On Wednesday evening, students and faculty discussed tensions surrounding race and sexuality and the rising cost of a Boston College education, among other topics, at an event for students to give feedback to University officials before the next 10-year strategic plan is enacted.
Students spoke with members of the administration on the future of the University at BC Moving Forward, an event cohosted by the Undergraduate Government of BC (UGBC) and the Office of Student Affairs.
Russell Simons, UGBC president and MCAS ’17, and Meredith McCaffrey, UGBC executive vice president and MCAS ’17, began the event by introducing the co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC), Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley and Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead.
The purpose of the event was to have an important and meaningful discussion about the future of the University and create meaningful change, according to Simons.
The University Strategic Planning Initiative (USPI), carried out by the 17-member steering committee, began its strategic planning in December 2015. The first draft of the planning process will be presented to the Board of Trustees in March 2017.
USPI is the first step in a 10-year cycle in which the University performs a self-assessment to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Following these self-assessment periods, the University will enter a fundraising campaign in order to make necessary improvements.
The committee completed an assessment of key areas between February and May 2016. The assessment included BC’s eight schools, various administrative departments, and undergraduate and graduate student focus groups. Twenty-four teams from around BC critically examined how these areas related to the mission of the University and what challenges and opportunities for improvement would be possible in the coming years.
Lochhead started the conversation with a series of questions.
“Tonight is about engaging students and working to bring student voices into the conversation.”
—Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley
“What are the right conversations to be having?” he said. “What are the right questions to be asking?”
Quigley emphasized the importance of building the USPI around advancing BC’s mission. He presented a series of emerging themes to refine this vision—the commitment to the transformative power of the liberal arts, formation of students, and commitment to research and scholarship that serves the common good. Other themes include becoming a truly global university, the importance of graduate and professional education, and nurturing BC’s welcoming culture amid tensions of race, gender identity, socio-economic pressures, and the polarized political environment. Quigley and Lochhead mostly focused on BC’s commitment to teach the liberal arts as well as provide students with a pre-professional background so they will be competitive in the job market. They also mentioned the University’s focus on creating an updated science and technology curriculum to compete with other universities across the nation.
“Tonight is about engaging students and working to bring student voices into the conversation.” Quigley said.
After the presentation from Quigley and Lochhead, students engaged in discussion about topics brought up during the presentation. A member of the administration sat at each table, guiding the discussion. Faculty members asked students which of the themes stood out to them and how the University could expand on these themes. One table discussed how the administration could help improve diversity by helping marginalized groups feel more included on campus. Another table discussed how the University could do a better job of utilizing Boston as a resource for learning.
Once the table discussions finished, there was a short question-and-answer session with Quigley and Lochhead. Sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and the rising cost of tuition were three issues that were brought to the forefront during this session.
One student asked why sustainability was not included as a theme of the USPI. Lochhead said that sustainability will not be a driving theme within USPI’s initiatives.
Another student expressed concerns about rising costs of food at BC, citing a $15 turkey dinner as an example. She asked Quigley and Lochhead for the reasoning behind the high cost of both food and tuition.
Lochhead said that rising costs are common at universities across the nation and is something that cannot be avoided. His solution to rising costs was to focus more resources toward improving BC’s financial aid system. As for the high food costs, Lochhead pointed out that dining workers at Harvard University are on strike, while BC Dining workers have good benefits.
Not all students felt satisfied with the conversation at this event, including Akosua Opokua-Achampong, MCAS ’18.
“We are working to imagine the kind of Boston College that your future children may choose to attend.”
—Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley
“I think that this event was a good thought, however, a lot of what we were presented was vague,” Opokua-Achampong said. “It was hard to dissect what their goals were with such a vague conversation. I don’t know that this many students will be invited back for a more specific conversation in the future.”
Opokua-Achampong is concerned that although the administration is trying to increase diversity, it is not making enough of an effort to make marginalized groups on campus feel at home at BC.
“If we can’t sustain our own students, how do we expect to bring in more people that may share their identities?” she said.
During the event, Lochhead condemned the defamation of a sign in the Mod Lot three weeks ago.
“We have to hold ourselves accountable, and students have to hold themselves accountable as well,” Lochhead said. “We want to be a welcoming and inviting community for all.”
Quigley emphasized that the USPI is still in its planning phase and is currently working on creating concrete strategies to address emerging challenges and opportunities. He explained that the next two to three months of the USPI are for trying to figure out possibilities and solutions for the future.
“We are working to imagine the kind of Boston College that your future children may choose to attend,” Quigley said.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor