On Boston College’s website, our administration presents an affirming statement of gratitude for the many gifts its students bring to the university community. The leaders of the University make it clear that they “welcome and embrace the contributions of a diverse student body” in all aspects of university life.
Or rather, they make it clear in word. In practice, our administration has once again decided to honor its tradition of ignoring the contributions of the student body when it challenges the status quo of the university, as it did recently in the divestment referendum. Spokesman Jack Dunn walked out the same response student activists have heard for five years: “Boston College remains opposed to divestment from fossil fuel companies on the grounds that it is not a viable solution to the important issue of climate change.” In continuing an important administrative tradition, BC talked with little promise of action.
“Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Rather than point out the failures of BC to “love in deed” on any matter of sustainability (like its failure to make the Princeton Review’s list of Green Colleges, which includes peers like Notre Dame, Cornell and Brown), we would instead like to study the source of the administration’s listless response to climate change, which closely resembles complicity. The administration’s responses to calls for divestment have been based on the premise that “[the endowment is] a resource, … and it’s not intended to be an instrument to induce political or societal change.” This represents part of a university-wide position that uncritically excludes from moral consideration the University’s main avenues to effecting systemic transformation. At a time when socially responsible investing is a powerful trend, at a time when the Jesuits themselves are urging universities to respond to climate change using every means available, and at a time when the “signs of the times” demand systemic change, BC’s moral paralysis is a betrayal to the earth and the radical values that give it life. Its dismissal of prophetic voices is a tradition which Climate Justice at Boston College unequivocally denounces, for such an attitude derives from a fundamental misunderstanding of what the demands of justice require of us.
Nonetheless, we at Climate Justice want to “love in truth.” We recognize that it is natural for any institution to have concerns about what divestment might mean for them. But we need to hear questions in order to provide answers. BC’s decision to substitute empty words for constructive dialogue and action keeps our university far from its guiding values, and yet we hope. We hope that our administration will soon regard timidity not as a virtue but as an injustice, and we hope that the fire of discontent within BC’s students will not flicker but set our campus aflame.
Aaron Salzman, MCAS 2020
Karolin Velliste, MCAS 2021
Zachary Contini, MCAS 2021
Kila Panchot, MCAS 2021
Kiran Khosla, MCAS 2019