Category Archives: Off Campus

The Search For Off-Campus Housing: Under Pressure

Editor’s Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about off-campus housing at BC.

With just a few days left in September, students are reasonably expected to be fully immersed in their classes, clubs, and jobs—and most are. But, like every year, there’s a group of about 1,200 students in the sophomore class who are already thinking about next fall. They’re next year’s crop of tenants, who will fill houses on off-campus roads like Gerald, Foster, and Kirkwood, and they’re already signing leases.

“We literally looked and signed our lease within three days of the first week of school,” said Brielle Mariucci, A&S ’17, who, along with a group of friends, secured a house on the much-coveted Gerald Road.

Sara Barrett, A&S ’17, signed a lease early last week for a house on Gerald, too. She and 10 other friends rushed to sign to make sure they got the duplex that, according to their realtor, many other groups were interested in.

There is a belief among sophomores going off campus for their junior year that all the best houses are swept up before the end of September, and—whether that’s the case or not—some groups don’t want to take a chance on missing out.

“I tell students, don’t rush it, because everyone gets housing. It’s not like anyone’s going to be on the streets.”

“Obviously, you don’t want to end up not having a place to live,” Barrett said. “But who knows if that’s actually the case—whether [the houses] all go now or not.”

It’s difficult to tell, especially for students who have little knowledge of the supply and demand in the local market. According to George Arey, associate vice president of Student Affairs for Residential Life, at any given time, between 1,200 and 1,300 students live off campus. There’s no definitive way to tell how many and when houses are available without relying on realtors’ knowledge, but according to Peter Kwiatek, assistant director for off-campus housing, students who enter the game late usually don’t have any trouble finding a place to live.

“I tell students, don’t rush it, because everyone gets housing,” he said. “It’s not like anyone’s going to be on the streets. We’re putting people in housing throughout the year.”

As much as ResLife wishes it could persuade students to proceed with caution while searching for off-campus housing, as soon as one group signs a lease, others feel pressure to do the same, and once the frenzy starts, there’s no stopping it.

Peers aren’t the only ones contributing to the pressure. Realtors have every incentive to sign houses quickly—they earn a fee equal to one month’s rent at the time of signing. Because the Boston market has a high demand, landlords don’t pay this realtor fee, as some do in other markets. Rather, it’s passed along to the leasers. Students—first-time renters who are unfamiliar with the market—often are shocked when they hear they’ll have to pull together the cash to cover the realtor fee.

“We were kind of just blindsided by those once we already put our money down,” Barrett said of the realtor fee and the security deposit, a fee paid to the landlord at the time of signing that’s returned at the end of the lease as long as the tenants don’t damage the property.

At the time of signing, most agencies and landlords require leasers to submit the first month’s rent and the realtor fee. Last month’s rent and the security deposit (equal to one month’s rent) are typically required soon after.

According to ResLife, the average rent in Brighton ranges from $1,200 for a studio apartment to over $4,000 for properties with more than four bedrooms. Thus, four students renting an average priced four-bedroom apartment are often required to come up with four times one month’s rent in order to cover all the fees associated with signing, and this is before any financial aid for that year is dispersed to their student accounts.

Students on financial aid continue to receive support from the University while they live off-campus, but the amount of money they are awarded typically decreases because the “cost of attendance is lower for a student living off campus,” according to the Financial Aid section of BC’s website. Room and board for students living on campus is generally higher than rent costs for students in off-campus homes and apartments, due to a “value-added” component of the cost for on-campus residence halls. The University charges more for the benefits of convenience and access to residence halls’ common spaces, among other things, according to Arey.

While most students welcome a lower cost as one of the perks of living off campus for a year, Hee Leem, A&S ’15, believes that his off-campus housing experience is costing him more than living on campus would. A transfer student, Leem was slow to make living arrangements for this year due to the fact that at the beginning of last year, while most students were figuring out where they would live off campus, Leem was just settling in at BC, and was far from knowing who he would want to live with a year later.

This is a familiar situation for transfer students, all of whom are granted only one year of housing, no matter when they transfer. Some scramble and sign leases with people they barely know. Many others appeal for an extra year of housing.

Leem did appeal, but was denied. So in March of last year, by which time his non-transfer friends had largely figured out their housing and his transfer friends had either done the same or had had their appeals granted, Leem began looking for a home for this year.

“I was trying to find somewhere close enough—walking distance or at least close to a bus stop—but unfortunately those are pretty high demand, so they’re gone,” Leem said. In the end, he leased an apartment in 2000 Commonwealth Ave. with another transfer student. 2000 is one of the most expensive options for off-campus accommodations, and for fear of it filling up before they were able to move in, Leem and his roommate paid for the apartment starting in August even though they would not be living there until September.

Leem said he felt as if he received little help from the University throughout the process and was disappointed by the recalculation of his financial aid, which he said did not take into account the cost of furnishing a new apartment. Coming from California, he could not bring his own furniture and had to purchase it all here—further driving up a cost which, by his calculations, matches or even exceeds that of living on campus.

