Opinions, Column

School For Sale: Boston College Leans Towards The Money

Boston College recently announced that the College of Arts and Sciences will be renamed the Robert J. Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, in honor of alumnus and former University trustee Robert J. Morrissey, BC ‘60. Morrissey is also the largest financial benefactor in the University’s history. The renaming of the College of Arts and Sciences is only the latest in a disturbing trend of University branding.  The vast majority of older campus buildings were not named for or by wealthy benefactors, but rather for major figures in the University’s and the Jesuits’ history. Bapst, Gasson, Devlin, Fulton, and Lyons all bear the names of early Presidents of Boston College. McElroy is named for one of BC’s founders, and McGuinn for the Jesuit brothers and BC faculty members who helped found the School of Social Work. Dormitories on Upper Campus and College Road bear the names of Jesuit saints like St. Peter Claver and St. Aloysius Gonzaga, and of Boston Archbishops like William Cardinal O’Connell and Cardinal Humberto Medeiros.

Recent decades have seen a marked shift in BC’s naming practices, as nearly all newer campus buildings have been dedicated to those who made major financial contributions to the University: Voute, Gabelli, Merkert, Vanderslice, Corcoran Commons, Maloney, Yawkey, Stayer, and Stokes all bear the names of University benefactors. Perhaps most disturbingly, since 2000 four of BC’s constituent schools have been renamed either for or by wealthy benefactors. Prior to that, only the School of Management had attached a benefactor’s name to the school. Further, even the renaming of the Woods School for Rev. James A. Woods, S.J., was done only at the behest of a wealthy benefactor.

So what’s in a name? In short, the names we bestow upon our buildings and our schools are a reflection of our values and our priorities—of who we are, and who we aspire to be. The history of our institution is written on its buildings and its schools. The names of our hallowed halls and the University’s schools themselves should inspire students to become their greatest selves. Yet the recent naming decisions at BC portray a shockingly one-dimensional image of what such a “greatest self” might be: The School of Management is named for a businessman, University trustee, and major benefactor; the School of Education is named for a businessman, University trustee, and major benefactor; the School of Nursing is named for a businessman, University trustee, and major benefactor; the School of Arts and Sciences is now named for an attorney and investor, former University trustee, and major benefactor.

BC encourages its students to be men and women for others, to set the world aflame. Yet BC’s own actions are at odds with its message, as the university continues to privilege and recognize only financial contributions. BC has gone from being a school that honored those who made particularly important contributions to its history, tradition, and spirit to one that honors those who make particularly important contributions to its coffers.

This is not to trivialize the generous contributions of University benefactors like Mr. Morrissey. However, generosity is not merely a matter of dollars and cents. Investment in and dedication to BC, its values, and its mission can and should take many forms, and BC should acknowledge and celebrate such diversity. It is particularly pernicious that the consistent privileging of the monetary contributions made by wealthy white men and their families masks not only the diversity of forms that generosity and dedication can take, but also masks and trivializes the diversity of the BC community itself.

At BC, we are taught to be generous of ourselves, generous with our time, our energy, and our compassion. We are called to be dedicated to our work, our communities, and our world. We are asked to invest our time, our lives, and our very souls in our vocations. At a University that prides itself on its Jesuit values and mission, it is both shameful and disappointing that the generosity, dedication, and investment of its students and graduates—in all of their diversity—seem to be considered worthy of recognition only if a check is enclosed.

Jeffrey Stokes is an op-ed contributor for The Heights. He can be reached at [email protected]


March 30, 2015

9 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “School For Sale: Boston College Leans Towards The Money”

  1. I don’t believe this article is completely true. While it is accurate the buildings are named after benefactors, it does not acknowledge the role these benefactors may have played in the Boston College community prior to these donations. BC’s motto, “men and women for others” teaches us to give back to communities, so why shouldn’t successful men and women give back to a community they feel especially proud and connected to? Most of the time buildings are named in remembrance of a specific individual or family that gave a lot of time and respect to the school. I don’t think it’s fair to the benefactors to attack them in this way. I think you should acknowledge the other sides of this situation before attacking BC’s morals.

