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Leahy Issues Second Letter On Racism, Says Black Lives Matter

University President William P. Leahy, S.J., sent a letter to the Boston College community on Wednesday stating that it is essential for everyone to “acknowledge and affirm that Black Lives Matter” and listing steps the University will take to address racism. The letter was signed by Leahy, Vice President for Student Affairs Joy Moore, Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley, and Vice President for University Mission and Ministry Rev. Jack Butler, S.J.

“America today stands as a nation divided and wounded because of longstanding tensions concerning race, police conduct, and civil liberties,” the letter says. “The current anger, division, and alienation result from long-term, systemic causes, and they call for resolution of underlying issues through immediate and sustained action.”

Leahy sent a letter to the community on June 2 condemning racism and offering prayers for George Floyd, who a Minneapolis police officer killed on May 25 by kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Prior to the second letter, the Black Student Forum, Climate Justice at Boston College, and other undergraduate students issued petitions calling for the University to explicitly express its support of the Black Lives Matter movement. They also called for the University to take more tangible steps to support the Black community, such as donating to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the Massachusetts Bail Fund. The Young Democratic Socialists of BC released a statement criticizing the University for sending BCPD officers to a protest in Boston on the day Leahy sent the initial letter.

Director of the Thea Bowman AHANA Intercultural Center Rev. Michael Davidson, S.J., Director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life Rev. Mark Massa, S.J., and Director of the Jesuit Institute Rev. James Keenan, S.J. issued a solidarity statement on Friday affirming “Black Lives Matter,” which many members of the BC community signed. Leahy is not listed as having signed the solidarity statement.

The letter sent on Wednesday announced the establishment of the Boston College Forum on Racial Justice in America, which will sponsor speakers, panels, and seminars about race-related issues. It also announced that the Division of University Mission and Ministry will be offering “a series of multi-faith services to pray for healing and reconciliation in our local community and nation, and implore God’s help in surmounting the sins and effects of racism, injustice, and violence.”

Campus Ministry will be working to establish partnerships with other faith communities in the area and begin efforts for BC undergraduates to discuss race and justice with elementary and high school students. BC athletes, the letter said, will also be reaching out to youth in Boston to “build bonds and provide mentorship.”

The letter also said that BC will be working through the Pine Manor Institute for Student Success to recruit more underrepresented, first-generation students. BC established the Institute after it acquired Pine Manor College in May, and Leahy said in the letter that BC will use the $50 million designated to the institute to work toward this goal.

The letter concluded by stating that BC has a commitment to racial justice. It listed ways that the letter says BC works toward this goal, such as its commitment to be need-blind and meet full-demonstrated need in admissions, the Thea Bowman AHANA Intercultural Center, Options through Education, and BC’s partnership with QuestBridge, a recruitment organization for low-income students.

“Boston College will keep working to be true to its mission and values as a Jesuit, Catholic institution of higher education,” the letter reads. “It will continue emphasizing the importance of the liberal arts and sciences as well as core curriculum courses because they help students engage central issues and ideas, develop skills in analysis and critical thinking, and become more whole, more human, and more free from ignorance and prejudice.”

Students have repeatedly criticized Leahy for remaining quiet after racist incidents in the past. When two Black Lives Matter signs were vandalized and a racist Snapchat that circulated around campus in October 2017, Leahy did not publicly comment on the matter, despite students’ calls for him to issue a statement. Students also called on him to make a statement after a student defaced Welch Hall with racist epithets in December 2018, but Leahy made no public comments at the time.

Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff

June 10, 2020