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BC Ignites Hopes To Spark Conversation

Three Students Will Speak On Racial Issues

Heights Editor

Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

The issue of diversity at Boston College will take center stage on Monday, Sept. 24 in O’Neill Plaza at the first BC Ignites, an event organized by UGBC in the fashion of the Women’s Resource Center’s annual Take Back the Night. Scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., BC Ignites will feature three student speakers sharing their experience with racism on campus. The speeches will be interspersed with performances by B.E.A.T.S. (Black Experience in America Through Song), BC’s R&B and Soul a cappella group, and Synergy Hip Hop Dance Company.

The creator of the event and member of the Community Relations department of UGBC, Conor Sullivan, LSOE ’13, said he hopes that BC Ignites will open students’ eyes to the variety of experiences with and opinions about racial issues on campus, and inspire them to engage in conversations about these issues more often and with more varied conversation partners.

“I feel like one of the main issues with racism on campus is that a lot of people have talks about the issue in their residence halls, in their rooms, in their culture clubs, but not in a place where they can listen to many other opinions on the issue. So, I feel that this forum will allow for the many opinions to come out, so different sides can understand what other people are saying,” Sullivan said.

He got the idea for the event last spring when he was campaigning for UGBC president. Through dorm walks and discussions with many different student leaders, he came to realize a lack of a suitable public forum to discuss diversity issues.

“Even after I unfortunately lost the election, I wanted to see my goal for senior year happen,” he said.

At the end of last year, he began talks with administrators about making the event a reality. Throughout the months since he began working on this project, he has collaborated with several members of the BC community.

“I wanted to reach out to as many administrators and student groups as possible because the event focuses on racism on campus, and that has been a contentious issue in the past. I wanted to make sure that I understood what their feelings on the issues were, and what they thought would be the best approach to it. So I pitched my idea to as many people as possible,” he said. “This is what we came up with. We have a lot of people behind us, that’s why we’re excited.”

Among those involved are FACES, Dan Bunch from the Learning to Learn office, the Office of AHANA Student Programs, the Office of Institutional Diversity, and the Montserrat Coalition. Sullivan also worked with the Women’s Resource Center because Take Back the Night was part of his inspiration for BC Ignites.

“I was curious about how they put on their event, what their marketing strategy was, how it was received, and how they recruited speakers, and that sort of thing … because they’ve had so much success with the Take Back the Night event,” he said.

Also extremely involved in the process is FACES, an “an anti-racist organization committed to educating the BC community on the issues of race, identity, and systems of power and privilege,” according to their mission statement. FACES will be hosting a separate event in the Rat on Wednesday, Sept. 26 as a follow up to BC Ignites.

“Because there’s going to be a lot of opinions shared about race at BC, FACES wanted to be involved so that if students wanted to talk about it afterwards, they’d have a place to go and talk,” Sullivan said.

The application process for the speakers at the event began this summer. Sullivan reached out to any student group that had an interest in culture or race, and sent nomination forms to the presidents of those clubs to send to all of their members. He also asked the president and vice president of ALC to nominate 20 speakers. He then set up a selection committee to evaluate the final applications. The committee consisted of himself, the director and deputy director of Community Relations in UGBC Jen Wanandi and Liz Zappala, the president and vice president of ALC, Jorge Miranda and Devika Patel, co-director of FACES council TJ Manning, and member of the AHANA Office of Student Programs Liz Alexandra.

The speaker applications required a draft of what the applicant would like to say, which had to meet certain criteria: reflection on personal experience, what the applicant believed to be the primary issues with race at BC, possible solutions to these issues, and why the applicant wanted to speak at the event. All of the applications were evaluated blindly, and three were decided on.

“[We have] a very diverse group of speakers, in terms of what their thoughts are on this issue,” Sullivan said. “There are a lot of opinions I think that people will agree with and not agree with … but I think the power of this event is having the two groups discuss those solutions they came up with.”

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