Editorials, Opinions

BC Must Move Further and Faster With New LGBTQ+ Programming

Boston College has a long way to go in creating a comfortable environment for queer students on campus. 

The University’s recent rollout of new resources for LGBTQ+ students is a step in the right direction. But, the administration took months to publicize this rollout.

In April, BC announced plans to officially incorporate queer resources into the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC) and hire a new associate director and graduate assistant “whose roles will explicitly include LGBTQ+ student programming and support.” To fulfill this commitment, the University hired Ira Kirschner to be a new associate director focused on providing LGBTQ+ support services, programs, and resources.

BC only hired Kirschner to assist LGBTQ+ students after calls from within the University’s student body and external pressure. In fact, for nearly two decades, students and alumni have expressed their frustration with the limited amount of LGBTQ+ resources available to students on campus.

After years of this advocacy, BC did add new LGBTQ+ resources to the BAIC. But, the University’s efforts have not occurred fast enough or gone far enough. 

BC’s published its first news release highlighting Kirschner this past week—months after the administration actually hired Kirschner, and almost half a year after the University’s decision to add LGBTQ+ programming into the BAIC. The University promoted this release on its LinkedIn—importantly, however, it has not yet sent a single email to the full student body about Kirschner or the BAIC’s new LGBTQ+ programming. So, fewer students likely know about Kirschner—and fewer students will be able to take advantage of the center’s new resources. 

If the University fully committed itself to promoting its new LGBTQ+ resources, it would have properly delivered news about Kirschner’s availability and role in an email to all students early in the semester—in the same way the University regularly updates students on so much else. 

The University has looped in UGBC’s Queer Leadership Council (QLC) to the changes, according to Associate Director Nathan Schirtzinger, MCAS ’24. But worries persist.

“[QLC] remains concerned that, even with these good faith efforts to seek our input and to outreach to LGBTQ+ students, more can and ought to be done to disseminate information about this expansion and break down the barriers and stigmas that might preclude students from using these resources,” Schirtzinger wrote.

In September, The Heights Editorial Board asked Vice President for Student Affairs Shawna Cooper Whitehead about the administration’s lack of communication regarding Kirschner’s new role. In response, she told Heights editors over email to anticipate a University release. 

The Heights Editorial Board believes this soft and slow launch will hinder the integration of LGBTQ+ students into the center. 

A year before BC’s April 2023 announcement of the incorporation, BC made similar plans to add LGBTQ+ resources to the BAIC while removing the “AHANA” acronym from the center. The administration, however, paused this plan after hearing feedback from stakeholders who expressed worries about the plan’s removal of the long-used AHANA (African, Hispanic, Asian and Native American) label from the BAIC. 

This pause made sense, and the new plan keeps the AHANA acronym within the BAIC. But some worry that it leaves queer students without an independent place to call their own.

Affinity spaces are meant to “provide a positive, affirming environment for groups, often those who feel marginalized, to come together and engage in open and honest dialogues,” according to a resource handbook provided by the University of Southern California. Incorporating LGBTQ+ resources under the umbrella of the BAIC minimizes the importance of the office for both groups. 

On BC’s webpage about diversity on campus, BC claims that “Jesuit education is rooted in a world view that respects all cultures and faith traditions. Boston College strives to ensure that all students, faculty, and staff feel they are valued members of our University community.” 

Beneath these statements are links to a variety of campus resources for diverse groups of minority students. These include information for students of color, students with financial need, and female-identifying students. Resources are listed for LGBTQ+ students, but there’s a difference. 

Unlike with the other groups, the links don’t take queer and trans students to a web page that lists a physical space where they can ask for the support they deserve. Not even the BAIC. That should change.

Although the inclusion of Kirschner and other queer-oriented resources to the BAIC is a step in the right direction, the creation of a space that intentionally caters to LGBTQ+ students through thoughtful communication is still an important and necessary goal. The University should take this leap forward to make LGBTQ+ students feel welcomed.

Correction (Oct. 18, 2023 12:30 a.m.): This editorial was corrected from a previous version to reflect that Nathan Schirtzinger is QLC’s Associate Director, not a General Coordinator.

October 15, 2023