Claire Kim / Gavel Media

Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism Looks Back

The Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism Movement has had a comparably quiet year, but has nevertheless been continuing the fight against institutional racism on campus. Here is an interview with Gloria McGillan, LGSOE ’17, an Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism representative, regarding what the group has been up to this year.

What have been your main events this year, and what has the BC Administration's response been?

In the fall semester, we organized a number of direction actions on campus to raise awareness about our group and institutional racism at Boston College — including a silent protest at the Ta-Nehisi Coates’ lecture (inspired by and in support of his work) and anti-racist caroling at the Board of Trustees’ annual luncheon, during our 12 Days of BC Racism campaign.

This semester, we’ve begun to reach beyond the campus to build national awareness about the need for reform at BC around institutional racism — and with that, more pressure for the University to take action. We have been featured by outlets including NPR, Inside Higher Ed, the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Nation, Think Progress, and Boston.com. We have also spoken locally at the invitation of groups like Historic Newton and Jewish Voice for Peace, and contributed to the class projects of a number of high school and university students.

Unfortunately, the public recognition and concern we’ve seen about institutional racism at BC, and in higher education more generally, hasn’t been mirrored in BC administrators’ responses to us as a group. The school has not retracted or clarified its fall statement that institutional racism does not exist at Boston College. They have not yet indicted high-level commitment to moving forward on the reforms we’ve requested. (Instead, they issued disciplinary warnings to members of our group who participated in unregistered caroling against racism.) We believe the University’s newly launched strategic planning process presents an important opportunity to make gains against institutional racism, but we’re disappointed that they again seem at risk of avoiding the issue. Hopefully, they will prove us wrong in the months ahead.

Have there been any particularly noteworthy moments this year?

It’s been moving and motivating to see aspects of institutional racism that we have pointed out, like Eurocentric framing and content in the University core, taken up by BC students unaffiliated with our group , as well as by faculty members and staff. It's no secret that for change to happen, we need broad pressure and growing consensus that institutional racism is a problem at BC, and one that we can solve. Every time a new group of students, or an additional department or office, begins taking part in this call, sharing their takes on the issue, and proposing ways forward, we get closer to real accountability and change.

What do you have planned for the rest of the year?

With graduation approaching, we’re in a moment of celebrating and reflecting on what we’ve accomplished so far, and also appreciating the people who have helped make that possible, some of whom won’t be in Boston much longer! This weekend, we’re holding a racial healing yoga event, and in May we’ll be screening part of a documentary that’s being made about our group. We’re also continuing to share our learning beyond BC. In August, a number of our members will be leading a workshop on anti-racist activism on college campuses at the annual convention on the American Psychological Association in Denver. It’s a great opportunity to continue strengthening the network of students and faculty engaged in campus-based antiracist activism across the country, and we’re excited for it.

Have any of your goals been met? What progress has (or hasn't) been made?

So far, BC has probably made the greatest gains in reducing Eurocentrism in the core curriculum. The African and African Diaspora Studies department announced this semester that a number of its courses will soon qualify for core credit. We believe student advocacy (from us, but also crucially from UGBC, ALC, and members of Black Student Forum), along with faculty leadership, made this possible. It was a major victory for justice at BC and, we think, a model for what could happen on a larger scale with more support and engagement from BC administrators.

Looking forward to the 2016-2017 academic year, what does Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism have planned? What is at the top of your agenda?

Many of our goals remain wholly unaddressed by BC's leadership. We want to see that change — to see more concrete action from the University administration that addresses the problems we've identified and decades of similar critiques from past generations of BC students of color and their allies. We're also excited to welcome new students, faculty, and staff into our group, and to support groups on the campus with similar goals. We're continuing to learn alongside these groups and activists across the country who are resisting racism where they find it. There is so much more to be done and understood, and we need one another in the fight.
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Pei-Ling Lee