2021 Year in Review

After a year of cancellations and restrictions, the Boston College community regained some sense of normalcy in 2021. From an on-campus vaccine mandate to the return of fans in Alumni Stadium, The Heights takes you through the biggest moments and stories of 2021.

As always, thank you for reading.

Leahy Condemns U.S. Capitol Riots 

Boston College University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., condemned the storming of the U.S. Capitol in a statement issued on Jan. 7. Leahy wrote that the actions of Trump supporters at the Capitol were shameful and in conflict with the United States’ democratic principles. Leahy also signed a joint statement from the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities that condemned the rioting.

MLE Vandalism and Response

Residents of the Multicultural Learning Experience (MLE) floor of Xavier Hall awoke to banging on their doors, ripped off door decorations, and trash scattered throughout the hall on Jan. 30. Several MLE residents confirmed the vandalism was confined to their hallway and emphasized that they felt targeted. Only three days later, MLE residents again faced a disturbance in the hallway. Several residents heard two male students singing, using the term “colored girls” as they walked down the hall.

On Feb. 13, Executive Vice President and then-Acting Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Lochhead sent an email introducing a new online form for reporting bias-motivated behavior or other conduct violations. He also noted that the two students responsible for the original MLE vandalism incident were disciplined in accordance with BC’s Code of Conduct. The other students who sang racial lyrics would soon be adjudicated, the email said.

UGBC President Impeached, but Not Convicted

Two Student Assembly (S representatives introduced an article of impeachment against UGBC President Christian Guma on Feb. 8. SA representatives Leonardo Escobar and Mitzy Monterroso-Bautista, both MCAS ’22, introduced the article for Guma’s alleged violation of the UGBC Constitution by posting on the UGBC Instagram without approval from the Community Relations Committee. Guma’s post was a response to the MLE vandalism and was not specifically attributed to him. Monterroso-Bautista stated that Guma’s statement not only violated protocol, but was insensitive and incited backlash. At the impeachment trial on Feb. 16, Guma was acquitted in a vote of 15 for conviction to 11 for acquittal, three votes short of the 18 required to convict and remove Guma from office.

Have You Herrd?

2021 marked the rise of BC students obsessively scrolling through Herrd—an app where students can communicate by upvoting, downvoting, and responding to anonymous posts. Two BC graduates, Isaiah Mathieu and Carter Beaulieu, both BC ’20, created the app, which they described as a platform for BC-specific content that creates a tight-knit community. In March, the app had 2,000 sign-ups and 500 users.

BC Community Responds to Anti-Asian Violence 

With the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes nationwide since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the BC community gathered together to honor victims and speak out against anti-Asian violence. The BC Asian Caucus and the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center hosted two candlelight vigils to honor all victims of anti-Asian violence. Community members also spoke out about the Atlanta spa shootings on March 16. The Aquino Scholarship Committee released a joint statement regarding the rise of anti-Asian violence that encouraged BC students to learn more about the nation’s history of anti-Asian racism.

Walsh Signs Petition for LGBTQ+ Resource Center at BC 

U.S. Secretary of Labor and former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh signed a petition calling for BC to create an LGBTQ+ resource center on campus and include gender identity in the University’s nondiscrimination policy. The petition was launched in March of 2020 by BC Students 4 Equality and has garnered high-profile support in the past. Alex Katz, Lynch ’23, said that they hoped Walsh’s signature would pressure the administration to acknowledge the petition.

BC Opens New Eatery, Expands Dining Options 

BC Dining opened its newest eatery on campus—BC After Dark—in April. The restaurant serves beer, wine, and spiked seltzers alongside a variety of food offerings Thursday night through Saturday night. BC After Dark transformed Hillside Cafe into a weekend option for students amid the COVID-19 pandemic, providing a COVID-19-safe alternative to off-campus bars, then-UGBC Vice President Kevork Atinizian, CSOM ’22, said.

BC Dining delayed renovations in Carney’s dining hall in McElroy Commons due to supply issues caused by COVID-19. The new servery is set to open in January 2022. This semester, BC Dining has adapted to nationwide food and supply shortages fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as staffing shortages.

