To many, it may feel as if Boston College is not the most progressive or politically engaged of institutions. The student body is notably homogenous, with only 31% of students who identify as AHANA—the highest percentage in BC history. In addition, most students are from overwhelmingly similar economic backgrounds. In 2017, only 14% of undergraduates qualified for federal financial aid, and currently only 41% receive any need-based aid for BC’s staggering $69,942 cost of attendance. The fact remains that the “average” BC student does not experience the marginalization or microaggressions that serve to spur many others to advocacy.
That being said, the next question is this: Should personal experiences of oppression really be the only impetus to mobilize individuals to take action towards combating systemic injustice?
The #woke answer, of course, is no. It’s vital for those of us who possess any degree of privilege to take full advantage of it (in a positive way!) to work towards a more inclusive future. In order to demolish oppressive power dynamics, those of us who wield the power must first leverage it and speak out. On that note, it’s important to recognize that the ability to “be above” or not be concerned with politics, current events, and national policies is itself a privilege. Just because an occurrence does not personally affect you doesn’t mean that it won’t be disastrous for those people you may not have even considered.
For those of us who identify as part of a marginalized or minority group, everyday life at BC can be an incredibly isolating experience. When it feels like everyone around you is more “normal” in some way, it’s overwhelmingly difficult to find friends you can relate to or share your experiences with without alienating them. Not only that, but I’ve lost count of the interactions I’ve had with fellow students who zone out or goof off during conversations regarding diversity and inclusion, openly resent the few mandatory diversity trainings BC provides, and joke about terminology introduced with the intention to make others feel included and welcome.
BC’s social climate leaves much to be desired, but the first step towards a more inclusive community is simply raising awareness of the ways that we can make the lives of those around us a little easier. There are countless simple efforts that all of us can take. This could be at an institutional level, such as creating gender-neutral bathrooms, implementing better diversity training, and creating more Braille signage. Efforts could also be made at an academic level, where professors would stop deducting points from papers that use “they/them” as a non-gendered pronoun.
But this change can be made at an interpersonal level as well. It is important to be mindful of the language you use and the unique, infinitely varied needs and experiences of everyone around you. When a large proportion of the student body is ignorant to the needs and issues of other groups of humans, we all suffer. By making an effort to push for large-scale education, awareness, and empathy, we can work towards a community at BC where, in the spirit of Catholic social teaching and Jesuit tradition, everyone feels loved and welcome.
Let’s make the Heights feel like home.