Kristen Gallant, A&S ’15, also a transfer student, feels that the housing policy for transfers is unfair and even illogical.

“I think that transfer students already feel ostracized as it is and forcing them to live off campus (away from the senior social scene, especially) makes us feel left out,” Gallant wrote in an email. “Transfer students are allowed to be transfers because there are openings in the class they transfer into. This means someone with four or three years of housing are no longer attending BC. Where do these years of housing go?”

Gallant is currently living off campus as a senior, and while she is pleased with her living situation overall, she agreed with Leem that an already difficult situation is made even harder for transfer students who, faced by pressure from realtors and peers, rush to sign leases for homes they know little about with people they have just met, potentially facing costs unanticipated.

The issue of hidden costs is not unique to transfer students, however. Barrett, who used Great Places Realty, didn’t recall her agent ever outlining the additional fees associated with signing. Mariucci, who used Greenline Realty, said her agent was “very helpful” in explaining the fees before signing the lease, but said the agent made it clear that in order to get a good house, she and her friends would have to sign as quickly as possible.

“You had maybe like a day [to decide] because there were rumors that if you didn’t sign the lease, the next day someone else is going to have the house,” she said.

This combined pressure from peers and realtors that gives way to rushed signings often leaves students vulnerable, and often, responsible for fees they never anticipated, Kwiatek said.

He tells students who are uncomfortable about realtors rushing them into a lease to seek another agency. Years ago, ResLife published a list of preferred realtors, alongside one warning against specific agencies. In response to threatened legal action from realtors, however, the University removed the lists and now lists area agencies who ask to be listed, removing those with whom students having bad experiences report.

“Students are often being taken advantage of, they often don’t know what their rights are or don’t feel empowered to utilize those rights.”

Some, like Mariucci and Barrett, believe the University should do more to connect students with resources about the off-campus process.

“I feel like the only promotion [about realtor companies] was from other students and other students who lived off-campus who could help us, but I don’t think there was much help from the school,” said Mariucci, who relied on her friend’s brother to connect her group to a realtor.

Another tenet of the off-campus process that students have cited as confusing is the city’s “No More Than Four” ordinance, which forbids more than four undergraduates from living together in the same unit. The city has historically not enforced the law, but with the ushering in of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09’s administration has come an increase in its enforcement.

Barrett learned about the rule from a Res. Life email, and she recalls her realtor mentioning it as she was looking for housing. The agent told her group that to comply with the law, they couldn’t have more than four people on the lease. ResLife doesn’t condone breaking the ordinance, but Kwiatek acknowledges the reality of the situation and students’ tendency to disregard the law.

“The city is definitely much more aware of all the violations, and we just tell students that we don’t recommend putting yourselves in that situation because we don’t want to see anything happen to you,” he said.

But the reality—especially on streets close to campus like Gerald and Kirkwood—involves large homes with more than four bedrooms and monthly rents that are well above $4,000. Considering all the fees associated with signing a lease, in addition to the costs for utilities, furniture, and groceries, many students choose not to follow the law.

Kwiatek—who is just a month into his job as assistant director for off-campus housing—said his main goal for the year is to be more visible and to better promote the resources that ResLife offers to off-campus students.

One of those resources, a series of comprehensive information sessions about the off-campus housing process, was completely revamped this year. Four sessions covering topics ranging from lease fees to neighborhood life were held over the past two weeks, together drawing over 150 students—far more than have attended similar sessions in past years.

Kwiatek also hopes to use technology to better convey information about off-campus housing. Within the next few weeks, ResLife will unveil a new interactive website that will serve as a central hub for listings, property photos, and a roommate finder exclusively composed of BC students.

“We definitely understand the market of off-campus housing … students are often being taken advantage of, they often don’t know what their rights are or don’t feel empowered to utilize those rights,” Kwiatek said.

He hopes these new initiatives will go a long way in empowering students to understand the process, recognize their rights, and know what’s expected of them.

Special Projects Editor Mary Rose Fissinger contributed to this article.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

Jameis Winston And The Responsibilities Of Stardom

Role model—defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others.”

If you’ve picked up a newspaper or turned on a television sometime over the past couple weeks, you’ll probably agree that this definition hasn’t fared too well lately, particularly on the gridiron. After widespread fallout from the NFL’s mishandling of domestic abuse, headlines have again been dominated by Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy incumbent Jameis Winston—and again, for the wrong reasons.

Winston’s public outburst last week earned him a sideline suspension during one of the biggest games of the season. This incident involving America’s most notable college football player comes in the wake of sexual assault allegations and a shoplifting citation.

Yet, in a New York Times story on the issue by Marc Tracy, Winston is provided with a defense—“being as visible as Winston is at a young age cannot be easy.”

For all I know, life is tough when you’re a prospective No. 1 draft pick and future recipient of a multi-million-dollar signing bonus. “Play good football, and don’t get in trouble” sounds like a simple tradeoff, but it’s way tougher than it sounds.

To Winston and his defenders, I have this to say—cry me a river.

He is the face of a national pastime. He has a future of fame and financial security waiting in front of him that most kids can only dream of. And you want me to feel sympathy for him? It’d be very easy for any of us to rip into Winston and his conduct. But just this once, let’s turn the spotlight away from him and onto our society’s double meaning for the word “role model.”

There are some who would say that we should judge those we esteem solely by their performance on the field and not by their actions off of it. These people probably agree with former NBA player Charles Barkley, who explained, “just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

Maybe this camp speaks for the majority of our society. It wasn’t so long ago that 73 percent of Americans approved of President Bill Clinton following impeachment, believing that what someone does in the “privacy of the Oval Office” shouldn’t affect a job rating.

But our beliefs don’t match up with our rhetoric. If you’re telling me that Winston deserves to keep his Heisman Trophy because he is the best college football player in the country, then why does the award’s mission statement claim to also symbolize “the fostering of a sense of community responsibility and service to our youth?” On one hand, we want our idols to embody a moral standard that runs deeper than a spot on the field or the responsibilities of an executive office. On the other, we want to give them a free pass because they’re only human.

But stars are only stars because we deem them so—those who complain about being idealized are the direct recipients of the public’s esteem. And they must remember that being a role model is no choice, but a responsibility.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. If the crown is too heavy, then take it off.

Featured Image by Graham Beck / Heights Senior Staff

We All Want To Believe In The Underdog

There’s a reason why we root for David over Goliath.

Common sense would tell us to do otherwise. After all, it is easier to root for the surer bet than to sentence ourselves to the probability of defeat. It is safer to stand behind the 10-foot tall champion of the Philistines, boasting armor and striking fear into the hearts of his opponents.

Then why do we ultimately take the side of the boy with a slingshot and a few stones?

Admittedly, proposing theological explanations for Biblical scriptures wasn’t the first thing on my mind as I stormed the field at Alumni Stadium on Saturday night. But Superfans weren’t the only ones rallying behind Boston College’s stunner.

Turn on SportsCenter, and you would’ve seen footage of Tyler Murphy running all over USC’s defense as the opening story. Take a look at Pete Thamel’s game story on SI.com, and you’ll read his heroic description of BC’s squad as being “sweaty and bloodied after a historic victory.”

Saturday night’s game was more than just a turning point for a football program, an excuse to celebrate, or a headline for ESPN—it was a reminder that we inherently love an upset.

How four quarters of college football can strike an emotional chord is explained by our perception of the underdog. Whether it’s the eventual King David or BC, we see something that immediately inspires a common link that propels us to take the lesser side, hedging our bets on the improbable.

In every underdog, we see a reflection of ourselves.

The underdog embodies the shortcomings we deal with every day, the punishing odds life throws our way, and the uncertainty we fight to overcome. When the slingshot-bearing boy becomes King of the Israelites, we realize that the extraordinary is within our reach. When an unranked squad can stare defeat in the face and take down one of the nation’s elites, we feel as if we can be more than we seem.

When a bandanna-wearing equities trader makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the innocent lives of others, we realize that humanity is capable of doing more good than it could ever imagine.

Maybe on any given Saturday, BC’s win over the Trojans could still happen. Winless streaks against ranked opponents are bound to be broken sometimes, and a game-winning touchdown run to seal an unlikely victory can be as random as it is triumphant.

We define life as a matter of happenstance, or we can look for something more.

In the bleachers stood a row of fans with painted chests that spelled out a brief yet impactful message: “#AllForWells!!” It captured the mindset of those 41,000 people in the stadium and a national audience—when a hero falls while attempting to overcome the odds, others rally to honor his cause. We lay it all out on the line because he showed us that we can and that we should.

And with this unifying sense of purpose, BC carried out a tradition of underdogs, 3000 years in the making.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

BC Addresses City-Wide Concerns Over Off-Campus Housing

Each year, during a three- or four-day period that bridges August and September, the Boston College campus is perhaps the busiest it is all year, with thousands of students, family members, and friends working to transform empty dorm rooms into homes for the year.

Across the street, a similar scene unfolds throughout the roads that populate the other side of Comm. Ave. Students—mostly juniors and transfer students—unload furniture, clothes, bedding, and decorations from their trunks and carry it all into their new apartment or house. Despite the fact that this is happening off campus, there is a high probability that, like in an on-campus residence hall, these students—especially those living on streets such as Foster, South, Gerald Rd., Radnor Rd., or Kirkwood Rd.—are living with other BC students, next door to other BC students, and in rooms that have been inhabited by BC students for several years running. Neighborhoods like this one, that have been slowly transformed into unofficial student housing for a nearby college or university, were dubbed “shadow campuses” by former Boston City Councillor Michael P. Ross. This term became the namesake for a three-part spotlight piece published by The Boston Globe this summer on the overcrowding and unsuitable conditions of many homes that house undergraduate students in the city.