BC Receives Monumental Donations

On Sept. 2, the University announced that it had received a gift of $75 million—the largest donation in BC’s 158-year history—from the estate of Joyce and Paul Robsham. A University release said these funds will be broadly allocated.

An Oct. 28 press release announced that Marianne Short, a member of BC’s Board of Trustees and BC Law ’76, donated $10 million to BC Law School. Her donation funded the new dean position at the law school, which is now named the Marianne D. Short, Esq., Law School Deanship in honor of her donation. BC’s McMullen Museum of Art received an art collection worth upwards of $20 million from Peter Lynch, according to a Dec. 7 release. Lynch, vice chairman of Fidelity Investments and BC ’65, donated pieces from Pablo Picasso, Jack Butler Yeats, and Albert Bierstadt, among others.

BC’s Endowment Surges by $1.2 Billion

BC’s endowment jumped by around $1.2 billion in the past fiscal year, bringing the endowment’s total to $3.8 billion. This increase is significant compared to recent growth—the endowment was $2.2 billion in 2016, $2.4 billion in 2017, $2.6 billion in 2018, $2.5 billion in 2019, $2.6 billion in 2020, and now, $3.8 billion.

Complaints About BC Priest Sent To Leahy And Jesuit Provincial Years Prior to Rape Allegation

On April 26, The Heights reported that members of the BC community had sent complaints beginning in the 1997–98 academic year to Leahy that accused Rev. Ted Dziak, S.J., a Jesuit at BC from 1990 to 1998, of inappropriate conduct with students. Some of these complaints included concerns about his “psychosexual underdevelopment” and emotional abuse of BC students. In a Nola.com article published on April 18, Tim Ballard alleged that Dziak raped him four times during a volunteer trip to Belize in 2004.

University Responds to ‘Heights’ Reporting on Dziak

Following the publication of The Heights’ article, the University criticized the USA East Province of the Society of Jesus for failing to respond to the allegations against Dziak. The University said that omissions throughout the article and the East Province’s negligence helped to create a false narrative. Before publication, the University declined to comment and directed The Heights toward the East Province. In a statement Leahy released after the article’s publication, he said that he met with students about Dziak in 1998, told the Province about their complaints, and was not responsible for his placement following Dziak’s time at BC.

BC Adjusts to Changing Pandemic Life

Throughout 2021, COVID-19 protocols shifted and students had to adjust to frequently changing realities on campus. In February, student first responders and health care workers were some of the first people on campus to become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. After BC reported a then-record-high 85 undergraduate cases one week in February, Lochhead denied rumors that BC would be entering a lockdown.

The University announced in March that all summer abroad programs would be canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Leahy originally announced in April that no guests would be allowed at commencement, but the policy was later updated to allow two guests per student. On April 23, BC announced that it would be requiring members of the community on campus to be vaccinated by the beginning of the 2021–22 academic year unless granted a religious or medical exemption. The University announced in June that it was lifting its mask mandate and social distancing requirements for vaccinated individuals, but BC still required masks in some public spaces. In July, the Office of International Programs announced study abroad would resume in the fall, and the University announced it would enforce residence hall capacity restrictions and continue surveillance testing for the upcoming semester.

In September, more than 300 BC faculty signed a letter to the administration asking the University to instill a classroom mask mandate, but BC stuck to its policy that professors could only request that students wear masks. In November, the University heightened penalties for testing noncompliance, citing an unacceptable level of noncompliance in an email sent to students. BC surpassed 100 undergraduate cases of COVID-19 one week in December, setting records for both number of cases and positivity rate for the semester. The University mandated COVID-19 booster shots for BC community members on campus for the spring semester in an email sent Dec. 14. One day later, the University canceled Campus Ministry’s Arrupe International Immersion service trips scheduled for Winter Break due to concerns about COVID-19.

Former BC Student Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter 

Inyoung You, a former BC student charged in connection with the suicide of her boyfriend, Alexander Urtula, pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter on Dec. 23. In Suffolk County Superior Court, You admitted that she sent tens of thousands of abusive texts to Urtula, BC ’19, in the months leading up to his death.

Superior Court Judge Robert Ullmann sentenced You to a 2.5-year suspended jail sentence and 10 years of probation. You will avoid jail time if she adheres to the conditions of her probation. You chose to give up her appeal, which was pending before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and accept responsibility for her involuntary role in Urtula’s death.

A Grim Start to the Year in Newton

Four days after the start of the new year, Newton Police officers fatally shot a 28-year-old male carrying a knife in Newton Highlands. 

Newton Police also reported a rise in racially motivated incidents as Newton entered 2021. Hispanic employees at a Newton restaurant fell victim to racial harassment, and a teacher of color received a note saying “all lives matter.” 

In the summer, a series of five break-ins into the homes of Asian residents in Newton caused alarm within the community. And in August, Newton Police investigated two bias-motivated incidents against Asian Americans in the city.

COVID-19 cases in Newton and Boston spiked in January. College students around Boston talked to The Heights about how COVID-19 affected their college experiences, while health care workers reflected on their increasingly significant roles during the pandemic. Earlier in 2021, Greater Boston faced the prospect of another marathon-less year as COVID-19 loomed.

Art Provides Hope

Art scenes in Boston and Newton provided relief during these trying times. A design district in Boston containing over 20 contemporary galleries opened its doors for free on the first Friday of each month. After years of renovation, Newton transformed its Nathaniel T. Allen House into a multi-purpose art space. Art began to beautify the streets of Newton, filling storefront windows with colorful displays.

Those in Charge Stayed in Charge

In the November elections, Newton residents reelected the city’s first female mayor, Ruthanne Fuller. Additionally, incumbent city councilors won across wards, largely maintaining the previous municipal leadership. The Heights profiled candidates of each ward before the elections. 

But, elected officials faced both new and long-standing challenges in 2021. The increase in home prices accelerated during the pandemic, threatening housing affordability. The city also confronted pollution and climate issues through its ban on “nips,” addressed a rat problem, and reinstated a pre-pandemic overnight parking ban. 

One new face in Newton is John F. Carmichael Jr.,  who the city appointed as chief of police in April. 

The Community Adapted to a New Normal

High vaccination rates in Newton and Massachusetts led to eased COVID-19 restrictions. Newton Public Schools returned to fully in-person learning after semesters of hybrid classes with vaccine mandates over both faculty and staff. Gatherings began to normalize as well. Boston held a Halloween Festival again, and Newton residents walked to end Alzheimer’s. 

New restaurants opened up, including a ramen joint, coffee shop, and Cambridge dessert bar that bans its guests from using their phones. Other restaurants showed they are here for the long haul. The New York Times recognized Sofra Bakery & Cafe in Cambridge on its annual “The Restaurant List.”

The Pandemic Took a Toll, Again

A surge of the Delta variant spelled the end to a summer marked by eased COVID-19 restrictions. Newton reinstated a mask mandate in indoor public places on Sept. 2. Despite being largely located in Newton, BC opted against a mask mandate of its own, causing concerns among some city councilors. 

In February, Fuller expressed concerns with COVID-19 cases at the University. Then in March, BC filed a civil lawsuit against Newton, challenging the amount of compensation it received for the city’s seizure of the Webster Woods through eminent domain.

In November, COVID-19 cases again increased in Greater Boston. In December, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu—who took office on Nov. 16—introduced new vaccine requirements in certain indoor businesses throughout the city, alongside several metropolitan municipalities. Newton held off on a vaccine mandate, citing the already high vaccination rates in the city.

Arts Groups Adjust to COVID-19 

During March and April, many annual arts-related events were modified to a virtual or socially distanced format. The popular Showdown dance competition was initially planned to happen in multiple locations across campus and be livestreamed for BC students to view. But, in April, the AHANA+ Leadership Council decided to cancel the event in response to racially biased events on campus and due to difficulties that groups faced preparing and rehearsing their routines under COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, the Office of Student Involvement invited dance groups to record their performances in Conte Forum—outfitted with a stage and lighting for their routines.

