Editors Note: This open letter to University President Leahy was submitted by the Graduate Pride Alliance.
An open letter to University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., from the Graduate Pride Alliance:
The Boston College community knows that when you joined our institution, you were tasked with fortifying our donor base and enhancing our institutional rankings and global reputation. As a proud part of this esteemed community of learners, scholars, and practitioners, we thank you for the role you’ve played in catapulting this university into national prestige. But this begs the question: at what cost?
Boston College proudly espouses its Jesuit ideals in its institutional mission—values which guide our collective daily practice. We care for the whole student and want them to be their most authentic selves. We want our students to become critically-thinking, compassionate, and enlightened global citizens of tomorrow. Lastly, we endeavor to make our institution and world more socially just.
Yet as minoritized identities are under constant attack, we’ve watched you stand idly by, refusing to weigh in on issues that matter most to the students you were brought in to serve. As black bodies are murdered across this country in high-profile incidents from Ferguson to Charleston, our students of color are anguished, hopelessly waiting for the response they desire from their institution.
When 49 innocent queer lives were taken in Orlando—a vicious attack targeting queer bodies of color—our queer students were in overwhelming pain, desperately hoping for any signal from their leader that these acts are worthy of condemnation, and that their identities would be supported.
And now, we have an incident on campus directly targeting queer students. How does it get handled? It takes nearly three days to condemn with a statement that blatantly ignores the fact that this was a direct attack on queer identities, once again erasing queer lives from Boston College. Frankly, hateful as it was, at least the person who committed this act was able to acknowledge that queer people exist on campus.
Unfortunately, your silence has directly impacted the well-being of your queer and minoritized students during their most vulnerable moments—and not for the better. Perhaps most disconcerting are your motivations for staying silent. Are you that terrified to offend donors by taking a stand against hate, and openly supporting our children, students, colleagues, and loved ones? Time and again, we watch you cower behind the oft-touted, “our students can think for themselves” talking point. No one is arguing that they can’t—but more importantly, so can you. What does it say to the BC community that its president thinks that a stand does not need to be taken against hate, and that our institution does not need to explicitly support its queer and minoritized students?
Yet we spend billions of dollars not on creating a more socially just institution, but a prettier one—because as we know all too well at Boston College, appearances matter. As long as our buildings look shiny, what does it matter if the people within them are hurting? Worryingly, your students have learned from this example: appear perfect on the outside regardless of what is going on within.
So, we welcome you to come talk to any one of the many queer students, staff, faculty, or priests at Boston College and ask what it feels like to watch our institution erase us from existence. Come down from your ivory tower of privilege and confront any queer student you claim to support. Ask them about this latest incident and witness the gut-wrenching pain in their eyes as they plead for support and compassion—and most importantly, as always, stay silent.
Allow us to speak for the students, staff, and faculty who share our sentiments but might not have the capacity to do so. Allow us to speak for those who kiss your ring instead of voicing their concerns because they fear the repercussions. While growing Boston College, you’ve silenced, erased, and explicitly oppressed queer and other minoritized lives—and history will look back on your silence with shame and regret.
In the end, every institution of higher education should always strive to bend its unique arc of history evermore toward justice—especially a university that prides itself on its social justice mission. We, the Graduate Pride Alliance, speaking for countless others on this campus, would like you to know that it would be a lot easier for the Boston College community to bend our arc of history evermore toward justice if you weren’t simultaneously trying so desperately to bend it back in the other direction.
Your move…though, allow us to guess:
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor