Two weeks after the “Silence is Still Violence” march, the BC community is reflecting on the long term implications of the event and assessing how to ensure that it doesn’t lose momentum.
Several student organizations have asked the University to make specific policy changes that address what various students are suggesting is a culture of racism at BC.
The Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) is collaborating with the administration to create new policies that aim to prevent bias-related incidents like those that caused campus-wide outrage a few weeks ago.
UGBC wrote a proposal that lays out various provisions to effect institutional policy change, entitled “A Letter of Support for Our Black Students at Boston College.” The Student Assembly passed the letter as a resolution late last month. As of Saturday afternoon, 546 students and faculty had signed the letter.
Dean of Students Thomas Mogan and other senior administrators met with student leaders last Monday to discuss the proposals made in the resolution.
“It was a very productive conversation, and they identified several areas that they would like to see changed,” he said in an interview Thursday. “We had really good conversations about [the issues] and are moving forward as a campus community through constructive dialogue.”
The proposal is divided into two sections which aim to “Prevent future Bias-related Incidents” and to “Reaffirm [the] university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.” The last provision notably calls upon BC to “Affirm that Black Lives Matter.”
Some student groups have expressed their support for UGBC’s proposal. Amelie Daigle, a member of Eradicate Boston College Racism (EBCR) and GMCAS ’19, felt that the resolution makes clear the demands of the University. Similarly, Maria Guerra, co-president of FACES and MCAS ’18, believes their provisions offer tangible changes that BC should implement as soon as possible.
“We wanted the demonstration to tell the administration that it’s their turn,” Guerra said. “What are they going to do now?”
Reflecting on the past few weeks, Guerra said she didn’t think administrators responded appropriately to the incidents, specifically citing the initial five-line email that Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley and Vice President for Student Affairs Barb Jones sent the student body on Monday, Oct. 16. She said that statement was not a strong enough stance. Jones and Mogan did, however, send a follow-up statement on Thursday, Oct. 19.
Daigle expressed anger that the University never made an official statement saying that black lives matter. She feels that this lack of response causes students of color not to feel welcomed at BC.
“‘Black Lives Matter’ is such a heartbreakingly simple phrase,” Daigle said. “It’s setting the lowest possible bar for being a decent human being.”
Mogan suggested in the interview that students consider that the University clearly condemned all acts of hate through multiple public statements during the week and has expressed its commitment to holding people accountable for the acts.
“I think it was an adequate statement considering the timing of when it came out,” Mogan said. “I do recognize that students maybe wanted some more information, and that’s why we followed Monday’s statement up.”
While Mogan could not disclose any information about possible sanctions on the protests leading up to Friday’s march, he affirmed that the school is conducting an investigation into the incidents.
“I can assure the campus community that all alleged violations of the Code of Conduct are being actively and thoroughly investigated and will be adjudicated through our conduct process,” he said in an email. “If students are found responsible for these violations, they will be sanctioned accordingly.”
Many individuals, such as Kevin Ferreira, GLSOE ’19, are convinced that these were not isolated incidents and that institutional change is necessary.
He argues that they are tied to the antiracist movements on campus from between the 1960s and the 1980s, the disciplining of students for die-ins in the St. Mary’s Jesuit community against police brutality in 2014, and the 2015 UGBC proposal “Towards a More Inclusive Community” with contained demands for BC. He believes that, to express a commitment to diversity and inclusion, the administration should put into place concrete plans to address racism on campus, like those which were implemented at Yale University and Brown University within the past two years.
“While individual acts of racism and the ways we interact with each other have real consequences for how we feel, our health, and our relationships with others, it is only a part of the story,” Ferreira said. “We need to think about the ways that the institutions we belong to, the laws and policies we live under, [and] the ways our lives are structured are governed by racist assumptions.”
Mogan highlighted several initiatives the University has developed, including the MOSAIC program during Welcome Week, increasing the number of dialogues on race to build cultural competency, and founding Complex Problems and Enduring Questions core courses with a focus on diversity and inclusion. He also noted that the University piloted the Campus of Difference program in several residence halls, making BC the first college or university to sign on with the Anti-Defamation League to offer this specific training to students.
Furthermore, he noted that the incoming class of AHANA students and faculty hires is the largest it has ever been. But he hopes to emphasize that there is more to improving campus culture than having a higher number of AHANA individuals on campus.
“It’s not just about increasing the number of AHANA students but also making sure that we have a campus culture that is welcoming and inclusive so that all students can thrive and be successful here at BC,” Mogan said.
Mogan said he is committed to learning more about the experiences of students on campus with racism and holding the perpetrators of any sort of racist act accountable for their actions.
“I think that can go a long way toward helping students feel supported, safe, and that the administration cares about them as students and cares deeply about their success at Boston College,” he said.
Correction, Nov. 5, 12:20 p.m.: A previous version of this article stated that Thomas Mogan met with UGBC last Monday. He met with student leaders, not just UGBC.
Featured Image by Cole Dady / Heights Staff