The series identified BC as one of the schools whose students, because of high rent costs and occasional pressure from landlords, routinely disregard the city ordinance forbidding more than four undergraduate students to live together in one unit. Until the death of Boston University student Binland Lee in 2013 in a fire at her off-campus home, the city of Boston had traditionally disregarded the ordinance as well, rarely enforcing it.

“This city zoning code provision has been on the books for a long time, and the reality is all colleges and universities in Boston have tended to address it, but with the understanding that it may not always be adhered to because of the reality of the Boston student housing market,” said University Spokesman Jack Dunn.

That reality is a complex one, involving high rents, occasionally adversarial neighborhood-university relationships, students who have never rented a home before rushing to secure a coveted house, and a city that has historically failed to enforce its “No More Than Four” law.

Approximately 85 percent of each BC class receives three years of guaranteed on-campus housing. BC is unique among most other American universities in that nearly all of its seniors choose to live on campus. As a result, students almost always elect to live off campus their junior year. Because several hundred juniors study abroad each semester, the final number of BC students living off campus at any given time usually falls between 1,200 and 1,300, according to George Arey, associate vice president of Student Affairs for Residential Life. These students can choose to go to the Office of Residential Life for assistance in the process of finding an off-campus house or apartment, but many opt to contact realtors and look for locations on their own. Those who go through Residential Life are warned about the “No More Than Four” ordinance and strongly urged to comply. When students begin to talk with landlords, however, many realize that landlords are often indifferent to the law and willing to skirt it by having only four names on the lease.

“Landlords, we’re told by students, would encourage them to ignore the ordinance,” Dunn said. “That situation worsened in recent years as the cost of renting an apartment in Boston raised dramatically, primarily because absentee landlords and investors were spending a million dollars to purchase a home in Brighton, and therefore to meet their mortgage obligation, they had to increase the rent. For students to afford the rent, they had to bring in more than four.”

Andrew Babbitt, A&S ’15, who lived off campus last year in a house on Gerald Rd., cited finances and an indifferent landlord as the reasons that he and his five housemates disregarded the law.

“We ignored the four to a house rule simply because housing would have been too expensive had we obeyed it,” he said. “Also, our landlord was comfortable having up to six guys in the house, so there was no reason to abide by the policy.”

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09—who was inaugurated in January, succeeding Thomas Menino after 20 years in office—has vowed to reverse this trend of overcrowded and sometimes unsafe off-campus housing for students. Over the summer, the city amended a request it had made of colleges and universities months earlier to release the names and addresses of all students living off campus. BC, along with most other Boston schools, had declined, with BC citing privacy violations. A few months ago, however, the city adjusted its stance, and requested only the addresses and number of students living in each location, not the names. BC and all other Boston universities then complied, according to Vice President for Governmental and Community Affairs Thomas Keady.

This fall, when students were moving into off-campus residences, there was more evidence of the city’s concern for student housing, as City Hall officials were available on Comm. Ave. for residents who had concerns about their living conditions. City Hall’s Inspectional Services Department also held a series of meetings over the summer with college and university representatives, as well as meetings with landlords, in order to identify problems and explore how to get students to comply with the “No More Than Four” rule. These meetings were evidence of a higher level of cooperation among universities and city officials than existed with the previous city administration, according to Keady.

This cooperation will also aid BC in accomplishing its long-term solution to the off-campus housing problem: meeting 100 percent of undergraduate housing demands on campus. The Globe’s spotlight piece faulted Boston colleges in general for admitting many more students than can be housed on their campuses. The city itself, however, has proved the largest obstacle to BC’s efforts to build more residence halls on campus. In the Master Plan that the city approved in 2009, BC pledged to be the first Boston college or university to house all of its undergraduates on campus. As BC moved forward on its plan and sought city approval for the individual projects, as is required, it was met with resistance by the previous mayoral administration on many of the plan’s elements, including the new residence hall that is currently under construction on the site of the recently demolished St. Thomas More Hall.

“While the BRA [Boston Redevelopment Authority] approved our Master Plan in 2009, we were not able to secure the permit for 2150 Commonwealth Ave. until this year,” Dunn said. “It showed how slow City Hall moved during the Menino administration.”

Since Walsh became mayor, the University has begun construction on 2150 Comm. Ave., and is now in the process of securing a permit to convert 2000 Comm. Ave., currently an apartment building and the temporary residence of BC’s Jesuit community, into a residence hall as well.

“There’s a new spirit of cooperation not only at BC but amongst the new administration and colleges and universities throughout the city, because I think the mayor recognizes—and his administration recognizes—that higher ed is an economic engine for the city,” Keady said.

After the openings of 2150 and 2000 Comm. Ave., which are planned for fall 2016, Edmond’s Hall will be demolished. There will be a net gain of about 240 beds, which is still not nearly enough to end the issue of overcrowded houses off campus. In the future, BC plans to construct additional residence halls on Shea Field, but those will not be completed for several years.

In the meantime, the Office of Residential Life has added staff and resources in order to help students looking to live off campus make more informed decisions about where they live and from whom they rent.

“Due to a recent reorganization within the Division of Student Affairs, the off-campus housing program has been moved fully to Residential Life, and with that I think is a huge piece of an opportunity for us to address not only this issue, but the safety, the security, the good neighbor piece,” Arey said. He hopes to formalize the Eagle Ambassador program, which designates off-campus students as leaders of their communities, as well as introduce technology that will allow students to see pictures and assess the quality of available spaces online. The goal is to make students informed consumers, capable of asking the right questions of realtors and landlords and signing a lease with full knowledge of what is in it—in short, to make BC students living off campus safe and smart inhabitants of the “shadow campus,” while it still exists.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

Belfast Project Tapes May Link Sinn Fein Leader To McConville Case

Editor’s Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about the subpoenas of the Belfast Project.

Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams was arrested by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) on Wednesday night in connection to the 1972 murder of Jean McConville.

Adams, who has been president of the Sinn Fein for more than 30 years, was detained for questioning regarding the abduction and murder of McConville. Developments in the case, which occurred during the conflict in Northern Ireland commonly known as “The Troubles,” have been linked to interviews collected from former paramilitary members as part of Boston College’s Belfast Project.

Having long been the subject of accusations regarding affiliations with the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) leadership during the 1970s, Adams has consistently denied ever having been a member of the paramilitary organization. Despite numerous claims asserting that Adams held a position within the IRA, the 65-year-old has continued to refute any involvement in McConville’s death, per reports from The Boston Globe.
According to a report from USA Today, upon being detained, Adams confirmed his own arrest through a prepared statement describing his questioning as a voluntary interview. A personal statement from Adams released on Sinn Fein’s website reads:

“As a republican leader I have never shirked my responsibility to build the peace. This includes dealing with the difficult issue of victims and their families. Insofar as it is possible I have worked to bring closure to victims and their families who have contacted me. Even though they may not agree, this includes the family of Jean McConville.”
According to public statements from the Sinn Fein’s website, Adams agreed last month to conduct a meeting with the PSNI to discuss the case.

”I believe that the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice to her and her family,” Adams said in a statement reported by The Boston Globe. ”Well publicized, malicious allegations have been made against me. I reject these. While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs. McConville.”

Following the questioning of two unnamed, publicly unidentified arrests by the PSNI in April, and the release by BC of subpoenaed audiotapes of former IRA commander Brendan Hughes that alleged Adams had orchestrated the disappearance and death of McConville, Adams’ arrest marks the fourth known arrest related to the case in a period of one month.

In late March, ex-IRA chief of staff Ivor Bell, 77, was arrested and charged for aiding and abetting the murder of McConville, according to BBC Northern Ireland.

Reportedly suspected of being an informant for the British army, McConville, a 37-year-old mother of 10, was taken from her home in west Belfast by a group of about 12 IRA members, and subsequently shot in the back of the head, according to a report by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

McConville’s death and secret burial was not admitted to by IRA members until 1999, and her remains would not be discovered until August 2003 in Shelling Hill Beach, approximately 50 miles from her home, according to The Guardian.

The audiotapes of interviews used for the project were housed in BC’s John J. Burns Library, but a number were later turned over after being subpoenaed by the PSNI. Contracts between interview participants and the project’s organizers originally stipulated that the tapes would be sealed until each individual’s death due to their sensitive nature, but were unscreened by lawyers, according to a report by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

A U.S. federal judge issued the subpoena that ruled that BC had to turn over all tapes relevant to the death of McConville to the PSNI on the basis of a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) between the U.S. and the UK that maintains both countries act in full compliance with each other during criminal investigations.

The project was ended in 2011 after the U.S. Department of Justice issued subpoenas on behalf of the PSNI ordering the University to release tapes including those with interviews conducted with Hughes and Dolours Price, two former Northern Irish Republican militants, by interviewer Anthony McIntyre.

“We are not privy to the actions of British law enforcement and have had no involvement in the matter since the U.S. Court issued the order to remand portions of the archived interviews last year,” said University spokesman Jack Dunn in an email. “As a result, we have no comment on this issue.”

Leaders Address ‘Boston Strong’ Motto

Contributors To Presidential Scholars’ Publication Discuss Social Injustices In Boston

One year after the Boston Marathon bombings, four contributors to a publication produced by Boston College Presidential Scholars—”The Heart of This City: Boston Strong and Becoming Stronger”—came to speak at BC.

On the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, contributors to a publication produced by 16 Boston College Presidential Scholars spoke on Tuesday evening about their experiences with the attacks and about the work they do every day to help the Boston community grow stronger.

The publication, “The Heart of This City: Boston Strong and Becoming Stronger,” was put together by 16 members of the Class of 2016’s Presidential Scholar program, and features a number of interviews with and articles by leaders in the Boston community.

Tuesday’s event included addresses by four of those who wrote for the publication. Dave Fortier, who ran the 2013 Marathon and suffered hearing loss when the explosions went off at the finish line, delivered the opening address. Also speaking were Atyia Martin, coordinator of the Boston Public Health Commission; Katy Erker, self-advocacy manager of Rosie’s Place; and Matthew Jose of the Greater Boston Citizenship Initiative. Each addressed the motto “Boston Strong,” popularized by Emerson students who printed it on t-shirts after the attacks, and shared ideas about how the city can grow stronger in the wake of the Marathon bombings.

The editors’ project aimed to confront social injustices throughout the city that get little attention. It examines what “Boston Strong” means outside of the attacks and aims to inspire others to address issues of homelessness, immigration, and public health, said editor-in-chief Daniel Lundberg, LSOE ’16.

“The Marathon bombings were undoubtedly an attack on Boston, but they are just one of many injustices facing this city and our troubled world,” he said.

Lundberg, who ran last year’s marathon as a Campus School volunteer, called for Bostonians to respond cohesively and extensively to such problems as poverty and disease. His co-editor-in-chief Lucas Allen, A&S ’16, said that that response must begin with awareness of and reflection on pressing social problems.

Lundberg cited the city’s increasing homelessness rate as an injustice that requires a strong community response.

Erker-who works with homeless and impoverished women at Rosie’s Place, an all-women shelter in the South End-said there is a lot of strength in solidarity and in sharing vulnerabilities with others.

“I believe in my core that the women at Rosie’s Place are the strongest women I’ve ever worked with,” she said.

Rosie’s Place has provided shelter, meals, and courses to women since it was founded as the first women’s shelter in Boston in 1974. It serves 245 meals every day and operates largely on individual contributions.

“[We need] to utilize opportunity and utilize privilege to create change so that our response to poverty and homelessness in Boston is out of the strengths that we have and out of the skills that we have,” Erker said.

Martin, who helped coordinate the public health response to the bombings, spoke about the importance of immediate reactions to public emergencies. Last year, her agency helped to support injured victims immediately after the attacks and throughout their recovery.

She stressed, however, that everyday staff of the Boston Public Health Commission work to support citizens and visitors of the city.

The Greater Boston Citizenship Initiative works to help immigrants become citizens. One of its main goals is to build stronger communities by breaking down the barriers that keep many immigrant communities isolated from each other.

“We need to break down these silos in an effort to get immigrant communities to talk to each other about why they’re becoming citizens [and] what it means to be a citizen,” said Jose, the organization’s program manager.

Arrest Made In McConville Murder Case Links To BC Belfast Project

Editor’s Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about the subpoenas of the Belfast Project.

Last Wednesday, an unnamed 56-year-old man was arrested for questioning in connection to the abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10 who disappeared from her apartment in December 1972 and was later revealed to have been shot by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). The suspect was detained in west Belfast and transported to an Antrim police station for questioning, according to statements released by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and reported by the Irish Independent. He was released hours after being taken into custody at the Antrim police station, according to The Guardian, and upon his release, a spokesman said that inquiries were continuing.

Reportedly shunned by her neighbors for suspicion of being an informant for the British army, 37-year-old McConville was taken from her home in the Divis Flats of west Belfast by a group of about 12 IRA members, and subsequently shot in the back of the head, according to a report by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Having been secretly buried by the IRA following her execution, McConville’s remains would not be discovered until August 2003 in Shelling Hill Beach, approximately 50 miles from her home.

One week prior to the latest arrest related to McConville’s death, alleged former IRA commander Ivor Bell, 77, was also charged with aiding and abetting the murder, according to BBC Northern Ireland.

Bell’s arrest is being linked to the Belfast Project, an oral history initiative started by Boston College in 2001. According to the same BBC report, the case against Bell is based on an interview he allegedly gave as part of the Belfast Project.

The project was dissolved in 2011 after the U.S. Department of Justice issued subpoenas on behalf of the PSNI ordering the University to release the tapes of interviews conducted with Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, two former Northern Irish Republican militants.

Organized by Executive Director of the Center for Irish Programs Thomas Hachey, then-Burns Librarian Robert O’Neill, Irish journalist Ed Moloney, and former IRA member and project interviewer Anthony McIntyre, the Belfast Project was begun as an oral history project that would document the severe political conflict in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles” by interviewing former members of the IRA and other paramilitary groups.

By recounting the series of terrorist acts and sporadic outbreaks of riotous violence between the IRA, other paramilitaries, and the British army from the late 1960s until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the Belfast Project chronicled the activities of ex-IRA members through taped interviews conducted by McIntyre-a former IRA member who spent more than 16 years in prison himself for killing a loyalist paramilitary soldier.

The audiotapes of interviews were housed in BC’s John J. Burns Library. Contracts signed by the interviewees stipulated that the tapes would be sealed until each individual’s death due to their sensitive nature. The legal salience of those contracts was called into question in a Jan. 26 article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, which reported that “no lawyers vetted the [contracts’] wording, and no one at Boston College other than Mr. O’Neill and Mr. Hachey reviewed Mr. Moloney’s contract or the one drawn up for interviewees.”

The four project organizers received an initial subpoena for the tapes on May 5, 2011. While initially able to maintain possession of the Dolours Price recordings, the University was required to turn over the interviews involving Hughes given his death in 2008, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Three months later, U.S. federal judge William G. Young issued another subpoena, which ruled that BC had to turn over all tapes relevant to the death of Jean McConville to the Police Service of Northern Ireland on the basis of a mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) between the U.S. and the United Kingdom that maintains both countries act in full compliance with each other during criminal investigations.

Audiotapes of particular interest to the PSNI were those of Price, who reportedly divulged information about the death of McConville and attributed her planned execution to Gerry Adams-the current leader of the Sinn Fein political party, who denies having ever been a member of the IRA, according to The Guardian. The tapes were presumed to implicate Adams for coordinating McConville’s murder.

On Jan. 23, 2013, Price was found dead at her Dublin home at 61 due to unknown causes. Several months after her death, BC released Price’s tapes in full to the PSNI.

Due to inconclusive details on the case as disclosed by the PSNI, the University has declined to comment on the most recent arrest made in the McConville case.

“Boston College is not privy to any details of the ongoing investigation being conducted by the Police Services of Northern Ireland, and is not commenting on the matter,” said University Spokesman Jack Dunn in an email.

 

Advocates For The Poor Spread Pope’s Message

The Lumen Christi Award recognizes the dedication of Catholics who have displayed exemplary advocacy for the poor while proving to be “true agents of change.” On Monday, March 31, the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (STM) hosted an event featuring four recipients of the award in Robsham Theater.

“The Transformative Power of Faith: Responding to Pope Francis’ Call” featured Director of Migrant Ministry Jose Lopez; Lopez’s wife and Director of Hispanic Ministry Digna Lopez; President of the St. Francis Mission Rev. John Hatcher S.J.; and Mary Susanne Dziedzic, C.S.S.F. Each panelist had worked for decades in some of the most impoverished areas in the U.S.

The panelists’ work and discussions aimed to reflect the message of Pope Francis, who behests Catholics to get out into the streets and work with those in need, not recline in the familiarity and security of their local church.
Rev. Mark Massa, S.J., dean of STM, mediated the four panelists as three younger guests (who had all been mentored or inspired by these leaders) sat beside him. Before the panelists told their stories, a brief film was shown that provided some basic context for the event. Jose and Digna Lopez served the predominately Latino communities of Stockton, Calif., providing support for thousands of at-risk youths and vulnerable migrant workers. Hatcher led the St. Francis Mission on the Rosebud Reservation in North Dakota.

The St. Francis Mission addresses prevalent issues of poverty, substance abuse, and suicide afflicting the Reservation. Dziedzic is a member of the Felician Sisters, a Catholic group rooted in Kingstree, S.C., a destitute area of the rural South plagued with prejudice.

Massa prompted the panelists to discuss the challenges they confronted in their particular diocese. Jose and Digna Lopez indicated that while there are many who favored and practiced Catholicism in Stockton, 50 percent of whom are Latino, the city is rated one of the most dangerous metropolitan areas in the U.S. Over the span of 20 years there has been a constant struggle to acquire sufficient resources to fund the programs that assist the community.

Hatcher, who has spent 39 years aiding the Rosebud Reservation, emphasized the importance of recognizing the troubled history the Lakota people have had with both the Church and the federal government. In addition to meeting challenges of alcohol abuse, poor healthcare, and waning spiritualism, a balance between preserving the Lakota people’s native traditions and spreading the hope of the Gospel is constantly kept in consideration.

Dzeidzic laughed that her biggest problem was that “there are only seven days in a week.” Alongside destitution and crime, however, the Felician Sisters have been obstructed in the past by small population of Catholics within the area-although the Felician Sisters now work with 11 other denominations, less than five percent of the region is Catholic.

Despite the challenges embedded in these areas, Massa asked the three guests, all of whom were members of the communities in which the Lumen Christi honorees worked, how they thought their communities would be different if weren’t for the efforts of the four panelists. Lily, who immigrated from Mexico at the age of 12, found that the Jose and Digna Lopez greatly helped bring out the talents of the community’s youth.

Jennifer, a volunteer at St. Francis Mission, stated she was honored to have worked with Hatcher, and insisted he had brought hope to her community that was bereft of spirituality. Kevin, a Kingstree resident who grew up around the Catholic Center, described the sisters as “an extension of our family in our community,” and said he couldn’t imagine where he would be without them.

