Editorial Note: Black Eagles wrote this letter in response to a February 2018 "Update to Students" sent by BC Administrators, which can be found here.
Fr. William P. Leahy, President
Fr. Jack Butler, S.J., Vice President for University Mission & Ministry Patricia Lowe, Executive Director for Institutional Diversity
Joy Moore, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs
Tom Mogan, Associate Vice President/ Dean of Students
David Quigley, Provost
Response & Reflection to “Update to Students” Issued on February 6, 2018
We, as students of Boston College, are not responsible for solving structural inequity. Rather, we recognize the places for advancement in our community here at Boston College and are open to active listening. Despite this, we are exhausted of the repetitive and cyclical conversation. Therefore, we strongly encourage the university to utilize external organizations and nationally recognized services (e.g. Southern Poverty Law Center, AORTA, NAACP, Center for Social Inclusion). We recognize and appreciate the university’s efforts to respond to the Silence is Still Violence demonstration on October 20, 2017, with a progress update that considered our recommendations for steps to build a more inclusive community. More specifically, we appreciate and recognize that “in our new Strategic Plan, Boston College committed to ‘enhance the culture of care and welcome for all, including support for socioeconomic and racial diversity within the campus community” (Dr. Barbara Jones, Former Vice President of Student Affairs & Thomas Mogan, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs/Dean of Students). In addition, we hope to hold ourselves and our administration accountable for specific steps and actions to achieve the aforementioned. The burden should not rest on students, especially when there are professionals who specialize in what we are lacking.
Ultimately, there is still room for improvement, as well as a need for students to actively demonstrate the urgency for change. For the purposes of consistency, the list of recommendations below are parallel to and build off of the action plan that was shared with the student body at large on February 6, 2018. The recommendations that follow are a critical reflection on the progress the university has made, as well as places for improvement.
Progress to date: At the beginning of this academic year Boston College administered the first
Diversity Edu module to all enrolled students, to be completed by October 1, 2018.
Reflection: The purpose of the module was to equip students with a basic education pertaining to diversity and inclusion and an understanding of Boston College’s community standards surrounding racism, hate speech, and overall cultural competency. In addition, the module was implemented to provide the university with quantitative evidence. Expectations were not met. At a recent event held by the AHANA+ Leadership Council, numerous students expressed their disappointments with the module for its lack of intentionality in terms of content (i.e intersectionality, power dynamics, or applicability to past, present, and future contexts), facilitating critical reflection on individual, community, and interpersonal experiences, or accountability mechanisms. In other words, the module was counterproductive in informing students that their answers would not be recorded.
Here is a quote from a Heights article: Diversity Edu, the Right Idea on the Wrong Platform:
“I’m, therefore, quite unsure why they chose to provide DiversityEdu—a valuable, well-made resource—online, in a way that allowed for (even encouraged) countless distractions instead of demanding students’ undivided attention.” - Annie Sheehan, LSOE '19
Recommendation: The implementation of Diversity Edu is a step in the right direction, however, the module was significantly lacking depth and failed to utilize intersectionality. Thus, failing to provide students with the tools to comprehend the complexities and nuances of different identities and experiences. The module must consider the multiplicative nature of various identities that are intrinsic to each individual, where the module, for example, implied that race, class, gender, and sexuality were siloed additive experiences.
Increased Diversity in Faculty, Staff & Administration:
Progress to date: In the issued statement, the commitment was to: “build on current programs for faculty and staff to enhance diversity and inclusive excellence in the classroom and across campus.” We recognize and appreciate that this year Boston College hired 43 new faculty members, 12 of whom identify as AHANA+. This trend needs to continue.
Reflection: While this commitment was met, the process must be ongoing. The university must intentionally, as well as actively work to introduce and connect faculty to the student body at large. Moreover, as it still stands, a student can go through four years at Boston College without ever taking a course with a professor of color. This is important due to the fact that there is a lack of representation in certain departments and the eight schools at large. For example, Political Science, Chemistry, Economics departments, etc. Advancements in representation should be focused specifically within the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors, the Carroll School of Management, the Connell School of Nursing and the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences. To fully understand the various narratives of persons with historically underrepresented identities, it is important that faculty of color, LGBTQIAP+ identifying faculty and those who identify within other marginalized communities, are present throughout the departments and schools at Boston College. Our administration also lacks these same sources of representation. We need high ranking administrators of color to present the perspectives that are simply inaccessible to our current administration.
Recommendation: The university actively should be engaged with improving diversity among faculty and staff. This begins with prioritizing both recruitment and retention. More specifically, a platform that transparently discloses who was hired, and in which department. This would ensure a means of holding each department accountable, as well as all eight schools at large.
While AHANA+ representation is great, there is a glaring lack of Black and Latinx faculty, staff, and administrators. Therefore, there should be a prioritization of recruiting and hiring for Black and Latinx faculty, staff, and administrators.
African and African Diaspora Studies Program:
Progress to date: As of last semester, the Academic Program Review process for African and African Diaspora Studies concluded to further guide and develop the program. An external review was conducted last semester.
Reflection: As it stands the program lacks the institutional control and support to determine its agenda and growth. As far as: control over hiring.
Recommendation: As an institution of higher learning, we should be concerned about educating students to the highest degree. This is an institutional barrier that must be limited. A barrier that has existed since the program’s conception. As it stands the program needs more social scientists, as well as an increase in the types of African Diaspora courses offered, such as more Africanists courses (the largest part of the African Diaspora is not covered—the African Continent). In addition, the current institutional barrier hinders students to primarily major in AADS without an independent study application. The independent major process bars students from acquiring a minor or a secondary major. The interdisciplinary nature of the field is complementary to the intellectual growth of our community, and allows access to different avenues and provides tools to engage with different experiences of people across the Diaspora. Beyond this, we must see an increase in racial representation in our historically unprogressive and non-inclusive fields of study. Considering academic institutions such as Harvard, Brown, Georgetown, Stanford, and Notre Dame, as well as other top ranking institutions, have institutionally supported departments, we are behind.
Campus Climate Survey:
Progress to date: A cross-campus committee was formed to develop a comprehensive survey instrument designed to better measure the student experience at Boston College, both in and out of the classroom. The committee met throughout the 2018 spring semester with the expectation that a draft would be completed by the end of the semester, and the survey would be launched during the following academic year. The BC administration nor the committee have given a clear timetable on the survey. Again, expectations were not met.
Reflection: We do not have anything to reflect on. Silence is STILL Violence. Where is the communication and transparency about the commitment?
Recommendation: Given the lack of transparency, we recommend that the University provide the date the survey will be administered. Following this, the university should be forthcoming with both the results and an agenda that adequately addresses areas where the university needs and can improve to foster an equitable and inclusive environment.
Student Formation Initiative: Student Center
Progress to date: There is none.
Reflection: Expectations have not been met.
Recommendation: In the spirit of cura personalis, or care for the whole person, Boston College claims to offer “comprehensive student formation and work with students to accommodate their individual needs on their educational journeys”. Given this, it is important for the institution to respond to the demands of a student center, and work towards providing intersectional resources until this student center is built. Just as Boston College has provided a center for graduate students, it should aim to create a space for all of its students to be able to “build a sense of community among the entire student population and cultivate a sense of belonging to the University as a whole”. Although Boston College has promised to create this plan in the future, students need to have this space in the foreseeable present. We appreciate these plans; however, they do not currently cultivate and impact the lives of students as of now. Students need a space that will allow them to engage in open dialogue and find resources on campus. We are asking for a physical space that is not necessarily for one particular organization or groups of students, but rather, is for ALL Boston College students; a space that considers the experience of being an intersectional individual at Boston College.
Ultimately, the hope is that Boston College is continually working on the above goals and more to enhance the student experience. However, there is a lack of transparency with said plans with the student body. There needs to be a constant stream of communication. Therefore, we request to have an open Town Hall meeting by the end of November and another sometime in the spring. These town halls should be open to the student body, faculty, staff and we want to see the people mentioned above present and vocal about the “Update to Students” they issued and signed last year.