We, the members of Climate Justice at Boston College, read the August 29 article about Fr. Leahy’s convocation address with hope. We applaud Fr. Leahy’s stated commitment to BC’s “long-standing Jesuit Catholic heritage” and to meeting global challenges that Catholic universities, as Fr. Leahy notes, are uniquely positioned to help confront. Yet we also recognize from first-hand experience that Boston College has not always lived up to its Jesuit Catholic heritage, and it has often failed to respond to pressing issues of justice. Clearly, Fr. Leahy shares in this assessment; the upcoming self-study of BC’s effectiveness in fulfilling our mission is a testament to those concerns. In light of this study, we have two demands of the administration that can make the process more holistic, equitable, and committed to our Jesuit Catholic roots.
First, the self-study must include a holistic study of our environmental impact. “Caring for Our Common Home” is one of the Jesuits’ new Universal Apolostic Preferences, and environmental degradation is the most pressing issue of our time. Given this reality, Boston College as an institution must be honest and humble in assessing our own contributions to this problem. For instance, while other Catholic universities are divesting from the fossil fuel industry and working toward (and achieving) specific carbon neutrality goals, Boston College has yet to present a plan to stop our investments in immoral industries and neutralize our carbon emissions. The self-study must give the Office of Sustainability the resources and freedom necessary to honestly assess BC’s impact on our common home and set goals to mitigate that impact.
Second, the self-study must be participatory. Boston College is remarkably hierarchical, even for a Catholic university, and its administration has not always been receptive to student concerns. However, if Boston College is serious about living its mission more fully and responsibly, it must welcome both affirmations and criticisms from all its stakeholders by hosting listening sessions which involve students who represent the diversity of our campus. This self-study must particularly prioritize the voices of those stakeholders who are most marginalized, such as LGBTQ+-identifying students and students of color. We hope that this study will be a launching point for further student-administrator and student-trustee dialogue.
Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’, urges Catholic leaders to “hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” If we are to do both as an institution, then we must use this self-study to honestly evaluate our commitment to the Jesuit Catholic mission, to learn from BC’s traditionally marginalized stakeholders, and to wholeheartedly renew our commitment to all creation, particularly the earth and the marginalized.
We look forward to being a resource for BC and, as always, are open to dialogue on climate justice issues involving our campus at any time the administration is ready to speak with us.
Aaron Salzman, MCAS ‘20
Kyle Rosenthal, CSOM ‘21
Kayla Lawlor, MCAS ‘20
Dan McCarthy, MCAS ’20
Margaret West, MCAS ’20
James Mazareas, GSAS ‘19