Tori Fisher / Gavel Media

Student Panel Discusses Politics, Culture, and Social Justice

A student panel assessed the ‘Boston College bubble’ by discussing politics and social injustice on Wednesday, Sept. 28, in Fulton 511. Craig Ford (GSAS ’18), Najat Goso (MCAS ’18), Isra Hussain (MCAS ’17), and Russell Simons (MCAS ’17) sat on a panel mediated by Professor Erik Owens, interim director of the Boisi Center and associate professor of theology and international studies.

Prior to the event, Simons commented that although each of the panelists are “exceptionally unique,” they had “been able to find so much in common with what it means to live as a student amid a contentious election, in the shadows of a fractured political system, or simply as people who want to do good in the world but struggle to see how.”

This universality of thought was demonstrated in the opening segments of the event. Professor Owens prompted the panelists with questions and they responded with personal anecdotes and reflections.  

The conversation began with a discussion of the influence of Jesuit ideals on the Boston College student body. Hussain said that a “distance exists between Jesuit ideals and our everyday life.”

Goso agreed and said she thought she and her peers “are being conditioned to become a part of the upper class,” and beyond programs such as PULSE, she does not feel encouraged to “make a greater change” or gain “exposure to life beyond the BC bubble.”

Simons invited the audience to consider these issues when he rhetorically asked, “In what ways does the University push us to participate in a conversation larger than ourselves?”

The conversation shifted from the superficiality of the Jesuit influence to the challenge of fostering activism on campus. Ford began this discussion as he posed the question, “what do we do here to resist outside forces that threaten our [relatively accepting and wholesome] community?”

All of the panelists agreed that the awkward conversations, similar to the one being conducted, were the baby steps to combating discrimination and social injustice.

Screenshot courtesy of bc.edu

Screenshot courtesy of bc.edu

However, they also agreed that every march, sit-in, or rally is conducted with the same group of committed students fighting to raise awareness about injustice. These massive issues “cannot be solved by passive participation,” said Simons. “Just staying quiet” while peers attempt to make change is working to “maintain the status quo.”

Ford agreed by saying that most students are afraid to offend others, so they avoid meaningful conversation and they stay silent as a result.

Adding to the discussion, an audience member chimed in and said that students have a “fear of failure” when it comes to discussing meaningful issues. Goso also articulated that everyone needs courage to “be vulnerable and think differently” in order to break through the BC bubble.

Prompted by Professor Owens, the panelists began to discuss why millennials - Boston College students in particular - are politically uninvolved. Hussain commented that in the age of technology, an overwhelming amount of information is thrown at our generation and there is “no way to know everything and advocate for all.”

Goso agreed and said, “We have information and we have the power to do something with it,” but somehow “voting slips our minds.”

Ford followed this and proclaimed that there is no excuse for not taking political action and exercising one’s right to vote, because as humans, we are naturally political beings. He emphasized that everyone has the tools to debate issues because he has seen his peers heatedly discuss “what kind of pizza to order or when to watch Game of Thrones.”

The social and ethical issues that have been surfacing in the current election, Ford continued, are not new.

All of the toxic language and thought we observe in politics today, Simons said, “is this country working through its major fundamental issues.” Both Goso and Hussain agreed that sentimentality and empathy are necessary for addressing toxic rhetoric and stimulating change.

The audience members and panelists concluded that members of the BC community are so caught in the ‘bubble,’ they fail to see and relate to issues in the outside world.

Though the university has been ignoring these issues, we must learn to respond to the culture of hatred and discrimination which surrounds us.

At the close of the lecture, Professor Owens left the audience with two propositions. First: leave the room with someone the viewer did not come in with, and to have an engaging conversation while leaving the building. Second: reflect on the BC community as a political organism while considering if there need to be more “structured spaces for unstructured conversation,” and to raise these issues with the Boisi Center so these difficult conversations can be had and change can be stimulated.

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