Dear Boston College Class of 2023,
Hello! It’s nice to meet you. Maybe you’re still deciding where to go to college, or maybe you’ve already paid your deposit and are busy picking out maroon and gold decor for your new dorm room. But if you’re thinking of coming to Boston College, there are a few things that are going to be really important for you to know.
I’m sure you watched the video BC posted on Facebook, welcoming you to the Heights. You know the one—lots of drone shots, glowing scenes of happy and diverse students, and a profound voiceover (this one was done by The Gavel’s own Madison Polkowitz!).
They make one every year. Every year, there’s a clever little hook. Last year, it was a play on Harry Potter, since the campus looks just like the spooky and medieval campus of Hogwarts. This year, the video came with the tagline: What will be your moment?
Maybe the video is spot on, and your moment will happen during reflection with a service group, or while laughing on a sunny dock with friends.
But often, college isn’t going to look like that. For some, their moment brings a very different realization: that between the days laying out on the quad, the football games and tailgates, and the life-changing professors, there’s something darker.
Your moment might not come while you’re sitting by the Reservoir at sunset. It may come while you’re having a breakdown in an empty classroom at 2 a.m. on a Sunday night. It might be in the middle of class, when you look around and realize that everyone’s laptop is open to Facebook—including your own.
Or it may come during finals week, when you hear that a residence hall has been vandalized with racist slurs.
A lot of these moments of desperation, loneliness, or anger aren’t unique to Boston College. There are probably students at pretty much any university in the United States that feel like they’re going to crumble under the pressure any second.
When I was choosing where to go to school, everyone around me kept repeating the same phrase.
“It’s one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.”
It seemed melodramatic then, and even more so now. I don’t regret choosing Boston College at all, but there are a lot of things I wish I had known before I signed my enrollment papers.
As an institution, BC prides itself on its Jesuit Catholic values, claiming that it produces “men and women for others.” I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that—it’s on every flyer, letter, and statement issued by the university.
But there are a lot of “others” that aren’t welcomed by BC, either by the administration or by the students themselves.
We’ve made national headlines for racist incidents (at least three since I’ve been here that I can think of off the top of my head) and the protests that follow. Signs have been vandalized with homophobic slurs, emboldened by the administration’s refusal to even acknowledge the existence of queer students on campus. Graduate workers, drastically overworked and underpaid, are not allowed to unionize because unions are “a serious threat to our shared academic values.” The university has ignored repeated calls from students to divest from fossil fuels. Students with limited mobility can barely get around campus.
For a university so obsessed with talking about service and Christian values, it doesn’t make much of an effort to serve “others” at all.
Of course, none of this may even affect you. For a lot of the current student body, issues like these only come up every once in a while when a march interrupts their walk to class. But if you don’t think you will be affected by the institutionalized discrimination and injustice at Boston College, think again.
If reading about these incidents makes you angry or worried about coming to BC, good. We need more students with a critical eye and a fire under their ass, ready to stand their ground and make real change on campus.
If you aren’t ready to fight for that change, you’ll have a nice time at BC. It’s easy (and more fun) to spend four years here without so much as a thought towards how messed up this place is.
But the fact is, if you’re looking for a school that truly welcomes and cares for students of all kinds, you might not want to write that check to Boston College.
For those who still want to book their flight, welcome to BC. I don’t mean to scare you off, or to tell you that you’re not going to have a great time. You’ll probably still have a great time.
But your moment might not be what you thought it would be.
Ellen Gerst, Editor-in-Chief