Over this past weekend, news broke online that the office of an LGBT student group was vandalized at Boston College Law School. While administrators issued members of the Law School community a prompt response on Tuesday, the undergraduate community has yet to receive any official notification of this event.
As an undergraduate student here at BC, I find this lack of communication astonishing and extremely troublesome. While Boston College is a Catholic school, it has an obligation to protect the rights of its students and inform them of any threatening or hate-driven activity occurring on its campus.
Some might say that it is not necessary for undergraduates to be informed because this event occurred at the Law School. But BCLS is on the same campus as undergraduate freshmen dormitories, making it very possible that the perpetrator in this case is an undergrad student.
More importantly, such a malicious act speaks volumes about the entire BC community. BC is known worldwide for its unifying sense of pride across all of its schools, with students entering this community as early as high school and some continuing on through several graduate programs. What happens in one school undoubtedly affects the reputation of the others, and reflects poorly on all current students and alumni.
Boston College has had a long history of issues in their relationship with the LGBT community. According to the Huffington Post, Boston College ranked in the top 12 least-LGBT friendly colleges, landing at number 8. It took until 2003 for the school to approve a Gay-Straight Alliance, and until 2004 for the school to expand its non-discrimination statement to include equal protection for those who are gay.
Even alumni have sounded off about the negative LGBT climate on campus. One morning during the fall semester, I heard one famous alum make a few comments about BC’s LGBT culture on Kiss 108’s Matty in the Morning show. Clinton Kelly ’91, host of TLC’s What Not to Wear, spoke about how he and many of his friends were “in the closet” during their time at BC. He remarked, “BC was not the easiest place to be gay,” although he added that to his knowledge, things had improved since his graduation.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this entire event is that the perpetrators chose Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend to carry out this vicious act. On a weekend reserved for celebrating civil liberties, and above all, tolerance, it concerns me that any student would have the audacity to not only attack the LGBT community, but to desecrate the entire meaning of the holiday. The timing seems to suggest that there was some thought behind the incident, and that it was not some spur-of-the-moment ill-conceived prank.
One member of the Lambda Law Association, the LGBT group that fell victim to this act of prejudice, commented:
"BC Law shares its campus with a number of freshman dorms. This isn’t the first time in the history of BCLS that freshmen have vandalized the law school. This seems to indicate a systemic issue that the undergraduate body has with racism and homophobia, as opposed to a reflection on the law school’s students or administration. I have never encountered anything but openness and acceptance at BCLS and refuse to believe that this recent incident was committed by a member of our community."
Dean Vincent G. Rougeau noted in his official letter to the Law School community that both Newton and Boston College Police are working to investigate the incident. But if the undergraduate community does not receive any official notification of this event, any potential witnesses or students with information might not know how to come forward. And even if the perpetrators were caught, it would do little to catalyze any progress if the undergraduate population were unaware.
This entire ordeal seems to only highlight BC’s growing problem with communication to its students and staff. More and more frequently, students are hearing about these types of incidents on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter before an official source. Instead of being notified by more “credible” authorities, students are being forced to rely on editorialized versions of these stories in statuses and tweets from their friends. The administration ignoring this event only serves to stir the rumor mill and cause even more controversy.
The question is, how do we as a community respond to this event in the absence of any leadership from administration? Will we wake up tomorrow and move on as if it had never happened, or will we take it upon ourselves to start a conversation with our fellow students and professors? Now more than ever, this is a time to decide what type of community we would like to cultivate as a student body.
With or without a response from the undergraduate administration, the outcome of this incident will ultimately lie in the hands of the student body. We have as much of a responsibility as our leaders to react to this issue.
As a school, we must make a concerted effort to prevent these types of acts from occurring in the future. We must have conversations with our roommates, our friends, and all other members of this community in order to foster a culture of acceptance that we can be proud of. We must always respect each other’s opinions and we must certainly never condone hate crimes on our campus.
While BC has seen vast improvements in the past decade to its treatment of LGBT issues, this event demonstrates that we still have much to learn. Whether or not the vandals are ever caught, I certainly hope we take this incident as an opportunity to reflect on our campus culture and our direction as a school.