Several Newton city councilors signed a petition calling on Boston College to open an LGBTQ+ resource center and include gender identity in the University’s discrimination policy, according to Patch.
“It’s your job as an institution of learning to meet your students where they are—to support them,” said Ward 6 Councilor-at-Large Alicia Bowman.
Ward 6 Councilor-at-large Victoria Danberg, Ward 8 Councilor-at-Large Richard Lipof, Ward 2 Councilor Emily Norton, Ward 8 Councilor Holly Ryan, and Bowman all signed BC Equality’s March 2020 petition, Patch reported Tuesday.
News of the Newton councilors’ support comes after BC Equality announced on Monday that Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and several Boston city councilors signed the petition. U.S. Secretary of Labor and former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh signed the petition last spring, and former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson tweeted her support for the center in March 2020.
In a 2018 survey, LBGTQ+ students at the University reported feeling less safe and less of a sense of belonging than non-LGBTQ+ students. Members of the BC community have also called for a resource center for years.
Lipof, who also serves as the vice president of the Newton City Council, said it is more important now than ever to protect peoples’ rights, as the petition’s growing traction comes after the U.S. Supreme Court voted to strike down the Roe v. Wade decision, according to a leaked draft opinion obtained by Politico.
“As I sit in my seat today and ponder the potential reversal of Roe v. Wade, one of the things that I think about most is, what could be next,” Lipof told The Heights. “What other rights—gay marriage, you can line them all up—what other rights that we have appropriately evolved and come so far as a society are on the table for potential reversal.”
Lipof said he first heard about the petition a few weeks ago. At first, Lipof said he considered whether BC’s status as a private institution should influence his decision to sign the petition.
“Then I sat back in my chair, and I said, ‘Wait a minute. We cannot not fight for what I believe now are basic human rights … whether or not it’s appropriate for me to tell a private institution what to do,’” he said. “I was asked to sign my name to let people know how I feel and what I would want if I was running that college, and that’s why I signed it.”
Bowman said universities must provide the resources necessary to help their students succeed in life.
“I have kids who are [in their 20s],” Bowman said. “Your kids … need help and support. They’re away from their family for the first time in their lives, and schools should provide the resources you need to help get you to that next stage of your life.”
Lipof, who has two college-aged children, said LGTBQ+ students often face additional challenges when adjusting to the college environment.
“I watched them as straight women have a hard enough time finding their way as freshmen and sophomores [in college]—finding their friends, their community, their place as young adults for the first time out in the world,” Lipof said. “That’s hard enough, and I think I immediately thought of the extra layer LGBTQ+ young adults have in navigating the world in their first years in college.”
Universities should extend supportive resources to all of their students, Lipof said.
“Support should be there for everybody and even more for those of these communities,” he said.
Bowman said that even as a Jesuit, Catholic institution, BC is not absolved of upholding tenets of inclusivity.
“Institutions have a responsibility to be fair and equitable and supportive of … diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Bowman said. “They have a responsibility to that. So … just because you’re steeped in religion, it’s not an excuse for not meeting your responsibilities in that regards.”
BC serves as a large employer for the City of Newton, where both the University’s law school and portions of its main Chestnut Hill campus are located.
According to Bowman, the city councilors take responsibility for the wellness of the University’s students.
“In the end, the students who live in Newton—who go to Boston College—are Newton residents. So you know, we are responsible for [them] as well.”
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller was not immediately available for comment.