Opinions, Editorials

New Demonstrations Policy Marks Necessary Clarification

The Office of the Dean of Students updated the section of the Code of Student Conduct regarding campus demonstrations on Thursday. The policy was clarified in order to make the demonstration registration process clearer, and the language of the policy itself less punitive.

These changes to the language of Boston College’s policy are timely and necessary. Last year, students and faculty alike asked that the administration update its regulations concerning demonstrations, and that the process for registering protests be made more transparent. Such updates are necessary in order to help avoid future situations in which students are sanctioned for holding unregistered protests, as was the case with multiple members of Eradicate BC Racism last year.

One of the primary points of controversy in the sanctioning of these students was their claim that they were not made aware that individuals could register protests on behalf of non-registered student organizations. BC has stated that it has always had the policy of allowing individuals to register protests. Now that the rules are laid out in clearer language, Eradicate and other similar student groups can move beyond these disputes with the University regarding the rules of demonstrations and focus on their core messages.

The BC administration deserves some praise for responding to the requests and concerns of students and faculty members in updating its policy. Dean of Students Thomas Mogan held meetings with multiple campus organizations at the end of last semester, including the Faculty for Justice and the Undergraduate Government of BC, demonstrating that the University took into consideration the BC community’s input when updating the wording of its policies.

This dialogue represents a constructive and inclusive way to ameliorate issues on campus in which multiple parties have competing concerns. In the future, the University should continue to seek to clarify and update its policies and engage with faculty members and the student body in making these decisions with regularity.

One notable change to the policy is that the hour that students are permitted to use “amplified sound” at protests, such as a megaphone, has been pushed back from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. This is a positive change, as some classes begin at 4:30 p.m. or even later, and can therefore be disrupted by loud demonstrations occurring in places such as O’Neill Plaza or Stokes Lawn, both of which are in close proximity to classroom buildings. Other locations for protests that would be less disruptive include outside of Corcoran Commons and Gabelli Plaza. These are also places where a lot of students congregate, and would be able to see the protest.   

Members of activist groups such as Eradicate and Climate Justice @ BC have said in the past that they are frustrated by the University’s bureaucratic red tape, and that they would rather spend time focusing on their respective agendas. Now that BC has updated its policies to affirm that the University has a “commitment to protecting the right to free expression, including the right to protest,” and has made the process for registering demonstrations clearer than in the past, campus activist groups should be able to return to carrying out their intended missions and to discussing messages of social change within the BC community and beyond.

Shifting the focus from conflicts regarding conduct policy to conversations about issues such as racial equality on campus represents the first step in returning to a productive relationship between student activism groups and the BC administration. The updated demonstrations policy will be crucial in bringing about this change.

September 10, 2017