Increasing institutional diversity should be one of Boston College’s most important goals for the coming years. According to Juan Concepcion, BC ’96, BC Law ’03, co-chair of the AHANA Alumni Advisory Council and a trustee associate for BC, in its current state, the University’s 10-year plan does not include a specific section for diversity. While it is possible that plans to foster greater diversity could be contained in other individual sections of the plan, it is imperative that this goal be one of the foremost considerations for the University in its planning initiatives moving forward.
An important step in achieving this goal is increasing the number of AHANA members on the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees is responsible for planning and managing the business interests of the University, and expanding the diversity of the Board will allow it to better work toward the diversification of the University and to reflect the growing AHANA student population at BC. This process will be gradual and should inevitably parallel the growth of the AHANA student population, but is essential to the development of the University nonetheless.
Darcel Clark, the Bronx County district attorney and BC ’83, recently noted the lack of diversity on the Board of Trustees. She is also a member of the AHANA Alumni Advisory Council, a group that advocates for the inclusion of a diverse range of perspectives on the Board. Currently, she and Steve Pemberton, chief diversity officer at Walgreens and BC ’89, who joined the Board this past fall, are the only two black voting trustees. Concepcion said he believes that the Board should seek to increase diversity to better reflect the growing AHANA population nationally and at the University. AHANA students currently make up 30 percent of the student body.
Recent campus events reflect a call for increased diversity at BC from the student body. Akosua Achampong, MCAS ’18, was recently elected the first African-American female president of the Undergraduate Government of BC by a significant margin. Her platform is focused largely around promoting diversity and inclusion at the University. The Muslim Students Association held a demonstration on O’Neill Plaza this month to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order that restricted immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations.
University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. has weighed in on some of the issues concerning diversity at BC. He signed two statements supporting DACA, an Obama-era executive order that offers legal protections for immigrant students. He sent a direct email to the BC community expressing disdain for Trump’s travel ban and communicated his support for those affected by the discriminatory act. University Spokesman Jack Dunn said in an email that the administration is committed to increasing and promoting diversity at BC and on the Board of Trustees.
It is crucial that increasing diversity be a primary consideration in the Board’s longer-term planning efforts. The principle of diversity deserves its own unique section within the developing 10-year plan, rather than being spread out among the other parts of the initiative. It is not enough for the growth of diversity to be an afterthought or a secondary consideration. It must be explicitly stated within the plan as one of the primary objectives of the institution.
There are multiple ways in which the Board can focus on achieving this goal. In its meetings, the Board should focus on increasing the diversity of faculty members and course offerings at the University. The Board should also look for new ways to interact with the University’s growing number of AHANA alumni to encourage increased involvement and to receive input from a diverse group of perspectives when establishing plans and goals for the institution. As the University’s identity continues to develop and diversify over time, it is imperative that its educational offerings, faculty, and approach to the future do as well.