Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Joy Moore issued a response on Jan. 25 to the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) resolution regarding diversity and inclusion on campus, which was passed following an incident of racist vandalism in December.
Moore responded on behalf of the university, stating that Boston College “is and will always be a community that embraces people from all walks of life.”
According to Moore, there is a formal university conduct process taking place in response to the racist vandalism incident. She also commented on the mental health counseling services available at BC, which she said are staffed at appropriate levels for the number of students at BC.
A major concern expressed by students in the resolution was the proposal to increase the number of mental health professionals in University Counseling Services (UCS) that are also people of color. Moore responded that the UCS “staff is just under 40% clinicians of color” and noted that students are able to request professionals of color when working with external mental health care providers, without committing the university to add two professionals of color to the UCS by the fall 2020 semester as asked for in the resolution.
Moore expressed the administration’s intention to expand the Difference, Justice, and Common Good courses that discuss differences, as well as to work with the DiversityEdu Task Force to investigate new ways to integrate diversity and inclusion in academic settings.
The resolution also asked that applicants to Boston College be required to write a supplemental essay about what it means to be an inclusive community that is accepting of diversity. Moore's letter stated that BC already has a supplemental essay prompt regarding inclusivity.
While there is a supplemental essay prompt addressing inclusivity in the Boston College application already, students also have the option to choose one of the three other prompts that do not require applicants to think about diversity and inclusion.
In response to the resolution’s call to double the budget for the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC), Moore responded that doubling a program budget is “simply not feasible,” but that administrators are open to meeting with students for feedback on program resources.
The resolution’s request to have a student-elected representative on the Board of Trustees was denied because “the BC Board does not favor including students among its members.”
Moore said that the university plans to hold a series of conferences, as well as host community gatherings, on topics related to diversity and inclusion. She also stated the university’s commitment to “its deliberate, ongoing efforts to attract a diverse faculty, as well as its commitment to a diverse student body.”
She closed the letter by looking to a future with more communication between UGBC and administrators regarding important issues to help Boston College, “more fully realize it's goal of being a loving, respectful and inclusive community.”
Following Moore’s response, The Gavel spoke with several student leaders involved in formulating the resolution about the administration’s response and what steps they are planning to take moving forward.
Michael Osaghae, MCAS ‘20, head of the AHANA+ Leadership Council and recently elected president of UGBC for the 2019-2020 school year, believes that the response is a positive step, even though there was some push back on a lot of the resolution’s main points.
“Within the administration's response, there were key points where UGBC and our student body can collaborate, such as harnessing student voices to better gauge whether BAIC needs a budget enhancement and implementing a robust series of conferences on the topic of identity,” said Osaghae. “I hold the belief that we, as students, do not always have to agree with the administration and should stand firm on positions we want to see incorporated, such as a student representative on the Board of Trustees.”
Moore’s comment about first-year seminars including diversity stood out to Osaghae as something the student body should continue to advocate for in the future.
“Although I believe that we all are working towards a better BC, we are capable of accomplishing much more in the near future and creating tangible change that produces real results aimed at improving the BC experience,” said Osaghae.
Resolution sponsor Grace Assogba, MCAS ‘22, stated that while she understands the institutional challenges that arise when confronting structural racism, she believes there is still more to do.
In particular, Assogba is a strong advocate for adopting a first-year seminar to immerse and engage students in conversations regarding historical and present effects of racism and structural injustice, in addition to teaching cultural competency.
“I strongly believe that to fix this issue, we must turn to the root of what makes us men and women for others—our education,” said Assogba. “Moving forward, I hope that I do not feel unsafe and in danger attending this institution.”
Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS ‘20, another sponsor of the resolution, expressed disappointment with the administration’s letter.
“[The University] rejected nearly all the recommendations made by UGBC, despite the fact that they were co-signed by over 4,000 students, staff, faculty, and alumni,” said Sheikh. “They did not indicate any tangible, specific, measurable or time-bound steps that they would take to make BC a more inclusive and informed student body regarding issues of race and racism.”
Sheikh is hopeful, however, that there will be more opportunities for student leaders to meet with administrators to express the student body's wishes and reach a compromise.
“I was pleased to see the continuation of community gatherings and the possibility of a five-year conference series, but nearly every other recommendation was rejected,” said Sheikh.
Taraun Frontis, CSOM ‘19, is the vice president of United Front and vice president of diversity and inclusion branch of UGBC. Though he was emboldened by the growing response rate from administrators, he said that he felt emotionally set back by the university’s email.
“I felt like the email lacked a lot of empathy,” said Frontis. “It was more of how everything’s not going to work. We worked so hard on that resolution and they shot it down point by point.”
Frontis is working with the newly elected executive team of UGBC to pass down institutional knowledge.
“We have to figure out new ways to make change and be consistent," said Frontis.