The annual Arts Festival featured both in-person shows and virtual lectures. Students displayed their art throughout multiple buildings across campus. In O’Neill Library, a historical poster exhibit chronicled the rise of anti-Semitism. Student musicians also faced off in the Battle of the Bands competition as BC students cheered and danced on the O’Neill Quad. 

On-Campus Arts Scene Revitalized

After adapting to COVID-19 restrictions on practices and performances in the winter and spring, arts groups reignited the arts scene in the fall with a multitude of shows. Many annual iconic events that were canceled or happened virtually in the spring returned to in-person performances. Students streamed onto the lawn in front of Stokes Hall for Bryce Vine’s Stokes Set show, the 29th annual Pops on the Heights gala drew a sold-out crowd to Conte Forum, and the University Chorale of Boston College joined the Boston Pops on stage before the pop band Train got everyone out of their seats and dancing. 

A cappella groups kicked off the new semester in September with A Cappella Fest. Six of BC’s a cappella ensembles exhibited their musical chops at the event held in Robsham Theater—performing arrangements of pop songs. In November, crowds of students attended the annual Rookie Dance Showcase to cheer on the new members of beloved dance groups, including Sexual Chocolate, Masti, and Phaymus. Dance groups continued to thrive with workshops and final showcases during the annual Week of Dance, which was canceled last year due to COVID-19.

In Robsham Theater, the curtains rose once again for student performers in front of a full live audience. The theatre department staged the thought-provoking play Oil and a comedic version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The student-run Dramatics Society produced the musical Spring Awakening in the Bonn Studio Theater. Before commencing the rehearsal process, the student creators worked with administrators in the Division of Student Affairs to address concerns about the sensitive content of the show, and the final performances were each followed by conversations among members of University Counseling Services, the show’s creators, and the audience. 

Live Music Returns to Boston Venues

Concert venues opened their doors again and musicians set off on tours that were delayed by the pandemic. The Heights covered multiple concerts around Boston, including a show from LANY, Keshi, and Jake Scott at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. The electropop group Twenty One Pilots also took the stage at Agganis Arena, while Lucy Dacus mesmerized her audience at the House of Blues with her indie rock tunes. 

After performing together at BC events, the band Photo Negative—composed of five BC students—played at the historic Paradise Rock Club in December. The group opened for the rock band Juice, which was formed by BC students in 2013. 

McMullen Museum Makes History

The McMullen Museum of Art opened a new exhibit showcasing the work of Mariano Rodríguez in September. Featuring over 140 paintings and drawings from the Cuban artist, the exhibit made history as the first comprehensive exhibition of Rodríguez’s work in the U.S. 

In December, the McMullen Museum also made national headlines when Peter Lynch donated his valuable art collection—worth upward of $20 million—to the museum. The Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch Collection includes works by Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, and Mary Cassatt. BC professors anticipate that access to this array of renowned works and artists will offer exciting educational opportunities to BC students and faculty across disciplines. 

In the Face of Racial Injustice, Students Fight for Change

After a pattern of vandalism on the MLE floor in January, The Heights looked back on a series of racially motivated incidents on campus in previous years and collected the stories and thoughts of BC students and faculty on these incidents and the University’s responses to them. Student activists found various ways to fight for concrete change within the University in order to ensure AHANA+ students feel safe and equal on campus. Students were tired of mere statements from the University and called for tangible action from the University.

A Retrospective Look on a ‘Chaotic but Euphoric’ Week One Year Later

When the University required students to evacuate campus in March 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a week of chaos ensued

The Heights recounted the events and emotions during this week, along with the retrospective reflections one year later. Administrators discussed the diligence it took to make the decision to send students home while balancing increasing COVID-19 cases and the uncertainty of the situation. Various students shared their memories from the week the University announced the closure of campus—from the Mod parties to the sad realizations that their semester had been cut short. One year later, several students and administrators alike shared their perspectives on what it meant to adapt to a new normal.

The Backbone of Campus: Essential Employees Keep Campus Afloat Amid Pandemic

Remaining on campus during the 2020–21 school year took the effort of the entire BC community, but one group particularly dedicated themselves to this effort—BC’s essential employees. Despite the continually changing guidelines and number of COVID-19 cases, their dedication to the BC community did not waver. 

The Heights talked with several of BC’s essential workers—from the dining staff to custodians to COVID-19 testing workers. They talked about the changes to their jobs, what it took to endure such adaptations, and the importance of their work in keeping BC students safe and on campus.

Bracher and Russi Beat the Ballot

Jack Bracher and Gianna Russi, both MCAS ’22, won the UGBC presidential election to become the next president and executive vice president of UGBC, respectively, in March. The pair campaigned with a platform promoting collaboration, comprehensiveness, and compassion.

The Class of 2021 Maximized Their Pandemic-Ridden Senior Year

The 2020–21 academic year was unlike any other, and despite drastic changes to campus life, the Class of 2021 made the most of it. The seniors tried to preserve as much normalcy as they could by adapting senior year traditions—such as Mod tailgates, Mod weddings, and Senior Week events—to the modified college experience. Seniors also took up new hobbies and tried out new activities during their last year at BC. The Heights gathered the thoughts of the Class of 2021 before their time at BC ended, and many in the class said that a silver lining of their situation was the enhanced solidarity among the class as a whole.

Professors Prepare for and Return to In-Person Instruction

Though many BC professors have years of experience teaching in person, those who taught online during the 2020–21 academic year had to prepare for the return to in-person education. This transition allowed several professors to reevaluate their previous methods, as teaching online taught them several lessons on how to better educate their students. 

Several professors said they could not have merely returned to their teaching habits from before the pandemic, so they used the summer of 2021 to process all that had occurred during the previous academic year and apply the knowledge they gained to their return to in-person instruction. Professors also had to juggle the uncertainty of COVID-19, as it remained on campus in the 2021–22 school year.

Eagles Soar in the Return of the Boston Marathon

When the Boston Marathon returned in October 2021, runners affixed their bibs and tied their shoelaces—and among them were several BC students. The Heights talked with six students who ran this year’s Boston Marathon—both in person and virtually—and they shared their experiences during the training process, fundraising, and running the marathon.

New Beginnings

After starting the 2020–21 season with a 3–13 record, Boston College fired men’s basketball head coach Jim Christian in February after six and a half years at the helm of the program. In his tenure, Christian led the Eagles to only one winning season and a 78–132 overall record, generating ample criticism. 

In mid-March, BC hired Earl Grant to replace Christian as the men’s basketball head coach. Before coming to the Heights, Grant served as the head coach at the College of Charleston, where he led the Cougars to a 127–89 record over seven seasons. Amid his hiring, Grant received attention regarding his strong recruiting skills after Charleston was one of just 21 Division I programs to have players drafted in both the 2019 and 2020 NBA Drafts. 

BC Signs Historic Footwear and Apparel Deal With New Balance

In April, BC Athletics signed a 10-year deal with New Balance to become the “Official Footwear and Apparel Provider” for BC. The partnership went into effect on June 1, 2021. The agreement provided Boston-based New Balance with the rights to supply uniforms, apparel, and footwear for 30 of BC’s 31 varsity teams. The only team not included within the partnership is BC football, which signed a three-year deal with Adidas two weeks later. 

BC’s largest footwear and apparel agreement in history, the New Balance deal presents the opportunity for student-athletes and coaches to become involved in the design and development of shoes and apparel. 

Eagles Go Pro

2021 saw the departure of a number of Eagles to their respective professional leagues. First, following a season-ending injury, Logan Hutsko signed a professional contract with the Florida Panthers in mid-February. After falling to St. Cloud State in the NCAA Tournament Regional Final to finish its season, BC men’s hockey lost four more key players as Alex Newhook, Matt Boldy, Spencer Knight, and Mike Hardman signed professional contracts in late March. The sophomore quartet have made immediate impacts in both the AHL and NHL, adding to the list of former Eagles who made it big after playing under head coach Jerry York. 

