Arthur Christory / Gavel Media

CJBC Put on Probation: BC Doesn't Want Climate Justice

Climate Justice at Boston College (CJBC) has been put on probation.

This comes in the wake of CJBCs annual “Break Up With Fossil Fuels” Valentine’s Day event. The club tabled for two days, inviting the student body to write valentines about divestment and climate action, followed by a protest and march to deliver the valentines to Father Leahy. 

The “Break Up With Fossil Fuels” event is Valentine’s Day inspired and coincided with Global Divestment day intending to “show the environment some love,” according to their Instagram promotion post. The essence of this open event was to demonstrate the anxiety and frustration students feel over the climate crisis and to encourage BC administration to take moral and decisive action reflecting these student concerns. Given the purpose of this event, CJBC elected not to censor or read through the valentines prior to delivery. 

Of the several hundred valentines collected and delivered to Father Leahy, a handful contained inappropriate language. For the next month, the administration was in contact with the CJBC E-Board regarding inappropriate language found in the valentines. In the several years that CJBC has put on this event, this is the first time the administration has responded.

In the first week following the event, the E-Board was contacted regarding the valentines and given little information other than an invitation to discuss the event in a non-formal meeting. At the end of that same week, the board met with Tom Mogan to hear the administration's concerns and explain a few things, including that the event was open to the student body, that club members were certainly not the creators of valentines with inappropriate language, that the valentines were not sorted through, and that they had no knowledge of the foul language. The board also issued a formal apology letter to the administration, outlining procedures to ensure that it would never happen again. 

The issue seemed to be resolved. Then, E-Board received another email about an incriminating TikTok video that came to the administration's attention. The TikTok, which has since been removed, contained a split-second image of one of the said valentines. That week, a formal conduct hearing was brought against the club with charges of disorderly conduct, specifically abusive language, and failure to comply by providing false evidence. 

Ultimately, the E-Board had no knowledge of the inappropriate valentines, and the office of conduct consequently found the board not guilty of providing false evidence. Furthermore, the office found CJBC guilty for disorderly conduct, ordering disciplinary action against the entire club in the form of probation, effective immediately until March 2023. The probation will entail regular meetings with OSI staff to closely coordinate (or rather control) budgets and events and the prohibition of holding another “Break Up With Fossil Fuels” event. For a club that already receives little funding and is closely patrolled by OSI, this will significantly affect its activities.

This is not the first time CJBC is facing censorship and intimidation tactics by the administration.

Just last year, the club hosted an off-campus protest in May, dubbed “Rights On The Heights,” to provide an open forum for students to express their concerns about climate justice, racial justice, LGBTQ+ justice, and other social justice-related issues on campus. The first scheduled protest was canceled in response to an email personally sent by Tom Mogan to E-Board just hours before it was to occur. The email threatened to bring disciplinary action on any attendees of the protest, justifying action with the violation of Covid policies. At this time, the protocol for the protest was entirely within the safety precautions outlined by the state of Massachusetts, city of Boston, and city of Newton, with participants outside, six feet apart, and wearing masks. That same year, the official Boston College Instagram also made a practice of deleting comments made by the @BCClimateJustice account. There is a long history of censorship and disciplinary action against social justice groups in opposition to the administration.

Bringing disciplinary action against a club historically targeted by the administration for “abusive language” has interesting implications given Father Leahy’s stance on free speech. In a rare interview from 2017 on bridging America’s divide, when asked if he believes in “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” to protect students from offensive language, he responded with no. Father Leahy states he believes there is a “softness” in people who don’t want to be disagreed with, emphasizing that challenge is a good thing.

The intended message of the protest was clearly lost on the administration. It is a shame to think all of the hundreds of handwritten heartfelt valentines personally delivered to Father Leahy’s house were outshone by less than ten vulgar sentences, which in no way represented the club's values. Throughout the conduct process, CJBC was incredibly apologetic and affirmed to the administration and the conduct office that they do not support the use of offensive language in activism. 

After three weeks of poor communication with E-Board regarding the status of their club and personal conduct standing, members have expressed feeling blindsided and unfairly punished. As one of the only campus groups that openly criticizes and challenges the Boston College administration, it is an injustice to see activists go punished for words not even their own. As a school that prides itself on teaching its students how to pursue justice, it is undeniably disappointing to effectively eliminate the only climate justice group on campus. 

 

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