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Shawna Cooper-Gibson Pauses Plans to Restructure BAIC

Vice President for Student Affairs Shawna Cooper-Gibson will pause her plans to restructure the Thea Bowman AHANA Intercultural Center (BAIC) after hearing feedback from students, alumni, and members of color on Boston College’s Board of Trustees, according to a University release

“The insights and advice I received have been most helpful,” Cooper-Gibson said in the release. “As a result, we will take a pause to strategize about how we best move forward. Taking the time to reflect will help me to work collaboratively toward our common goal of enhancing the BC student experience.”

This announcement comes after the University announced plans on April 8 to rebrand the 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.

The release said Cooper-Gibson will administer focus groups and engage in conversations in the upcoming months about how the BAIC can improve its services and become more inclusive.

“I have heard from many students and student groups that the BAIC—despite its great work—is not fully welcoming and accessible to all, particularly Latino/a, Asian, and LGBTQ+ students, and that the AHANA acronym does not represent all students of color,” Cooper-Gibson said.

Resources for LGBTQ+ students are currently housed in the Office of Student Outreach and Student Services, but members of the BC community have called for an LGBTQ+ resource center for years.

BC Equality also announced on Monday that Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and nine former and current Boston city councilors signed a petition that calls for BC to create an LGBTQ+ resource center on campus. The petition, which was created in 2020, has garnered over 1,500 signatures.

The release said that trustees Steve Pemberton, Darcel Clark, Lise Leist, Kendall Reid, Kevin Pearson, Kevin Smart, and Juan Concepción shared their insights with Cooper-Gibson, expressing the importance of the AHANA acronym and offering advice on how to strengthen the BAIC. 

“I want to be clear that it was not my intention to disregard the historical significance of AHANA nor to offend those who were instrumental in its naming,” Cooper-Gibson said. “Rather, my intention has always been to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all BC students, including the students who feel that their needs are not being fully served by our existing office structures and programs.” 

Cooper-Gibson said she will continue working with the BC community and share new information about University findings and plans in the coming months. 

“Change comes slowly,” Cooper-Gibson said. “But given the number of BC students who go on after graduation to become leaders in the private and public sector, it is important that they embrace interculturality so that they can effect change beyond BC.”

Cooper-Gibson could not be reached for comment by publication.

May 3, 2022