  2. I think you’re completely missing the point of giving and how Boston College operates. These benefactors are generally alumni who have made multi-million dollar fortunes, yet have not lost hindsight and credit Boston College for their success by showing appreciation. You say, “BC encourages its students to be men and women for others, to set the world aflame. Yet BC’s own actions are at odds with its message, as the university continues to privilege and recognize only financial contributions.” and go on to point out that their all businessmen. Don’t you realize that Boston College is only able to encourage students to go set the world aflame and be compassionate, giving, individuals because of their generosity? Pat Stokes was the former CEO of Anheuser-Busch, yet the building that bares his name houses Arts & Sciences departments, PULSE, and FYE. There would be no retreats, world renowned faculty members, seminars, extracurricular clubs that give Boston College it’s uniqueness without these benefactors, so by naming these buildings BC is thanking those passionate BC benefactors who have enabled Boston College students to reach the highest level of success. As someone who received generous need-based financial aid (Which BC fully meets the demonstrated need of every student), I can not thank these individuals, as well as the countless other donors, who continue to invest and support the mission of BC, and allowed me to attend BC and enter the world as a man for others.

  3. This is so… so so stupid.
    Mr. Morrissey “sits on the Investment Advisory Board of the Society of Jesus, Worldwide, Vatican City, and is Chairman of the Investment Advisory Board of the New England Jesuit Province, is a Member of the Finance Council of the Archdiocese of Boston and Chairman of its Investment Committee” I think he’s doing a better job than any of us being “a man for others.” Or is that not good enough? Is it his fault that he’s using the talents he amassed here at BC (in the school of Arts and Sciences, I’ll add) to make money which he graciously donates to his alma mater in the hopes that BC will be able to better provide an environment for us that allows us to develop as men and women for others? Good heavens, this is absurd. BC has been acquiring land and buildings at a very fast rate recently. Are they to blame because Archbishops of Boston aren’t passing away fast enough for new names to be generated? Because Jesuit saints aren’t being cranked out every day? Because BC doesn’t get a new president every few years? Sit back and really think about what you’re asking Boston College to do. The man donated almost as much money as both Stokes buildings were worth…and you complain that BC gave him the courtesy of naming the college he graduated from after him? I know while in college, living in our 1% bubble (I’m a BC student as well), its easy to try and find things to complain about and distract ourselves with, but by all means, this isn’t one of them.

    • Mr. Morrissey is the opposite of “a man for others.” He is an active climate change denialist and supports many denialist think tanks. He invests a literal shit ton of money in fossil fuel companies, which in case none of you have noticed are responsible for many aspects of climate change. Climate change in turn is hurting many poor and underdeveloped countries, displacing people and even killing people. Therefore, I refuse to believe that Mr. Morrissey is a “man for others.”

      • Wait wait wait–

        What is a “literal shit ton of money”? The number of crumpled dollar bills equal in size to a 2,000-lb. pile of excrement? How does one measure such a thing? Inquiring minds want to know!

        -’08 Alum just far enough removed from BC to see how daft that sounded and just near enough to find it typical

  4. One of the silliest and most poorly conceived editorials I have ever read in the Heights. BC students are often criticized for being shielded from life’s realities by the BC Bubble. This editorial suggests why they need to get out more, so they can see for themselves that every major university building, or art museum, or theater, or ball field, is named for a major donor or a corporation. Figure it out Jeff. The real world awaits you.

  5. What a charming, idealistic, quaint opinion piece. It’s unfortunate we can’t ask the author’s future self to comment on his current self’s naivite.

  6. By the way, Cardinal O’Connell was legendary for corruption, and Cardinal Medeiros shielded pedophiles. Just because someone was given ecclesiastical titles doesn’t mean they have greater rectitude than those in secular pursuits. This reminds me a bit of the old joke here in Washington, “we know members of Congress are honorable because it says so on their stationery”.

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