At 11:30 a.m., hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and administrators walked in silence from McElroy Commons to Corcoran Commons in solidarity with all queer students, students of color, and students with disabilities as a direct response to the vandalization of a parking lot sign with a homophobic slur on Sept. 18.
The walk was organized by Graduate Pride Alliance, GLBTQ Leadership Council, AHANA Leadership Council, Council for Students with Disabilities, Graduate Students of Color Association, and Graduate Student Association.
Prior to the walk, the Graduate Pride Alliance published an open letter to Father Leahy on Sept. 22, calling for him to end the silence and “talk to any one of the many queer students, staff, faculty, or priests at Boston College and ask what it feels like to watch [their] institution erase [them] from existence.”
And in response, student, faculty, staff, and alumni voices have been louder than ever, calling for an LGBTQ+ resource center, university-wide cultural competency training, institutional anti-discrimination protections, and public statements from Father Leahy in support of vulnerable students.
“Boston College President Father William Leahy’s approach to supporting queer and minoritized students has historically been to hide behind neutrality and silence—even after high-profile incidents of national and institutional hate targeting the identities of Boston College’s most vulnerable students,” stated the Graduate Pride Alliance, the LGBTQ+ graduate organization at Boston College, in a press release about the solidarity march.
“This is a walk in solidarity with the thousands of marginalized students on this campus who have been silenced and who have only received silence on issues that matter to them,” announced Anne Williams, MCAS ‘17, Chair of GLBTQ Leadership Council, outside McElroy prior to commencing the walk. “This is not, however, a protest. This is a space to express our feelings, our hurt, and that we matter on this campus.”
Some people held up signs ranging from “Queer Rights are Human Rights” and “Ramp Up BC” to “Black Lives Matter” and “We’re Here We’re Queer”, some wore rainbow flags, and some duct-taped their mouths shut.
Led by Williams and Dylan Lang, President of Graduate Pride Alliance, supporters silently followed the walkways from McElroy Commons across the Academic Quad, past Gasson Hall towards Main Gate, down Commonwealth Avenue, then finally around St. Ignatius Church and Campanella Way to gather outside the entrance of Corcoran Commons.
But the path was not ideal. After the walk, Mary Royer, MCAS ‘17, Chair of UGBC’s Council for Students with Disabilities, said, “As we were planning today’s solidarity walk, we encountered one major problem: finding an accessible path. There is no way for a group this size to move through campus together using an accessible route. To move through campus as a group, we would’ve silenced those with temporary and chronic disabilities from supporting the LGBTQ community today. Thus you can imagine how isolating it can be to navigate accessible routes on this campus everyday.”
Outside of Corcoran Commons, the visibly emotional crowd gathered in silence, held up fists in solidarity, then chanted “Break the Silence”. What followed was a series of speakers, planned and spontaneous, who courageously shared their stories, expressed frustration with the silence, and conveyed gratitude for the outpouring of support in the space created today.
At the end, Williams closed the event by saying, “I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. As it is immensely clear by now, the defacing of that sign and that homophobic incident does not define us, this does. It’s not about the sign, it’s about the culture that allowed it to happen. It’s about the invasive homophobia and transphobia and other insidious bigotries that exist on this campus, and starting today we are changing that culture. We are not going to forget what happened, we are going to move forward from what happened, and we are going to come together as one community. We are not going to be silent anymore. Break the silence.”
The signs of solidarity made for the walk were left outside Corcoran Commons, maintaining the space as a place for healing and visibly breaking the silence.