Second Rally of "Rights on the Heights" Deepens Social Justice Talk, Responds to Administrative Pushback

On March 20, students gathered in O’Neill Plaza to protest what they see as the lack of administrative response and progress after the first “Rights on the Heights” event last December.

Representatives from Climate Justice at Boston College, the Social Justice Coalition, Students for Sexual Health and UGBC’s GLBTQ Leadership Council, as well as current UGBC Executive Vice President Connor Bourff spoke at the event. Performances included two spoken word poetry readings and a song by the Boston College Acoustics.

“Rights on the Heights Part 2: The Struggle Continues” started with an opening remark from Zachary Muzdakis, A&S ’17, who stated the purpose of holding this second rally.

“We gather here to hold a similar rally,” said Muzdakis, “to promote social justice and the rights of students at BC.”

Anthony Golden/Gavel Media

Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

The first speaker, Josh Behrens, A&S ’18, spoke about the contradictory actions by the administration regarding censorship and repression of speech on campus. In the classroom, Behrens stated, BC has replaced the clocks with crucifixes, rejecting the orderly and mechanical nature of clocks for the love that the crucifix symbolizes. But according to Behrens, the actions of BC administration outside of the classroom are more in line with the clock than the crucifix.

“On paper, activists and the administration is on the same page… yet the recent actions of the school have been more in line with the symbol they reject: the clock.”

The next speaker, Connor Bourff, A&S ’15 and Executive Vice President of UGBC, spoke about UGBC’s dealings with the administration, specifically regarding homophobia.

“I’ve been told by administrators at this school that if we ever highlight to the student body the homophobia present in our dealings with higher level administrators,” Bourff said, “that we will ‘awaken the beast’ of conservative, Catholic newspapers, donors, bishops and parents, and we’ll be set back ten years.”

“Well, this logic made sense to us, myself included, when we were making progress," he continued. "But over the course of this year, we have made less and less progress.”

Bourff then spoke about the administration's unwillingness to work with UGBC to update the student guide and expand student rights.

“Last semester, UGBC moved to revisit the student guide in order to clarify BC’s rules and restrictions for student voices and rights. We expected to be met by administrators who would treat us as equals in this conversation to prove the experience of students. We expected to be met by administrators who actively wanted to improve the experience of students. We were wrong.”

He closed his speech, to a rousing ovation, by saying that the administration has a choice to make.

“This university needs to make a decision as to who its core constituency is. If they choose that the students matter more than anyone else, the university needs to ask itself honestly, ‘are we educating men and women properly, if we silence and oppress them during their time in this community?’ I love BC, but I also expect way more of it.”

Laurel Ciccaglione, A&S ’16 and member of Students for Sexual Health, spoke about the topic of shame and how it is perpetuated by BC’s archaic stance on sexual health.

“Silencing students who search for answers to their questions about sexuality and denying students the resources that are necessary to make and carry out healthy decisions around sex is dangerous. Shame does not help anyone grow," she said.

After a performance by the Boston College Acoustics, Billy Shyne, CSOM ’15 and a member of the GLC branch of UGBC, had stories similar to Bourff’s of BC’s administrational homophobia. When discussing the Gala put on by the GLC, he spoke about the restrictions placed on it.

Anthony Golden/Gavel Media

Anthony Golden / Gavel Media

“We can’t have a dance,” Shyne said. “We have to have a speaker there because it has to be educational.”

During his speech, he summed up the mindset of many speakers and students that attended the rally.

“We are taking steps backwards right now. What the hell?”

The final speaker of the rally, Erin Sutton, A&S ’16 and a member of Climate Justice at Boston College, spoke about the administration’s failure to divest from fossil fuel companies and their hostility towards Climate Justice at BC. According to Sutton, BC’s disciplinary rules are kept intentionally vague to interpret them as needed.

In addition, Sutton stated that they are often used to deter Climate Justice at BC.

“We now have a student on disciplinary probation for organizing an event that she was not even at,” said Sutton.

Sutton even stated that she received advice from her mother to “lay low” until her financial aid is approved from fear of potential action by the administration due to her role in Climate Justice.

After the rally, Muzdakis spoke to The Gavel about what he hopes the administration sees from this rally.

“I hope they see that there is a pretty significant part of BC that is upset with the way things are happening on campus, and I hope that they understand that we’re speaking from a position where we want to work with them to create change,” Muzdakis said. “We want BC to open a discussion with us where they are really committed to actually working with us to create change.”

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