Opinions, Column

How to Change BC for the Better

Boston College may be one of the most hypocritical colleges in America. Constantly calling for its students to be “men and women for others,” BC fails to live up to its own hype, actively discarding its marginalized students in favor of prestige and arbitrary tradition.

Here’s just a small sample of the ways BC’s hypocrisy shines: We still do not have an LGBTQ+ resource center, which is a huge slap in the face to the entire BC queer community. We have more students from the top 1 percent than we do from the bottom 60 percent, which is a disgrace given our $2.2 billion endowment and supposed support of America’s poor and working class. Just last week, it was discovered that some of the braille on campus is printed onto the signs. Let me repeat that. BC braille is printed on so that you cannot feel it. What a terribly poetic metaphor. One of the only aides to the blind and visually impaired students on campus is a cheap facade, nothing more than worthless lip service (but is honestly nothing new in the long history of BC doing relatively little to accommodate people with disabilities on campus).

I could write about this every week. Well, I practically do. Thankfully, this isn’t to be yet another look-how-hypocritical-BC-is pieces, one of those unproductive columns just adding useless noise to The Heights. While it’s important to continually point out BC’s insincerity, the more pressing issue is finding solutions.

How do we change BC then? How do we recognize BC’s hypocrisy and respond in turn, using our four years here to leave BC a little better than we entered?

Well, it’s not easy. BC changes slowly. Like really slowly. I’ve had multiple conversations with faculty and administrators where they’ve lamented how difficult it is to enact any meaningful change here given the conservative administrative climate and the incredibly restrictive bureaucracy. And while it’s hard for faculty to make changes here, it’s even harder for students to make a difference, especially given our fleeting time, demanding schedules, and lack of experience.

Sometimes it can feel hopeless at BC, that the common-sense reforms we want like an LGBTQ+ resource center are too “progressive” for this place. We shouldn’t despair, though. We truly have the power to change BC into the vibrant, welcoming campus we envision.

The first reason why is that we’re students. Sometimes I think we forget how integral we are in changing the world. Young people have always been on the forefront of social and political movements. College students were instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement, African Apartheid Divestment Movement, in Standing Rock and resisting the Keystone Pipeline, and in the Queer Liberation Movement, just to name a few. I mean, Alexander Hamilton was 21 when he helped free our country from British tyranny. Lest we forget, we are the future, and we determine what sort of world we will live in tomorrow.

Filled with endless energy and passion, we can work tirelessly toward any cause if we put our minds to it. Just take a look at O’Neill at 3 a.m. if you need proof. This cynical world of ours can break us down and turn us into tired, pessimistic adults if we let it. The internship rat race and looming student debt does its fair share toward this end. But we should never, ever forget that we are the youth of our nation, of our world, and we hold the future in our eyes and hearts. Remember our history and realize our incredible power as students.

Secondly, we have changed this campus. BC has come a long way since its early days as an Irish Catholic boys club. In 1939 and 1940, BC acquiesced in benching its first black player against Southern schools, including in the Cotton Bowl, because he was black and it would have offended the segregated colleges we were playing. BC only allowed women into all of its programs in 1970. Throughout its entire history, BC has historically had a complex relationship with its LGBTQ+ students, offering them relatively little accommodation and recognition. Yet, despite this oppressive history, marginalized students have persisted, and among the student body, we have a more inclusive culture than ever. It is far from perfect, and there are still issues of inclusivity among us, but we have made giant strides since the days when gay students received bricks through their windows.

The truth is, campus activism works. It may seem like those pesky protests on O’Neill Plaza are just photo-ops for #woke students’ Instagrams, but they can be truly transformative events that change the campus culture, inspiring hundreds of small conversations that improve the campus one student at a time. In my three years at BC, activist groups such as Climate Justice BC and Eradicate BC Racism have gone from being radical fringe groups to central parts of campus culture, focal points of social justice and student involvement. More students are organizing each day, putting in countless hours in addition to the intense work load of classes and extracurriculars to ensure that each and every student is welcome here.

The UGBC presidency of Akosua Achampong and Tt King is the epitome of this diametric shift and a symbol of the hope to come, the hope of a better BC that represents all students. Untold numbers of brave student activists have paved the way for this reality, opening BC up enough to elect the first all-woman executive team composed of a black woman and a lesbian. We need to work to ensure that this trend continues and that the BC of tomorrow is even more inclusive, engaged, and truly ready to set the world aflame.

We still have a long way to go before all of the braille on campus is more than just facade, before we have more students from the bottom 60 percent, before LGBTQ+ students feel truly welcome. But if we keep organizing, BC’s culture will continue to change, bringing about Achampong’s and King’s, more CJBC’s and Eradicate’s, more “men and women for others.” Then, maybe, just maybe, BC’s insanely slow bureaucracy might just catch up to us.

Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Editor

April 26, 2017