This article is a part of a larger feature series titled Taking the Temperature of Diversity and Inclusivity at BC in 2018.
here are a few threads connecting last year’s burst of student activism during “Silence is Still Violence” to the recent changes the University has made to address the racial climate on campus. Taraun Frontis, vice president of diversity and inclusion for the Undergraduate Government of Boston College and CSOM ’19, is one of them.
He stepped into his new position at UGBC following a term as the chair of the AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC). Throughout his time in UGBC, he’s helped to push two major student initiatives: DiversityEdu and the recently-released Student Experience Survey. Both items appeared in a 2017 Student Assembly (SA) resolution, titled “A Resolution Concerning Bias-Related Incidents.”
Under a subsection aimed at the prevention of future incidents, the Student Assembly (SA) asked that the University “create a module comparable in format to alcohol education that should be mandated and disseminated among all students currently enrolled at Boston College, and all future students prior to move-in dates,” specifically calling for input on the process from UGBC and student leaders.
The resolution also proposed a comprehensive survey that could assess the concerns of marginalized populations at BC and allow for the better allocation of resources and programming to serve those populations.
“When we worked with the administration last year as student leaders on campus, we hoped that we would get quick results, and we did,” Frontis said. “We just know that when we talk to administration that it’s only the first step. DiversityEdu has a lot of work to do. But the fact that exists based on what we’ve been pleading for? I think that’s a good job.”
e identified maintaining momentum as a major obstacle in the near future. The achievements of the past year are seriously short-term in comparison to the broader goals students on campus have in regards to improving inclusivity on campus, such as setting up permanent lines of communication between students and administrators for future classes.
He credits former Vice President of Student Affairs Barb Jones, who retired last August, with creating that infrastructure in the wake of last fall. Alongside Dean of Students Tom Mogan, Jones helped organize several student committees on potential initiatives, met with student leaders, and brought in the former director of the Learning to Learn program, Dan Bunch, to address the issue.
“She had in place different committees to involve students that helped her with a lot of these processes,” Frontis said. “And now [Interim VP of Student Affairs] Joy Moore is here, she’s spending time getting used to her role and we’re reminding her of these duties like the student survey experience committee. We’re just trying to make sure that those are still set in place for next semester when it’s time to collect the student survey, for example.”
Frontis’s experience with the administration has been vastly different from the common perception of the University: While many students see the administration as withdrawn and unresponsive to the needs of the student body, he said that he’s come to realize that much of their work goes unnoticed. He drew a distinction between communication and transparency, admitting that while administrators were good with the former, the latter posed a problem.
In his eyes, the lack of transparency poses the danger of letting the current student-administrator relationship fade away, destroying the behind-the-scenes progress of the last year. If an incident similar to the one that incited the Silence is Still Violence demonstrations were to happen again, Frontis wouldn’t be worried about getting a response, but the extent of that response.
“If another incident happens, I hope that as students, we’re all in open communication about how the process goes, instead of going through the same things that we encountered last semester,” he said.
“Just being clear with how you communicate with different deans and different VPs across campus, because there’s so much institutional knowledge you learn as you work in the system that can easily be forgotten if you don’t pass it down.”
For Frontis, the past year has embodied the importance of working within the system to create change. Without continuous effort on both sides of the relationship, the accomplishments of the last few months will be the end of the line, prompting a total reset to the previous status quo the BC community was familiar with until one year ago.
ow that he’s well into his final year at BC, it has hit Frontis that he should be passing down his experience to underclassmen.
“We’ve gotten a substantial amount of work done in terms of establishing the relationships with the administration and we have actionable plans, but now we need to keep the momentum going,” he said. “It was a lot of behind the scenes work to maintain these systems that we’ve been fighting for to be put in place.”
Student activism can be another vehicle for this institutional knowledge, according to Frontis. Protests like the recent “die-in” can force students to ask questions about issues on campus they didn’t experience themselves.
“I don’t think protest or social activism is really brought up again, and while most of everyone on campus knows what happened,” he said. “But there’s so many first year students that just don’t know.
“It’s important to acknowledge our relationship that we have with the administration and how we react to situations so if it were to happen again, people would know what’s going on.”
Frontis stressed the importance of an active student body in reaching that point. While sometimes it can seem like BC students are apathetic to social causes, he argued that it was actually an awareness issue.
“As a student body, there’s a lot of people coming from different backgrounds,” Frontis said. “It’s pretty hard to get everyone up to speed about what’s going on. So part of the student body relationship is informing people of these identities, getting them to understand all that or try to emphasize.
“Over time, our missions will evolve and everything will evolve and we need to make sure that we’re not screaming into an echo chamber of different voices that all feel the same way. A lot of things can be unexpected, but we need to continue to work and put things in place so if things fail, if incidents do happen, you can turn to this instead of starting over because nothing ever existed.”
Featured Image Courtesy of UGBC