This past year, race issues became one of the prominent focuses of student interest groups, discussion, and protests on campus. Questions of inclusivity have provoked action from various groups such as Eradicate Boston College Racism, which have then been hit with mild disciplinary action. The Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) has attempted to address these concerns as well, holding town halls and presenting a document regarding race issues to the administration. Despite this, many UGBC proposals have not led to any direct changes in University policy.
One considerable change implemented by the University was the inclusion of African and African Diaspora studies as a history and social science option in the Core curriculum. This was a good step that hopefully bodes well for future change. Although this step was taken, the administration has still refrained from addressing issues of inclusivity at BC in an overtly public way, barring a few emails from the administration. In January, in response to a meeting with UGBC, Vice President for Student Affairs Barb Jones released a letter to UGBC acknowledging the dialogue surrounding the issue of inclusion. In the letter, she noted that BC is committed to “increasing and retaining diverse students, faculty and staff” and that the proportion of AHANA students and faculty has increased in the past two decades. She also said that the University will not add a vice president for institutional diversity, one of the positions requested in UGBC’s proposal. Instead, BC will focus on existing committees. BC’s more specific plans to address institutional diversity were later released. The University, at least according to this letter, is actively trying to make changes, and students ought to know that.
Though the administration has addressed UGBC’s concerns, the University should make its response more public and show the student body that it is actively engaged with the issues. By publicly acknowledging that there are some problems on campus, BC would be better able to assuage student worries. The inclusion of African and African Diaspora studies in the Core as well as the letter to UGBC and the release of a subsequent plan shows that steps are being taken by the administration. At this point, the administration should strive to keep the student body aware of what is being done. By keeping this issue in the public eye and admitting that there are problems on campus, the administration would be able to establish better lines of communication and develop cooperation with the students who voice these concerns.
Via protests and campaigns, Eradicate BC Racism has done well to open up the dialogue around race at BC, even—and especially—when its efforts are met with backlash from the University. UGBC has also performed admirably under heavy constraints. Since it relies on administrative approval and does not have the necessary sway to implement policy change on its own, UGBC has focused on creating events and programming to further on-campus discussion of race issues. Events like February’s town hall meeting are a positive way to keep the issue at the forefront and encourage further administrative action. The meeting, hosted by Afua Laast, UGBC vice president of diversity and inclusion and LSOE ’16, and James Kale, chair of the AHANA Leadership Council and LSOE ’16, is an ideal example of the type of programming UGBC can create. Its high attendance rate is indicative of the success that can be found by working in this way. Though UGBC and Eradicate cannot implement policy change on their own, they can use diverse tactics to increase conversation, and thus increase administrative awareness of the need for change. The University has clearly heard their message and, in some ways, has responded. Both sides would do well to continue the dialogue, in hopes of making more public, prominent changes.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor