After a hiatus since the spring of 2019, the Allies of Boston College organization is coming back into the arena of student involvement this year, looking to bring more awareness, education, and representation of queer issues among the student body.
Founded in 2003 as a response to the addition of protecting LGBTQ students in cases of discrimination in BC student conduct, Allies was one of the first queer organization on campus. The group has worked with the GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC), the branch of Undergraduate Government of BC (UGBC) that focuses on LGBTQ issues, throughout its history, and members of the GLC were the ones who initiated bringing Allies back to BC this year, current Allies president Wells Arkins explained. Leading up to this school year, some of GLC’s goals included restarting Allies, getting an LGBTQ resource center on campus, and having educational interventions for queer awareness.
Upon its formation, Allies experienced challenges in naming their group in a way that aligned with BC’s restrictions because of the Jesuit ideology. “The university has had a pretty tough stance on how we name our queer organizations on campus. We’re not the ‘Gay-Straight Alliance,’ we’re the ‘Allies of Boston College,’ which is kind of ambiguous,” Arkins explained. Having an unclear name can make it difficult for new members to join the group or for students to get involved with their programs and events.
The group has not been active since the spring semester of 2019 when it went into a two-year-long hiatus because of a lack of student involvement. Leading up to this school year, leaders of the GLC initiated bringing the group back in an effort to bring more educational intervention on queer issues. Upon its relaunch, members of Allies were able to revisit the group’s constitution and propose changes to it. The group decided to add an education coordinator on the Allies executive board that will hopefully be able to go into dorms to provide more education on queer issues, Arkins said. The constitution itself makes it clear that Allies have to abide by Jesuit teachings, which can make it difficult for the group to plan programming and awareness. This, in part, was what made the group lose some interest back in 2019, Arkins said.
So far, Allies has two programs in the works for the fall semester, with dates to be determined. The first event they will be hosting is a beaded bracelet- and necklace-making table to put preferred pronouns on. “Even if you know you use cisnormative pronouns, having people know what to call you and having people know that you support using their preferred pronouns is something we think is really important,” said Arkins. They will also be doing a button-making event at which students will be able to make buttons with pride flags, pronouns, or anything else to bring queer representation to campus. The group is also hoping to host some events during Pride week.
As Arkins explained, Boston College has a student body and culture that isn’t always actively supporting its queer students, and every intervention to counteract that is a step in the right direction. “I hope the BC community gets a little more mindful. I don’t think the students of this campus are hostile towards queer issues, but I also know first-hand that there is hardly any education on them. There are things that people do that they don’t realize have a big impact on the queer community. Encouraging allyship and having people be more vocal, outspoken allies is going to do more to change the campus...to be completely honest, I think BC has in the last few years had this push to become one of the top universities in the country, and I think this is something in line with that goal. To be a more nationally recognized university is to be more queer-friendly.”