Boston College will rebrand the Thea Bowman AHANA Intercultural Center (BAIC) as the Thea Bowman Intercultural Center starting this summer, dropping the AHANA acronym from the center’s name and incorporating resources for LGBTQ+ students under its umbrella.
“New ideas are not always well-received, and it can take time to achieve a positive impact, but our intention is to bring people together after a grueling pandemic and provide mentorship, support, and love to all of our students,” Vice President for Student Affairs Shawna Cooper-Gibson said in a University release.
Cooper-Gibson said the University plans to drop the AHANA acronym—a term BC students created in 1979 that stands for African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American. BC community members have expressed concern that it fails to represent all students of color, she said.
According to Cooper-Gibson, some students identify as Black and not African American, or Latino/a and not Hispanic.
“We want to recognize the term’s historical significance while ensuring that the nomenclature is fully inclusive,” she said in the release. “While I know that change can be difficult, renaming the BAIC as the Bowman Intercultural Center is important as we prepare our students to enter a global society with a common language.”
On April 1, before the University officially announced the changes on April 7, a group of five students made a plan to discuss several issues they had heard about with Cooper-Gibson, including the BAIC changes, SANet—the Sexaul Assault Network—being moved from the Women’s Center, the cancellation of the annual Jamaica Magis service trip, and the University’s plan to move the BAIC to a new facility on Upper Campus.
About 70 students gathered at the BAIC to join them at Cooper-Gibson’s office hours. As the five leaders stepped into a conference room with Cooper-Gipson, the other students waited outside.
“Our goal was not to have a protest,” said Darnell Fils, one of the students who spoke with Cooper-Gibson and MCAS ’22. “It was to have a gathering to have folks come to the BAIC, explain to them what’s going on, and then, we bring them into the lounge area, just so we can take up space. That was the goal, to take up space so she knows we’re here.”
Angel Prado, MCAS ’25, said he was concerned about the BAIC potentially being physically moved to another location.
“Having all these rumors and hearing that the BAIC might get moved … that’s what drew me here,” Prado said at the demonstration. “I felt kind of hurt because like, I come to a PWI, predominately white school, and the AHANA BAIC is like the only thing that we have.”
Srina Lacet, one of the organizers and MCAS ’24, said she first learned about all of these changes through her job at the Women’s Center but other students learned through Snapchat.
“The lack of transparency is so weird, because when we make decisions and when we want to put certain initiatives forward, it feels like we’re being ignored by [the] administration as a whole. But now it feels like [the] administration is taking control of things without having our input.”
Christie Louis, MCAS ’24, helped organize the demonstration and said it showed the sense of community among AHANA+ students.
“[I] think it’s a testament to how much of a community the AHANA is at BC,” Louis said. “To see the community that the BAIC has built and the connection that has been made, and to then come in and change that physical space … it doesn’t make sense.”
Kudzai Kapurura, MCAS ’23, said their meeting with Cooper-Gibson felt “pointless and inefficient” as the University had already solidified its decisions.
“We as students are the greatest stakeholders,” Kapurura said. “Those decisions made by higher level administrators directly impact … us as students. … Our voice is so, so necessary.”
The changes to the BAIC are overall aimed at creating a true “intercultural” center, Cooper-Gibson said in the release.
“The mission of the BAIC is to create an inclusive and culturally diverse environment on campus by promoting equity, building community, and supporting opportunity,” she said. “The inclusion of resources for LGBTQ+ students within the BAIC aligns perfectly with this mission.”
Lacet said the University’s decision to incorporate resources for LGBTQ+ students into the BAIC limits the amount of physical spaces students have available to them.
“I feel like it’s doing a disservice to multiple groups of students, especially students that do identify with both of these identities or multiple identities,” Lacet said.
Prior to the University’s changes, resources for LGBTQ+ students were previously housed in the Office of Student Outreach and Student Services, but BC community members have called for an LGBTQ+ resource center for years.
Cooper-Gibson said the center will hire a new full-time staff member and graduate assistant to serve the LGBTQ+ community. These adjustments, she said, will emphasize intersectionality.
“Placing LGBTQ+ services under the umbrella of the BAIC makes sense and is consistent with how intercultural centers are structured at many colleges and universities,” Cooper-Gibson said.
In 2020, a petition calling for an LGBTQ+ resource center garnered 1,446 signatures. The petition said that LGBTQ+ students at BC deserve their own physical space on campus.
Fils said while he understands the decision to change the term AHANA, placing AHANA+ and LGBTQ+ students in the same center undermines LGBTQ+ students’ fight for their own resource center.
“[LGBTQ+ students] have been fighting for their own space for multiple years on this campus and for [Cooper-Gibson] to think that you can just combine the students together,” Fils said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Correction (4/8/22, 10:55 a.m. and 2:41 p.m.): This article was updated to include more context about the five students’ meeting with Cooper-Gibson and clarify their statements.
Update (4/8/22, 6:45 p.m.): This article was updated to clarify that the University is dropping the AHANA acroynm from the Thea Bowman AHANA Intercultural Center’s name.
Featured Image by Vikrum Singh / Heights Editor