Words Not Required

Hamlet once remarked about the incessancy of “words, words, words,” and how communication and language is, at times, bewildering. In an ever-globalizing world, non-verbal and technological communication has become the norm, making antiquated ways of communicating obsolete in many situations. In the spirit of a silent retreat I recently took part in, I have been noticing the prevalence of non-verbal communication in our generation, as well as questioning the nature of communication itself and the ability to communicate without always utilizing speech.

If I thought that technological forms of communication were popular in the U.S., I was clearly not thinking about the Philippines. Known as the “Facebook and texting capital of the world” (a legitimate title), this place is addicted to non-verbal communication. Facebook, Twitter, texting, anything that isn’t a direct interaction seems to be popular among the younger generations. Some dramatic curmudgeon may see this as the apocalypse of human interaction as we know it, but perhaps it is merely an adaptation to the changing nature of the times. While I’d personally take a one-on-one conversation over a cup of tea over a Facebook message any day, it is valid that perhaps technological communication domination is symbolic of the growing nature of globalization, a necessary adaptive tool in order to communicate to people of all walks of life in all kinds of locations.

Living in the Philippines has presented many challenges, but none seem as apparent on a day-to-day basis as language. I am unfortunately not a fluent Tagalog speaker-in fact, I can hardly even form a simple sentence. Working in communities where English is rarely spoken, I’ve had to adapt. How I would normally talk to an eight-year-old at home in English must be changed when talking to a similar eight-year-old Tagalog speaker who looks at me like I’m crazy when I try and speak English to her. So what is an English-speaker to do? St. Francis of Assisi once said that a good Catholic should try to preach the gospel, and if necessary, use actual words. While I am writing from a purely secular perspective, I believe that a similar idea applies here. When one is forced to convey his or her thoughts without language, actions and symbolic gestures are key. When language fails to convey a powerful message or idea, actions are the necessary next step.

In both scenarios, adaptation is constant. Communication does not have to exist solely in the realm of language, and it can be spread out through many mediums. Speaking eloquently may not always contain expressive and advanced vocabulary, but it could be as basic as a hand squeeze to a friend in need of support. Despite the thousands languages being spoken all at once or the constant buzz of technology waiting to be utilized for the same purposes, non-verbal communication has the power to unite people that previously would have no reason to co-exist together otherwise. While Shakespeare may have a love-hate relationship with “words, words, words,” I see them as some of life’s greatest gifts, and also ones that we can learn to use in new, adaptable, and inventive ways.

Home, Not A House

I awoke to a Facebook newsfeed ablaze with crazed statues and messages: it is officially housing season. Did you get a Mod? Did you even get a pick time? What will this mean for my ability to enjoy my senior year? These were many of the undercover questions that my classmates seemed to be conveying through their jubilant or bitter remarks. Ingesting all of these emotions, I have realized that the housing process at Boston College-whether you are its biggest fan or its worst enemy-brings to a light a lot of questions about a home itself.

What constitutes a home? Is it simply four walls constructed of various materials and contingent on the climate, region, and socio-economic capacity of the owner? Or is it something deeper that perhaps transcends cement, kitchen tiles, and a nicely color-coordinated living room? This obviously brings into question people who do not have the luxury of having those four walls of shelter as well as people who can lose their homes at the drop of a hat. Is home dependent on familial structure or certain groups of people? Children from divorced families often have two homes, and thus it could be difficult to define what exactly home is for them.

I see the concept of a home as less of a situational and physical construct and more as one associated with emotional connections. Through spending time with a friend in the Philippines who lives with her eight children in a tiny house next to a polluted creek that frequently floods their entire living space, I’ve seen quite a different nature of what a home could mean. For her, home is reliant on family and the people around you, and less about physical space and materials. She sees her home not as a risky structure in a slum, but as a place where family and friends can congregate and (as trite as it may sound), spread love and hospitality out to everyone. A similar theme flows into situations of broken homes and people who frequently move. While people and places may change, what is constant is the support that people can feel no matter where they are physically located.

Maybe it would be fun if your home next year were in the Mods. But wouldn’t it also be extremely life-giving if your home were simply a place where you were free to be your best self and soak up the wisdom and love of your fellow human beings? Putting less of a focus on where or what a home should be only sets one up for disappoint and at times, a lack of fulfillment. Selling your house and living in a tent on Brighton campus may be a far-fetched idea of what I am attempting to convey-but I would like to contend with the common idea that place necessarily creates sacred space along with worthwhile relationships. To think in broader terms, perhaps our home isn’t just in whatever dorm we are placed in-it is the character of the community that is also part of that space. This applies to BC campus as a whole, and even to Boston itself. It is all about perspective and personal definition. By redefining our own conceptions of what a home is, we can become more adaptable and start to feel as if the world itself is our home, granted that we are able to engage the connections that await.