News, On Campus

CSA Leaders Add Their Perspectives on Diversity

Editor’s Note: This article is a part of the larger “Taking The Temperature of Diversity and Inclusion at Boston College” feature series. The interviews used in this article took place before the racist vandalism in Welch took place in December.

In the aftermath of the “Silence is Still Violence” protests that occured last year and the “die-in” from this past October, Boston College students have felt challenged to reflect upon issues of race within the community. Students of color and more specifically leaders of culture clubs on campus have felt compelled to take consider their places in such protests and in such discussions.

Although the “Silence is Still Violence” March was directly related to the Black Lives Matter movement, students of various minority groups attended and protested along their black peers. Andrew Chough, who is a senior and co-director of Freshman Formation Program, the freshman leadership group of Asian Caucus, attended the “Silence is Still Violence” March last year.

“The demonstration was something that I needed to be a part of—at the very base level, just to support and just to be an ally,” Chough said.

Kevin Fan, who is a senior and co-president of Chinese Students Association (CSA), also attended the march last year.

“Solidarity is really important,” Fan said. “Black Lives Matter focuses on African American issues, but there is a lot to be gained for every minority group. I felt like I should show support because they deserved it, but also because that movement benefits other minority groups.”

This was a unique moment for many students who characterize the BC student body as segregated—Chough noted that he’s noticed students at the University tend to stick with other students who share their identities.

This applies particularly to groups associated with Asian Caucus, according to Dan Wu, CSOM ’19 and co-president of CSA.

“It’s easy to see how segregated the school is,” he said. “It’s hard to break into different communities and it’s very comfortable to stay in your own. I think often, students that are Asian are able to say, ‘I don’t know what the white people do at BC.’

“That’s why I say BC is segregated. You can stay in your own community and have an amazing time and graduate feeling totally gratified, but not know other parts of the school.”

Fan agreed, noting that though there is relatively large Asian American student population at BC, it can be hard to immerse oneself inside that dynamic while also navigating living on a campus with a larger white presence.

That said, over the course of research into the culture surrounding inclusivity at BC, marginalized students have identified culture clubs and other groups geared toward supporting marginalized members of the community as extremely important spaces created and run by students of color for students of color.

“In my own experience, culture clubs are the cornerstone to AHANA+ students. For me personally, culture clubs have been the support that I have really needed,” Wu said.

Chough, Wu, and Fan all mentioned that they, and other students they’ve interacted with in their leadership positions, feel that they haven’t received the support students are seeking. Wu added that though the release of DiversityEdu was well-intentioned, it was an inadequate measure.

“I thought [DiversityEDU] was kind of BS,” Wu said. “You could have clicked through. It didn’t really force people to think about those issues.”

Fan felt similarly—he said he believes much more major steps need to be kept on the table in order to improve inclusivity on campus.

“Having a Cultural Diversity Core is a good first step and DiversityEDU is a good first step, but I think these programs need to be more well thought-out in terms of execution and in terms of making sure that students really take messages from them,” Fan said.

Despite not agreeing with how administrators have reacted to incidents in the past, Chough said he does feel that there are efforts within the entire BC community—including the administration—being made to change the culture surrounding inclusivity on-campus.

“I do think that BC does recognize that it has to be better. There are people that still really care. They recognize that something has to be done,” Chough said.

Even so, Chough said he believes that nothing will improve unless the entire community—students, faculty, and administrators alike—work on opening up a dialogue built on pursuing change while avoiding toxicity.

“[Students] have the right to be angry,” he said. “But I don’t think that solves anything. Then it’s just toxicity on both sides and people being angry at each other. I think people have done that so much in the past couple of years, and nothing is to show from that. I think we need to take a different approach.”

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor

February 1, 2019