Column: Born Lucky? Be Responsible.
Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
With the exception of Valentine's Day, a (some would say) controversial statement about homosexuality by Father Himes, and the anticipated redoubling of campaign efforts by UGBC presidential hopefuls, it has been a rather slow week in campus news. Weeks like this give me an opportunity to reflect on Boston College and our culture more broadly, rather than through the lens of a particular newsworthy event and its implications for our student body.
When I arrived at a meeting early Sunday evening, I noticed a leopard print pencil case, Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee, an economics text book, and an Apple computer that likely cost somewhere around a thousand dollars. I knew these couldn't belong to my roommate, who would be presiding over the meeting and arrived thirty minutes before the rest of us had—the items had been there when he arrived. Thirty minutes into the meeting, the girl returned with a large bag of food, seeming upset that we were holding our weekly meeting in a classroom in Gasson, and that we were the reason she would have to find another space to study.
While this student's confidence to leave an expensive computer unsupervised for over an hour speaks to the safety of our campus, it also speaks to the great privilege at BC. When I was in high school, we couldn't leave our hundreddollar graphing calculators under our desks when going to collect a quiz from the teacher because inevitably another student would steal it. This happened to me, and I never did get my calculator back. Leaving our valuables unattended for any period of time—let alone an hour—reveals two things about the privilege of many BC students. First, few people here steal because they simply have no need to. If they want a MacBook, all they have to do is ask mommy or daddy for one, present some half-baked reason for why they "need" it, and voila, their shiny new Apple product is being overnighted to them.
This incident also reveals that privilege teaches us to devalue valuables. Part of the reason for this is that students with such privilege know how easily their MacBook is replaced if it is lost or stolen. Another reason, though, is what they do not know. They do not know that, while many people here can afford one MacBook, some people here cannot afford to replace one. I imagine it is equally unfathomable to them that in some places there are people who cannot even afford a Gateway laptop.
Another privilege we take for granted, and perhaps would not even consider a privilege, is clean tap water. Students at BC consume enough bottled water during a week to supply a small village, when the water from their tap is probably the least toxic liquid they could put in their body during that week.
Some students here have become aware of their privilege and are taking steps to help those who have not been born rich. There are several Newtonites who will soon be walking from their residence halls to Main Campus for class in an effort to raise money for and awareness of people who cannot simply turn on the faucet for clean drinking water.
Admittedly, I find it very difficult to not begrudge my fellow Eagles their immense privilege, but I also need to remember that I am incredibly privileged to be at BC. What is important for anyone with any type of privilege is that they first not take it for granted. Once we recognize our own privilege, we must use it to help improve the lives of others rather than stand on their backs to raise our own selves up.