Opinions, Column

The Problems With #BC2018

This time, I’m coming for you, Office of News and Public Affairs.

This topic has already been addressed, so for the sake of originality, I have to ask: what remains that is worth saying or repeating? Only that you endorsed underage drinking on this campus for the mere sake of cultivating an attractive social media presence. For those of you just tuning in, this is regarding the “Welcome #BC2018” video that was released to greet the accepted students of the incoming class. It’s nice. It’s cute. It’s happy. And I can’t believe some supervising administrator thought that it was acceptable to release as the first public gesture of contact with future Eagles.

What does it elevate as one of BC’s most valuable assets? The Mods. Twice! And I quote: “Get ready for the Mods!” and “You’re always welcome in my Mod!” How many times does anyone say something like, “Welcome to Boston College, ‘a Catholic and Jesuit university [that] is rooted in a world view that encounters God in all creation and through all human activity, especially in the search for truth in every discipline, in the desire to learn, and in the call to live justly together?'” NONE. That’s an excerpt from the official University mission statement. Oh, hey.

The department in charge of projecting a positive image of BC has implicitly promoted illegal drinking. I’m sorry, but there is no way around it! I don’t care if a University official didn’t say it-the student leaders who speak are acting as representatives. As a resident assistant, I have been incessantly reminded since last August that my actions-for better or worse-reflect on the University because I am a representative of University policy and have a legal obligation to uphold it. The students from the video may not have signed a contract like I did, but they were presented as ambassadors and should be held to no less rigorous a standard. If someone says to an 18-year-old, “get ready for the Mods,” it inevitably means “get ready to drink unsafe amounts of alcohol illegally and expose yourself to the threat of injury, sexual assault, and even death.” What, you thought they had tea parties and Taize prayer services there? Did everyone forget that the whole point of upping the security during football games and Marathon Monday-when day (binge) drinking is glorified-was for the purpose of keeping the freshmen and other underage students out?! But let’s pretend I’m a freshman girl. The Office of News and Public Affairs just told me I was welcome there. You’re mixing messages like cocktails, BC.

Now, there is much that I’m willing to concede here. First of all, I know how difficult it is to strike a balanced message on this campus. When I met with my freshman residents for the first time as a group, I was the one sending confusing signals, whether they noticed it or not. During the meeting, I minced no words when I laid down my hardline attitude about drinking and how I would approach alcohol situations. On the heels of that, however, I had to cover the help-seeking policy. I fully believe in and value this policy, and there are plenty of statistics to demonstrate the positive impact it has had on campus. But what do students hear? “Oh, it’s fine to do it if you’re safe and make sure you get help.”

I know that the modern, competitive university is a business and it has to keep up with the social media/technology scene. Let’s take a moment to talk about strategy. Interestingly enough, student leaders in the video kept making statements like, “You just made the best decision of your life,” and other lines that described how incredible the experience here will be (and it will). But here’s what’s obviously forgotten-most students haven’t made any decisions yet. Most haven’t committed to go here. They just got the letters and may have a stressful period of decision-making ahead (hopefully not). There are only two conclusions I can draw from the “oversight” of this detail. One, the creators of this video really did mistake admitted Eagles for committed Eagles, or two, the Office of News and Public Affairs is performing a role crucial to any successful business-marketing.

This video snafu is an unfortunately visible example of what happens when the pressure to advertise an attractive environment takes precedence over the values of our institution and the higher purposes of a college education. The BC of that welcome video looks fun and feel-good, all dolled up to attract those students-ahem, potential investors. If we’re going to be real about this, we have to admit that we are all part of a business that requires serious money. Because money affords me the luxury to sit in a warm dorm room, contemplate, and write, when most girls my age in this world are laboring to support families. To quote a professor of mine, “You all won the sperm lottery-you were born in the West and, as far as I can tell, you have no psychological issues” (and do read “West” as “you go to BC,” not as a statement of Western supremacy). The dangers of this reality, though, must move us all to be vigilant about the relationship between the material requirements of our mission, and the academic, spiritual, and social goals of our mission. The office that produced the video has, sadly, already announced its allegiance.

The larger concern here doesn’t amount to underage drinking. The most disheartening thing about that video is it willingly and publicly compromises the values of this institution in the name of promotion and appeal. And there is a very fine line between this kind of advertising and….

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.

April 2, 2014