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UGBC Passes Resolution in Response to Racist Vandalism

The Undergraduate Government of Boston College scheduled an emergency meeting Monday night, where it passed a resolution in response to a racist hate crime committed early Sunday morning by Michael Sorkin, CSOM ’21.

The resolution, titled “A Resolution Demanding A Comprehensive Institutional Response To Racism At Boston College,” calls on the University to expel Sorkin immediately and demands that University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., release a statement regarding the incident to the University community. It also asks that the University make accommodations for black students on campus who are struggling to keep up with their workload in the wake of the incident.

“[Leahy] should know students are hurting, especially black students,” said Michael Osaghae, chair of the AHANA+ Leadership Council and MCAS ’20. “So we are calling on the University to acknowledge that black students need accommodations for finals and that they should be given [accomodations] and prioritized.”

The resolution goes on to call for two new mental health professionals of color to be hired in order to provide more in-depth support for marginalized populations on campus by spring 2019. In addition, UGBC asked that a mandatory first-year seminar course specifically geared around increasing cultural competency be included as a part of BC’s Core Curriculum.

This aspect of the resolution also calls for hybrid learning techniques and the use of a pre-course survey and post-course survey.

The resolution proceeds to request that the University double the budgets of the Thea Bowman AHANA Intercultural Center (BAIC) and Montserrat Coalition, even though at the time of the meeting, it was unclear whether these budgets are currently public. The Bowman Center is responsible for supporting the AHANA+ community and working to ensure BC’s campus is a place the AHANA+ community feels comfortable calling home. The Montserrat Coalition is responsible for providing aid to low-income members of the BC community that isn’t traditionally provided in University financial aid packages.

The resolution also demands additional faculty and administration diversity training, monthly town halls centered around diversity and inclusion, and the establishment of a process for selecting a student representative to serve on the Board of Trustees. In terms of outside influences, the resolution calls for incorporating the NAACP and the Southern Poverty Law Center into consulting roles to improve the BC campus climate surrounding inclusivity.

The resolution also reiterates a demand previously made in the wake of the Silence is Still Violence protests: improving faculty diversity. UGBC’s plan for creating this change includes the creation of an associate dean of diversity, who would serve as a mentor for faculty and students while concentrating specifically on diversifying the University’s hires.

The hiring would serve as a part of a five-year, $4 million plan the University would put forth—the funds would be used solely on funding initiatives related to diversity. The $4 million would come from BC’s endowment, or 0.17 percent of the fund—an idea inspired by Yale’s decision to put 0.17 percent of its endowment toward the same goal.

A gathering where students will be able to voice their concerns and discuss how the University and its community should move forward has been scheduled to take place in Robsham Theater on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

“We can’t force healing, but [we need] to try to find some kind of place where we can move forward,” said Reed Piercey, UGBC president and MCAS ’19. “Once for any of these incidents is one time too many, but here we are again, a year after last fall, so we can’t afford to wait—we need to respond immediately.”

UGBC leaders said they are concentrating their response on not only providing support for the community in the wake of the incident, but also working to create policy with the intention of influencing attitudes toward marginalized students on campus.

“This is a hate crime directed at black students,” Osaghae said. “The language used is language used to demonize and violently attack black students. This was done in a really intentional way. … Recognizing that is the first step in acknowledging that—to move forward and strengthen our community.

“Students have been calling to be heard. … They’ve voiced their concerns, but time after time we haven’t done enough as a community … to build a BC that uplifts marginalized populations.”

Piercey said he believes Sunday’s events are evidence of a systemic problem that demands action from everyone associated with BC.

“This goes to show that racism is alive and well at BC,” said Piercey. “For a lot of people who aren’t affected by it, [this] can easily be something to kind of shut out. If anything were to show that students of color and black students are justified in feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome, this is exactly why. … It’s terrible and it deserves no place in our community.”

The UGBC executive council also released a statement Sunday night in response to the situation, which called for Sorkin’s immediate expulsion.

The racist attitudes and absolute disrespect for the dignity of our fellow students displayed by this individual are completely unacceptable here,” the statement said. “We believe that the only appropriate response is immediate expulsion, and we expressed this in our meeting this morning with VP of Student Affairs Joy Moore and Dean of Students Tom Mogan.”

One senator asked Mogan, who was present at the meeting, to comment on the specific disciplinary measures taken against the perpetrator. The University announced on Sunday that Sorkin would be given a summary suspension, which is an interim administrative action designed to protect the University and the student body until a matter can be further investigated.

“There’s nothing more I can say about the incident and how much it pains me to be here tonight and to have to stand in front of you again, to talk about an incident that happened on campus—a racist act of hate that will be dealt with severely and swiftly,” he said. “And as your dean of students, I want you to know that we take this very seriously.”

An audience member asked Piercey what measures would be taken if the administration did not carry out the demands contained within the resolution.

“The resolution that we pass with the way things are set up is not binding on anybody or the administration,” he said. “It makes a recommendation. And then we have to follow-up in meetings, in time spent talking with administrators, to make sure that these items are actually implemented.”

Piercey said the most important thing moving forward is that UGBC and University administrators—specifically Moore and Mogan—work on constructing an action plan.

Piercey said he believes that these issues are not individual—they’re inherent to the University’s culture.

“The attitudes that lead to [bias-related] incidents happening are ingrained in BC, and they’re ingrained in our history and in our community [despite] people not wanting to admit it,” Piercey said. “If anything, this goes to show that the efforts we’ve made so far to support students of color and to support black students have not been enough.”

Ignacio Fletcher, executive vice president of UGBC and MCAS ’20, said that the resolution is intended to push the BC community to face the issues surrounding diversity and inclusion head on and in the long term. Rather than creating action that takes place over the course of the week, Fletcher’s priority is to lay out goals for each community member to keep in mind in the future.

“It’s something that needs to be a constant conversation, not only between UGBC and administrators, but also in residence halls, and also between faculty members and … professors who engage in conversations and who teach students how to think on BC’s campus,” he said.

UGBC released a petition after passing the resolution asking members of the BC community to sign in order to express their support of the measures. At time of publishing, over 3,200 people have signed the petition.

Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

Photo Gallery by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

This article will be updated.

December 11, 2018