The Undergraduate Government of Boston College discussed the vandalism that occurred Saturday morning on the Multicultural Learning Experience (MLE) floor of Xavier Hall in a meeting on Sunday night, agreeing that the incident is the latest in a long series of racist occurrences at Boston College.
“I can’t imagine leaving my door and seeing trash cans all over the place and vandalism,” Gianna Russi, a Student Assembly (SA) representative and MCAS ’22, said. “It’s completely unacceptable … I think [the] administration needs to know that students know what’s going on, and that we’re ready to change culture on campus by doing things like mandatory [Diversity and Inclusion] training.”
Many UGBC members said that it was clearly racial bias that motivated the vandalism in Xavier Hall, and many members said they believe the events to be a hate crime. Some students shared their own experiences in what they described to be a tense and often racially hostile culture at BC.
“You can feel it,” Sasha Severino, AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC) assistant director and MCAS ’21, said. “It’s palpable at BC how much students of color are disliked. It’s quite literally a thing that most students of color notice. It’s called the death stare from white students that just look at you, horribly, just because you have your natural hair out … It’s really so obvious and bleeding.”
Many SA representatives said that in order for the culture at BC to evolve to the point where all students feel safe, changes need to come from the top down—BC’s administration.
“We have to fight for [the administration] to even say Black Lives Matter,” Mitzy Monterroso-Bautista, ALC policy coordinator and MCAS ’22, said.
Members also pointed out a discrepancy between BC’s punishments of students for violations of COVID-19 protocols and its punishments for racial bias incidents.
“If you look at the scenario with COVID, when students were threatened they will lose their housing … everyone had the fear of God,” Jhon De La Cruz, SA first-generation representative and MCAS ’22, said. “ … When it comes to things like this one, when students know they can get away with a slap on the wrist, it just happens again.”
Members also discussed UGBC’s plans for the spring semester, and as the general meeting was nearing the end, several members questioned why the general meeting had not been devoted to determining UGBC’s response. Members also questioned why the SA meeting that followed the general meeting was optional, saying that addressing the incident should be everyone’s responsibility.
“All this meeting has proven to me is that the majority of people here are so disconnected from what students of color experience that none of you can even say that you knew that this happened all the time,” Severino said at the general meeting. “You probably don’t have any friends of color, and you probably don’t interact with students of color outside of UGBC and frankly that’s really scary … I think it’s disrespectful to all the students of color that are here. I wish you cared more.”
Tom Mogan, associate vice president for student engagement and formation, was in attendance at the SA meeting, and said that he was there to listen and gain input from the students. He also said that the Office of Residential Life sent out an email to the CLXF community on the night of the incident.
De La Cruz, among other SA representatives, raised questions to Mogan about the content and recipients of the email, asking why the email was not sent to the entire school and why it only described the events as vandalism and not as racist, targeted attacks.
“What’s the argument from the administration to send this specific email out to only the CLXF community, and not [the entire] University?,” De La Cruz said. “As you pointed out yourself, individuals apprehended were not part of the community. So I think that this will be really important to everyone that doesn’t live there, including myself … I think it’s critical for us to know about it.”
Mogan responded that the school was following the existing protocol that stipulates that misconduct cannot be categorized by the University until the students pass through the conduct system. De La Cruz then suggested that these protocols be revised.
The SA also discussed challenges that BC faces with its racial justice initiatives. Many members pointed out that the students who would benefit and learn the most from BRAVE events, which are designed for students to engage in conversations about diversity, and racial justice forums are generally the ones least likely to attend.
“I know a lot of people feel like they have to do it because they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s a requirement,’” Aneesa Wermers, UGBC member and Lynch ’23, said. “The people who need to think about their responsibility in terms of how they create the culture that leads to, like, racist things happening on campus, they’re the ones who need to go to it the most, but they’re not the ones who are going to sign up, so I just think that’s something to really think about when you’re considering having discussions on race.”
Members also discussed the difficulties of widespread cultural change, and brainstormed potential plans. They concluded that UGBC needs to take action beyond just putting out a statement.
Some ideas SA representatives raised included UGBC conducting a survey to gather data about racism on campus to pressure the administration, creating more mandatory diversity workshops, altering the cultural diversity curriculum, hosting a solidarity walk, and mandating more diversity training for the administration and faculty.
“I understand that we are all moving forward to make a statement and try and talk with administrators, but I think as student leaders and members of the student body we should also be thinking about how we can do something as students to try and make a change outside of talking with administrators,” Conor McCormick, director of diversity and inclusion for UGBC and MCAS ’22, said. “Action, on our part, will speak louder than words.”
2/5/21, 12:30 p.m. Correction: This article was updated to accurately reflect that Severino was the speaker of a quote originally attributed to Monterroso-Bautista.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor