The Graduate Student Association hosted a town hall event on Wednesday in the Yawkey Athletics Center to discuss issues that graduate students face at Boston College.
GSA Executive Director Craig Ford, GSAS '21, kicked off the event and stressed the importance of coming together to plan for the future amidst an uncertain social climate.
Ford first turned over the microphone to Graduate Students of Color Association Outreach Coordinator Afua Laast, LSOE '16, BCSSW MSW '17, who emphasized the importance of having open forums of communication. Laast noted that she was glad that students have been responding to the repercussions of the presidential election.
Then, GSA Vice President Qingmei Cheng, BCC '18, spoke and focused on how many graduate students were weary of the current political environment in America. She said that the executive orders made students feel “unwelcome” and “afraid,” making the already difficult transition to a new country even more intimidating.
However, she said that in her experience “most Americans were very welcoming,” and that more efforts should be made to have international and American students come together in efforts to eliminate stigmas.
President of Graduate Pride Alliance Dylan Lang, BCSSW '17, spoke next. While he was unhappy with the results of the election, he was optimistic about “an awakening of the issues of the LGBTQ community.” For instance, he noted that a bill has been filed in the Massachusetts General Court to ban conversion therapy.
But at the same time, he continued, the BC administration has continuously neglected GPA's pleas to take inclusive actions such as providing an LGBTQ resource center and more gender neutral bathrooms. Administration has even faltered in simply protecting gender identity under the school's non-discrimination policy.
The feeling of being ignored by university administration was a consistent theme throughout the discussion. Several student leaders, even those in the Graduate Student Association whose job is to advocate for students, felt that they were not being given the chance to communicate with the administration as much as they needed to. When they did manage to speak with them, students said administrators were more likely to cite existing policies and tout other accomplishments instead of attempting to make progress.
Mikayla Robinson, a GSAS student in the history department, represented the Boston College Graduate Employee Union. The BCGEU is currently pushing to have the union officially recognized by BC. This recognition would enable regular meetings with administrators, in which better wages for teaching assistants and researchers and more accommodations for students with families could be bargained for.
Finally, a member of Eradicate Boston College Racism spoke, citing that many students would not speak at the town hall event since they were now on disciplinary probation for their participation in unregistered campus protests. The student accused the administration of not putting any burden of proof on themselves and arbitrarily doling out punishments.
The event later turned to open discussion amongst the attendees, who conversed about other issues of inclusion and methods for creating meaningful change. Among these was the thought to host protests similar to those at institutions like UC Berkeley, which engages in actions such as sit ins or hunger strikes.