The creation of a LGBTQ resource center at Boston College is a necessary step in further establishing the University as a place of both spiritual reflection and important conversations—it would open up a new space for students to reflect on identity and relationships. The creation of such a center, however, is not as simple as an annual viral campaign, and will require the sustained efforts of student leaders and BC faculty.
An initiative titled “For Here All Are One” campaign was launched Tuesday. The campaign included a letter, petition, and video that call for the creation of an LGBTQ resource center on campus. Current students and alumni who signed the petition pledged that they would not donate money to the University until the establishment of a designated center for students who identify as LGBTQ.
The letter, written by Nanci Fiore-Chettiar, outgoing president of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) and A&S ’15, acknowledges the fact that the creation of an LGBTQ resource center would be the end result in a series of incremental goals. The lack of LGBTQ resources is more of an institutional problem rather than something individual professors and administrators opposed, according to Fiore-Chettiar.
“What I felt is there are a lot of administrators who want to support the community and do in the ways that their job allows them, but at the end of the day they are representatives of the University and have to represent University values,” she said.
Fiore-Chettiar pointed out that BC would not be trailblazing a path of LGBTQ rights in a Jesuit school, a place that, according to its values, should be promoting justice for all people. Both Georgetown University and Santa Clara University—two Jesuit schools—have established similar centers for those that do not fit into the heteronormative category over the past several years.
Administrators, however, emphasize the resources BC does have—a retreat for LGBTQ students, as well as mentoring programs. Dean of Students Thomas Mogan said Wednesday that the Office of the Dean of Students does not currently see the need for a designated center specifically for LGBTQ needs. Current LGBTQ programs are housed in several offices across the University. The GLBTQ Leadership Council, under umbrella organization UGBC, offers some programs, as does the Office of the Dean of Students.
But without one comprehensive office to hold all of those programs, there’s little organization or singular vision for these offices. The Women’s Center (WC), for example, has been instrumental in reforming BC’s culture to be more safe, open, and emotionally supportive for female students. It has successfully brought national conferences in women’s leadership to the University, and serves as an essential space for dozens of initiatives at BC.
The LGBTQ community cannot organize itself in any such way. University approval for programs that support LGBTQ groups is inconsistent, and without a secure place or a dedicated full-time director at the school, there is difficulty executing long term goals. LGBTQ programs on campus are in a constant struggle for survival, with their leaders forced to toe the line to ensure the limited offerings available to BC students at the moment are not curbed.
Enthusiasm for the “For Here All Are One” campaign will likely wane in time, the links to the petition on Facebook will be bumped down timelines, and stress over finals and summer plans will again take precedent. This first initiative is viral by design, burning bright and capture attention in a very specific, concise window of time. Especially with the recent focus on the Supreme Court hearing the issue of same-sex marriage in June, this seems like the perfect moment for students to release a video supporting similar issues on campus. But, viral videos do not have a long enough shelf life to affect the change necessary in creating a comprehensive center for LGBTQ needs.
This is a bold move by outgoing seniors—they can use their influence as future, potential donors to continue having an impact on the University. For students that still attend BC, however, it is important that we pick up where the class of 2015 left off, and realize this goal without a plan to enact it will simply starve this institution of money it could use to create such a center.
This petition is a first step in encouraging current students to collaborate with administrators toward a long term goal, and speak publicly about its creation.
In 2008, Georgetown University was the first Jesuit university to establish an LGBTQ resource center and can offer a model of Jesuit school successfully working within its mission while supporting LGBTQ students. Their center provides programming, support, and advocacy, including Pride Month and Gender Liberation Week. They also host Journeys, an LGBTQ retreat similar to Spectrum, the retreat currently hosted by the DOS, and also offer mentorship programs similar to BC.
The creation of such a center at BC does not need to be a reach—goal. It could simply be a way of formalizing and centralizing services already offered, and making sure that undergraduates in this community are receiving the professional resources similar to those allocated to many other groups currently on campus.
Though the delivery of the message was dramatic, the actual enactment of an LGBTQ resource center would not be a major shift in terms of programming. What it would concretely say, however, is that the University supports the development of LGBTQ students, and welcomes conversation on relationships and identity. Such a center need not be viewed as a hindrance to the University’s mission, but rather would complement and expand the programs and resources it already offers to students. Sending mixed signals on the institution’s view of its undergraduates, their passions, and their beliefs, however, will stifle its growth far beyond what any cuts to the donor base ever could.
As freshman at Convocation, we were asked to set the world aflame. It’s time we ask our University to do the same, and take a bold step toward better supporting its students.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor