staff