News, On Campus, Administration

Virtual Faculty Conversation About Racism Draws 100 Participants

FACES, an anti-racism student group on campus, hosted a Zoom event for Boston College employees on July 27. More than 100 participants attended the optional event, in which faculty engaged in discussions on institutional racism and anti-racism techniques for the classroom. 

The event, titled “FACES for Faculty and Staff,” began with a presentation from various members of FACES that outlined different aspects of racism related to the history of higher education in the United States and then provided the opportunity for small discussion groups. 

Sietina Zurga, MCAS ’22, opened the presentation by differentiating between racial prejudice and the “wielding of systemic power,” arguing that understanding both these terms is essential in defining racism. 

“Racial prejudice would be to assume something about someone based on their race before knowing all of the facts about that individual,” Zurga said. “While everyone can have racial prejudice, not everyone holds systemic power. Those who have the most privilege and are able to enforce their power over another race through political and economic means are those who have systemic power. In our society, this is the white majority.”

The presentation then shifted to the presence of systemic racism on the University’s campus. Madeline Bockus, MCAS ’21, followed a timeline of recent racism-related incidents on campus, including the anti-racism die-in at St. Mary’s Hall in 2014 and the racist vandalism in Welch Hall in 2018.

“I think it’s really important to acknowledge and reflect on what has happened within our own BC community,” Bockus said. “To recognize that while there is obviously the academic side of this conversation where we can have academically focused conversations on race and racism, it is also important to realize how this directly impacts people of color in our own community.” 

Sara Suzuki, a graduate student at BC, continued with a discussion on the legacies of slavery in American institutions of higher education and racist legislation—such as the exclusionary G.I. Bill—that denied non-white people equal access to education. Suzuki urged faculty confused about the continual occurrence of overt acts of racism on campus to examine the historical context of academic institutions.

Alyssa Iferenta, MCAS ’21, talked about the additional pressures AHANA+ students face at BC, not only as students navigating the academic field but as people of color under stress in American society.

“Systemic racism has all-encompassing and incredibly detrimental effects to anyone who is experiencing it,” said Iferenta. “There’s going to be preconceived notions that are attached to your identity that people are either consciously or subconsciously attacking you and will alter the way that you are viewed.” 

The council broke down how different departments and schools at BC, from the Carroll School of Management to the history department—can take legitimate steps to make the curriculum more inclusive and talked about how being an ally for students of color is a full-time commitment. 

The members emphasized the use of office hours as a means to provide safe spaces for students of color struggling at BC and taught faculty ways to address microaggressions and hate speech as they come up in the classroom.

“We’re going to really emphasize listening to students’ experiences,” said Kathryn Destin, MCAS ’21. “Let your students know that your door is always open for more than just strictly academic or course-related conversations. It’s really crucial that when you are a faculty or administrator, yes, you are encouraging us in an academic sense, but you are also mentors and can guide students of color on campus through a difficult and emotional time. Provide yourself as a resource when they need that.”

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor

August 4, 2020

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