Words Aren’t Enough to Fight BC’s Battles

Many years ago, when I was a respected news editor, I wasn’t allowed to express my opinion because it was ”inappropriate” for me to “sully” my “reporting” with “stupid opinions” that tended to be “flagrantly unnecessary.”

Well, I don’t have to worry about those things anymore! I wonder what beautiful things I should reflect on as a civilian … pizza?

It’s really healthy!

NASCAR?

Better than ever!

Boston College?

Well … that’s a bit complicated to bring up in this contrived bit I’m using to start this—but so be it.

A university influences, educates—perhaps most importantly it just sets the tone for people who are going to grow up and actually etch their names into human history. The best and the brightest tend to put on a cap and gown at some point in their lives, so how those potential superstars, less than superstars, plebeians, etc. are taught while they’re in college is something that can matter on a global scale.

So what are the things that BC—from students to administrators to everyone in between—cared about the most in the last year?

Graduate students cared about a union. Undergraduates concentrated on divestment. Faculty members concentrated on the future. Administrators concentrated on all of the above plus a capital campaign.

None of those things don’t matter. Both sides in the graduate student union dispute deserve to broadcast their beliefs, divestment is a noble pursuit, as is the Schiller Institute, as is fundraising that secures the perks that members of the BC community pine for.

But I wonder if we’re doing enough, on a smaller or larger scale, to actually deal with the issues we’re claiming this place has.

One of the greatest obstacles facing BC’s growth moving forward is the spectre of racism hanging over the University’s day-to-day, thanks to the major incidents that have taken place over the course of BC’s history.

Racism may never die at BC, but it’s completely unclear if students or administrators have any idea about how to fix the seemingly widening divide between the different types of students on campus—AHANA+ students, rich students, poor students, LGBTQ+ students, Catholic students, Jewish students, Muslim students, and quite literally every other group, denomination, or identity that makes up the student body.

When I walk around campus, I know it feels white, feels socioeconomically well-off, feels like a bubble, but I really can’t understand exactly how white, how rich, or how much of a bubble this place is. I don’t think many people cared that marginalized students laid across the quad in October in an attempt to focus the BC community’s attention on inequities marginalized students face every day.

Yet, I look outside BC and I see a far worse landscape waiting for students once they step foot outside this campus: Shootings, natural disasters tied to climate change, a fragile economy, less accepting populations nationwide that make BC’s outlook on the LGBTQ+ community—which has been routinely and rightfully maligned for years—look similar to a plank in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign platform.

BC feels small sometimes. The issues we’re trying to tackle are not.

What’s most concerning to me is that students, including members of Undergraduate Government of BC, are happy to dismiss UGBC as a joke, but few fresh ideas are being injected into the discourse surrounding the issues student, faculty, and administration leaders say plague BC. The problem is compounded by the fact that virtually none of the ideas introduced have been either actionable or received positive response upon their rollout.

Attendance at the Silence is Still Violence March in October 2017 was estimated to be over 2,000 students, perhaps motivated by change, perhaps motivated by a need to stand with marginalized students, perhaps motivated to participate just to not be left out.

Just 18 of the 20 UGBC Senate seats up for election this past semester were filled, with only three contested elections taking place. If the new UGBC regime follows through with it, membership in various UGBC-related committees will be slashed and Senate Seats eliminated. What happened to the energy seen in 2017? Did the BC student population forget how to try to push for change on campus once the marching ended?

Students rightfully criticized the DiversityEdu module, but only a few took the time to follow up with administrators after the fact, while other students on campus crowed about how the module was so stupid they just played it in the background while they did other work in order to fulfill the requirement.

Students demanded a student experience survey and got one. So, how many students participated in the survey?

The answer: 2,417. BC’s current student population has ballooned to 14,500 between undergraduate and graduate students—I’ve heard a gazillion times that this school is painfully white, but the number of AHANA+ students in the BC community is actually higher than the number that participated in the one survey that gave students a chance to honestly evaluate aspects of BC “they” have been saying are important for years.

My guess is that happened because honestly, BC is pretty nice. The grass is nice. The professors are mostly nice. The grades are usually nice. Our starting salaries tend to be very nice. The students are usually nice. The charity initiatives make us feel like we’re making a difference. There’s a reason 14,500 people voluntarily show up every year, and that’s a really good thing!

It’s not enough. Current students won’t pay $100,000 a year for college, but right now it’s almost guaranteed that the Class of 2029 will, if not the Classes of 2027 and 2028 as well. Every member of the BC community needs to take a hard look in the mirror and decide if divestment—which University administrators have dismissed out of hand for years—a graduate union contract—which is impossible to obtain until a Democrat returns to the office of the President of the United States—and kicking out an allegedly racist student without due process—which is illegal—are the things this community needs to be concentrating on.

We need to develop education initiatives about inclusivity that involve more than just 45 minutes of mindlessly filling in boxes on the internet—ones that will cater to racial, economic, and religious differences.

To figure out what such action will ask of the University and its varying populations will require more effort than the people who will step into running UGBC next semester can give. It’s going to take far more than students marching across campus before blowing off the initiatives that follow. It’s going to take more than screaming at administrators for change at a town hall in Robsham Theater and then blowing off the ensuing public meetings with administrators to the point that the final gathering of the spring semester took place in a Maloney Hall conference room.

And that’s definitely just the beginning of what we should be doing as we search for what will make BC better—looking at you, computer science department. But maybe if all of us chip in a little more, even when it’s inconvenient or less fun than praying Mary Ann’s reopens for a weekend, change within the BC bubble is actually possible.

Administrators are easy to pick on. Instead of screaming into the void about University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., students should be focusing on staying on message when something comes up: It’d be nice to hear from our president and it never hurts to make that clear, but that shouldn’t be the primary issue we complain about when we’re considering what changes need to be made in order to make our corner of Chestnut Hill and Brighton a more inclusive environment.

What we really should be concentrating on is wherever we’re making progress. For instance, Dean of Students Tom Mogan told Reed Piercey, former UGBC president and BC ’19, that an LGBTQ+ resource center is feasible. Now we need to do all we can to assist the University and UGBC in creating the best support system possible for one of the more historically marginalized groups within our larger community.

If you don’t trust the administration and think “this,” regardless of what “this” is, is all their fault—if you believe that they aren’t capable of change—then you need to trust in each other and start instigating change within the student body.

How? Run for student government in the fall! Volunteer! Connect with UGBC and GLC leaders and ask what you can do. Hand stuff out, be active on social media.

We’re lucky that the BC bubble gives us a shot to get our voice out there, no matter how muted our voices can seem sometimes—God knows the political system is basically going to take it away from us when we really forge out into the real world, so we might as well take a shot in good faith at working toward creating a more inclusive community.

If that doesn’t work, at least we tried. We’re not even doing that right now, and there’s no way that nothing is the correct way to go about improving the BC student experience, which is good enough that students decide to suffer through the loans to come live here. So many members of the community have recently declared their dissatisfaction with what this community stands for in 2019—now is the time to take action.

I can’t shake the feeling that we, the BC community, are failing each other. If I’m even 1 percent right, than it’s past time we come together to start healing the breaches between members of the community. Hard times are always ahead, and it’s up to BC students to be the change agents here—there’s a lot more of us than there are administrators.

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

Jack Goldman
About Jack Goldman 160 Articles
Jack Goldman will be back soon. He was the news editor for The Heights from August 2018 to April 2019. He was a copy editor before that despite his rampant illiteracy. He was once hung up on by Mary Ann's. Who knows what's next. Don't follow him on Twitter @the_manofgold.