In higher education, there is an aggressive push to enroll students of underrepresented identities. A range of support is offered to attract students from these communities, such as discounted tuition costs for families of a certain income level and the creation of student groups that are available from the time of enrollment through graduation. This type of attention that higher-ed institutions are giving to the unique concerns of students from traditionally underrepresented groups reveals an awareness among esteemed institutions that their doors have been closed to first-generation students due mostly to affordability and access. This level of sensitivity and effort in attempting to attract a diverse student population is so positive that I would like to see further attempts made here at Boston College.
Within the first seven weeks of being here, I am learning what it means to be at a Jesuit institution. What it has meant, so far, is supportive faculty who “teach them to death, work them to death, and love them to death.” As a law student, it has meant that I am learning in an environment that is collegial and not competitive or overly intensive. But unfortunately, as a first-generation student, I also struggle to be here. This feeling leaves me wondering what my undergraduate comrades with similar identities are feeling.
When I look around the faculty website and the hallways of the law school, I am struck by the lack of diversity, and it is obvious after looking on the site of the various departments throughout BC that the same struggle is had at the undergraduate level.
One tangible example of this struggle comes up in housing. With the high cost of housing in Boston, I wonder how graduate students and those without the option of living on campus can find housing that is affordable. I am especially concerned about how this cost factor impacts housing choices for students of color, especially considering that finding housing as a person of color can be difficult due to housing discrimination.
As a black incoming law student looking for housing, I felt the impact of this history firsthand.
The housing issue is extremely important, particularly for a university like ours that depends on the city to fill the housing needs gap for students when on-campus housing is not available. I worry that our university does not understand fully that because of the limited housing options, some students cannot afford to live near the campus or even in the Cleveland Circle area, where the campus shuttle is available. Some students are forced to live farther away and depend on public transportation that is not always reliable. Without acknowledging these practicality issues, I fear that BC may continue to isolate itself from the opportunity of receiving socioeconomically diverse students in its student body and benefiting from that influence. Diversity works in tandem with, not in isolation from, having a diverse set of faculty, while also working to meet housing, transportation, and financial aid needs. And if the University is not going to institutionalize housing options for students, and especially for graduate and professional students, much like other fine institutions that are of a similar caliber to BC, incoming students should have the option to receive a Bridge Loan from the Office of Financial Aid immediately prior to matriculation to help with the transition to the University. The commitment to diverse students should not just stop in the admissions process by admitting students of diverse backgrounds. It has to continue after students are admitted to make the commitment to diverse students more real.
The transition to BC should not just be hassle-free for students who can afford to be here. It should also be a welcoming transition to students for whom the cost of attendance is steep, and that support should be reflected in its fundraising campaign values, how the University engages alumni for fundraising support, and by supporting and retaining diverse faculty.
I truly believe BC wants to be diverse, but because of what I am seeing, or rather not seeing, I am left with more questions than answers. We have the answer to resolving the diversity question at BC. I think we just have to value this question as being important enough to resolve and give it the attention it deserves.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor