In the wake of the Silence is Still Violence march, many have been left asking, where do we go from here? The march, along with the other modes of protest last week, was the height of advocacy on campus. Will the proactive sect of the student body maintain this stance? And if so, how? Rallying is not a sustainable form of protest on a campus subject to sub-freezing temperatures and a historically unreceptive culture to student organization on campus. The next move, then, should be aimed at the heart of BC’s white tribalism: the western-centric core curriculum, particularly the narrow-minded cultural diversity requirement.
The cultural diversity core can be satisfied by a broad selection of eye-opening courses, ranging from “Gender and Sexuality in African American History” to “Arts of Buddhism.” Unlike some core courses, such as history and theology/philosophy, that require two semesters, the university requires students to only take one semester of cultural diversity. This is simply not enough. Because students only need to take one cultural diversity course, that component of the core can be seen as a “one and done” endeavor. But cultural diversity cannot be “one and done.” It should be an ongoing and engaging aspect of student life here at BC.
This view that BC undermines the value of a cultural diversity core is a concern for many students. Carmen Hamm, MCAS ‘21, is currently taking “African World Perspectives.” She believes the course has had a significant impact on her perspective of African history and the continent’s interactions with other cultures. “I value having to take the class because not only am I learning about a culture different from my own, but I have a greater understanding that no culture is completely diverse from one another because our histories are interwoven,” Hamm said. These interwoven cultural histories are incredibly relevant today, especially considering the recent protests on Boston College’s campus. Students cannot take what they learn inside the classroom out into the real world if they are not adequately exposed to a culturally diverse class.
The importance of the core, specifically the cultural diversity component, is that it requires students to take courses in multiple disciplines to expose them to a wide range of perspectives, cultures, and ideas. Yet, the importance of the cultural diversity core is being buried by course options that do not truly meet the core’s purpose. A clear example is how students can kill two birds with one stone by taking Globalization. Students who take Globalization fulfill one of their history cores and their cultural diversity core in a single class; it's no question why it's one of the most popular classes. In addition, the benefit of satisfying two cores with one class draws students away from the many other enriching cultural courses that would give students a better understanding of the value of the cultural diversity core.
BC is a top tier university made up of an educated student body, yet we continue to see and experience racism on campus. For a community like this to continue to display such behavior indicates that we are lacking the initiative to combat the problem at its root. The cultural diversity core has the potential to be the way to enrich the knowledge of students in other cultures and help us better understand race and racialization, but the requirement is not as efficient as it should be. We as an educated community should face this challenge head-on by increasing open dialogue, in and out of the classroom.
These forums can be possible if the cultural diversity requirement was expanded into two semesters and integrated a community component. By increasing the cultural diversity requirement to two courses, students would have greater knowledge of other cultures and can become more invested over a longer period of time in learning about diversity. Additionally, integrating a community component into the courses through engagement with local organizations or volunteering in relation to the course’s subject and give students a deeper understanding about cultural diversity and its role in the world. Seeing the world through another person’s eyes can radically change your worldview, and, more importantly, how you judge others.
Some may argue that expanding the cultural diversity requirement to two courses will take away from the core courses needed for specific majors. To avoid this conflict, each department could integrate a diversity component into an existing curriculum course for each major that would satisfy one of the cultural diversity courses.
Refining the cultural diversity core in this way will strengthen the fight against ignorance and racism on BC’s campus. To do this, BC administration would need to first acknowledge that there is a problem, which they have yet to do. If we do not wish to march and rally for basic decency again, significant change needs to occur. Students must continue to push for that administrative change.
The Silence is Still Violence march brought together thousands of students and community members in a great show of solidarity. Nevertheless, we cannot think of the march as a “one and done” mentality like the cultural diversity core. The solidarity and emphasis on justice that was displayed at the march must continue into the future if we hope to solve the issues of racism and untapped cultural diversity at BC. The issue of discrimination is not linear and cannot be solved by one required course. Rather, resolution will require ever-intersecting change in all aspects of our life. Solving intolerance requires that we understand this complexity and find ways to address its presence through meaningful discussion on our campus.