Opinions, Editorials

Purchasing Mount Alvernia Would Provide BC With an Opportunity To Expand

The closure of Mount Alvernia High School, an all-girls Catholic school in Newton, provides Boston College with a rare opportunity to buy new land. The University should pursue this purchase to support its students, faculty, and any future expansion endeavors. 

Last month, the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception publicized that the school would close at the end of the academic year, prompting outcry from its alumni. The Heights condemns the abruptness with which the Catholic order announced the closure—but that does not mean the property should go to waste. A BC purchase of Mount Alvernia’s land would ensure the campus continues to advance spiritually-rooted education. 

Mount Alvernia sits across the street from BC’s Newton Campus, which is within two miles of BC’s Main and Brighton Campuses, making it an ideal location for BC to expand. Given BC’s commitment to build up its facilities over the next 10 to 50 years, this 23-acre plot of prime real estate in Newton would be an asset for the University.

First, BC could utilize Mount Alvernia’s land to expand amenities for BC Law School. From 2022 to 2023, the Law School fell eight spots in U.S. News & World Report’s annual law school rankings—from 29th nationwide to 37th. Although these rankings are not a great measure of the quality of law schools—and are under public scrutiny—the school should find new ways to remain competitive in an increasingly cutthroat environment for law schools nationwide. Expanding its campus is a way to achieve that.

While the BC Law Library has served as a pillar of Newton Campus for almost 30 years, the classroom-filled building that it is attached to—which has not had a full renovation in decades—is aging, crowded, and shared with undergraduate freshmen who use Stuart Dining Hall. To revamp BC Law’s facilities, the University could add more academic buildings to the law school on Mount Alvernia’s nearby land. 

Another path BC could take is constructing new housing on Mount Alvernia’s land, allowing all freshmen to live on Newton Campus and making Upper Campus and College Road newly renovated upperclassmen housing. The majority of incoming students at BC are guaranteed only three years of on-campus housing. And although many schools do not provide a full four years of guaranteed housing, BC prides itself on its students wanting to live on campus—so much so that housing appeals get denied due to lack of available space. 

Additionally, the high cost and demand for housing in both Boston and Newton is an added stressor for many students. Taking this into consideration, BC should take every opportunity it can to provide four years of on-campus housing to any student who wants it. Expanding the housing community on Newton Campus by using Mount Alvernia’s land would allow the University to do so.

In a similar vein, BC could use this land to create graduate student housing. Unlike some of its peer institutions, BC does not provide any guaranteed housing to its over 5,000 graduate students. Again considering the high cost and stress associated with off-campus living, all graduate students would ideally be given the opportunity to live on campus should they desire to do so. Purchasing Mount Alvernia and using the land to build graduate student housing would be an opportunity for BC to further support its grad students.

Mount Alvernia’s imminent closure is frustrating and unexpected for its community members. But the high school has already decided to shut down and merge with another all-girls school, Fontbonne Academy, and even the City of Newton has expressed interest in buying it. By preserving the land for the use of another Catholic institution, BC can ensure the campus is used for Catholic education. 

BC’s master plans—which include rebuilding several key academic buildings, establishing new housing on Brighton Campus, and even building a bridge across Commonwealth Avenue—are ambitious. But, as we learned from BC’s surprise purchase of Pine Manor, these ambitions are flexible. 

If BC buys Mount Alvernia, the purchase could progress the University’s mission to become the nation’s “leader in the liberal arts” and provide much-needed space to grow for years to come.

April 23, 2023