Just over a month later, four BC football players entered professional deals. Tight end Hunter Long was drafted 81st overall by the Miami Dolphins in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and Isaiah McDuffie was drafted 220th overall by the Green Bay Packers. After the conclusion of the draft, Max Richardson and Max Roberts signed professional contracts as undrafted free agents—Richardson with the Las Vegas Raiders and Roberts with the Los Angeles Rams. 

In July, BC baseball center fielder Sal Frelick was drafted 15th overall in the 2021 MLB Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers to become the sixth BC player to ever be drafted in the first round. In the second round, the Miami Marlins drafted Cody Morissette at No. 52 overall. Hours later, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected pitcher Emmet Sheehan with the No. 192 overall pick in the sixth round. It was the first time three BC players were selected in the first 10 rounds of the MLB Draft. 

National Champs

After three straight National Championship losses, then-No. 4 BC lacrosse defeated then-No. 3 Syracuse 16–10 to win its first-ever National Championship title. The victory marked BC’s first National Championship won by a women’s team, and head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein became BC’s first female coach to win a National Championship. 

In the game, Charlotte North—who would be named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player—scored six goals and set a single-season goal record at 102. Following the win, a number of Eagles received numerous accolades. North, Belle Smith, Hollie Schleicher, Cara Urbank, and Jenn Medjid were named to the IWLCA All-American team, Smith was named the ACC Freshman of the Year, and North won the 2021 Tewaaraton Award

BC Athletes Capitalize on NIL Opportunities

In late June, the Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA in an antitrust case, effectively permitting college athletes to benefit off their name, image, and likeness (NIL). Following the decision, BC launched its SOAR program, designed to help student athletes capitalize on NIL opportunities and navigate the NIL process. The program, which includes a partnership between BC and Athliance and Opendorse, educates student athletes about social media, branding, entrepreneurship, personal finance, and contract law, in order to help them enhance their personal brand. 

Former Women’s Soccer Head Coach Sues the University

Former BC women’s soccer head coach Alison Foley sued the University for gender discrimination and improper wiretapping after allegedly being forced to resign in 2018 after 22 seasons. Foley’s lawsuit, which was filed in November 2020, alleges that BC held her to a different standard than its male coaches and broke the first and fourth clause of Massachusetts General Laws, Title XXI, Chapter 151B, Section 4 by insisting on single-year contracts and forcing her dismissal.

Eagles Adjust to COVID-19 Complications

Though athletes returned to campus in the fall of 2020 after being sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was still impacted by COVID protocols. For the first time in its 69-year history, the Beanpot was canceled in late January. In January and February, women’s basketball and men’s basketball games were postponed due to positive tests within BC’s program and their opponents’. In mid-February, BC’s volleyball, women’s soccer, and men’s basketball teams were put on pause due to COVID-19 protocols. 

Most recently, the 2021 Military Bowl between BC football and East Carolina was canceled due to COVID issues after over 40 BC players were unavailable for the game. The matchup was set to be BC’s first bowl appearance under head coach Jeff Hafley, who led the Eagles to their second postseason berth in his first two years on the Heights. 

100 Years of Men’s Hockey

The 2021–22 season marks BC men’s hockey’s 100th year. In its 100-year life span, men’s hockey has won five National Championships—one under former head coach John “Snooks” Kelley and four under York. BC celebrated its centennial as York, college hockey’s winningest coach, entered his 28th season at the Heights. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in December. 

Here to Stay

BC Athletics announced on Nov. 29 that Hafley signed a five-year contract extension through 2026. In his first two seasons on the Heights, Hafley holds a 12–11 overall record. Hafley announced 21 players who signed as a part of the Class of 2022 during the early signing period. The group is BC’s highest-ranked recruiting class since 2004, ranked No. 30 overall and No. 3 in the ACC by rivals.com.

Following Hafley’s announcement, quarterback Phil Jurkovec and wide receiver Zay Flowers announced they would return for the 2022 season and forgo entering the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Heights photo editors took a look back through the archives for the most significant moments they captured on camera this year. Here are some of their favorites.