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BC Instagram Account Accused of Censoring Stories of Racism at the University

Members of the Boston College community are accusing the University of racist censorship after BC untagged its Instagram account from posts describing students’ experiences with racism on campus. The posts were shared by an Instagram account with over 8,000 followers called @blackatbostoncollege, which posts anonymous stories from Black BC students and alumni recounting the racism they’ve experienced at the University.

The administrators of @blackatbostoncollege tagged BC’s Instagram in all of their posts on Tuesday in an effort to spread awareness of the stories posted on their account, according to a statement @blackatbostoncollege posted Wednesday. The posts were removed from BC’s tagged posts the following day.

A statement posted on BC’s Instagram story on Friday said that posts from @blackatbostoncollege were untagged because the comments were unattributed. 

“As with all Instagram account holders, Boston College routinely untags ads, posts unrelated to BC, and posts with unattributed comments,” the statement read. “The @blackatbostoncollege account was temporarily untagged on Wednesday due to unattributed comments. A few hours later, after messaging with the @blackatbostoncollege account, we informed them that they could tag the BC account again. We hope this clarifies the situation for our followers.”

Senior Director of University Communications Patricia Delaney and Senior Social Media Specialist Zanna Ollove did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

The administrators of the @blackatbostoncollege account declined a request for an interview. 

An FAQ on @blackatbostoncollege profile states that the account is run by two current Black students at BC, but The Heights was unable to confirm the identity of the account administrators.

The statement @blackatbostoncollege released Wednesday condemned the removal of its tags from the BC Instagram account as an attack on Black members of the community reminiscent of other instances in which Black people have felt silenced at BC.

“We view this as a direct attack on the Black community within Boston College, as this goes against Father Leahy’s most recent words of ‘hearing from victims of racism’ and ‘provid[ing] a meeting place for listening, dialogue, and greater understanding,’” the post from @blackatbostoncollege reads. “This is neither an accident, nor an isolated incident. Boston College’s constant silencing and diminishing of Black voices is consistent with our country’s history of speaking over people of color.” 

The statement refers to a recent letter to the BC community from University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., affirming that Black Lives Matter and announcing steps the University will take to address racism, including the establishment of the Boston College Forum on Racial Justice.

In the statement posted on Wednesday, the @blackatbostoncollege administrators urged their followers to leave comments on BC’s Instagram page tagging their account and using the hashtags #stopblackcensorshipbc and #blackatbostoncollege. Instagram users, including many students and alumni, have left over 1,600 comments on the University’s most recent post.

Recent graduate Brandon Brito said that he is disappointed in the way the Office of University Communications responded to the posts. 

“To just untag people who are putting out their stories and trying to give the school information that they need to make the university a better place for everybody, that’s just not right,” he said. 

The @blackatbostoncollege administrators said in a post on June 19 that they created the account because “Black students have repeatedly reported accounts of racism to the correct people to absolutely no avail.” 

“We want to be clear,” the statement said. “There is absolutely nothing that is normal about the treatment that we as Black students have received at Boston College. Whether we have been silenced, told to move on for the sake of our education, or pretended that the situation was nothing, your emotions and feelings matter. The place that you fought for at Boston College matters.”

At the time of publication, the @blackatbostoncollege account features 96 posts, most of which include descriptions of racism or struggles experienced by Black students during their time at BC. 

One post attributed to a Black student from the Class of 2018 describes an experience she had while touring the Lynch School of Education during her freshman year, in which her senior leader kept referring to Lynch students as “us lynchers.”

“I was really uncomfortable, and … gently suggested that maybe we all come up with a better name,” the post reads. “In response the senior laughed in my face and told me that I needed to ‘relax’ and that the name would ‘grow on me.’ She then called out ‘WHO ARE WE’ and had all the girls in my group call back ‘LYNCHERS’ multiple times while giggling. I received several dirty looks when I refused to participate.”  

Another post attributed to a member of the Class of 2006 describes a time during the student’s junior year when the student walked to Lower with a hood on. The post says that it was chilly that night and most of the other people around had their hoods on too.

“A BC cop pulled up right beside me and came to me and asked me for my ID saying that I didn’t go to school there,” the post reads. “I refused to show him my ID and asked why he didn’t stop any of the white students walking around. People started to notice what was going on and he decided to leave.”

The Undergraduate Government of BC’s Executive Council released a statement on Wednesday condemning the University’s actions and urging the community to continue to amplify Black voices at BC. 

“We absolutely condemn this censorship, and we will be talking with administrators immediately to discuss how and why this serious issue occurred,” the statement said. 

A joint statement from Young Democratic Socialists of BC, Climate Justice at BC, Fossil Free at BC, Students for Justice in Palestine, and BC Students for Equality called on the University to acknowledge the student voices featured on @blackatbostoncollege and address the critiques raised by their stories. They also called on other student organizations to bring attention to the account, according to the statement.

“It is more important than ever for all of us; students, faculty, staff, and administrators to listen to Black students and alumni who are making it clear that they feel unheard when it comes to the culture of racism they experience at BC,” the statement reads. 

The statement @blackatbostoncollege posted Wednesday said that BC’s actions reinforce a history of censorship of accurate accounts of racial history and prejudice.

“If Boston College is not equipped to face, let alone address, the horrific crimes against people of color on this campus, how will the recent Forum on Racial Justice be able to handle the racism that takes place in this country? How can Black Lives Matter if their voices do not matter as well?,” the post read.

June 27, 2020