This article was written after an interview with GLC Chair Chris Rizzo, MCAS '22. The GLC hosts open board meetings every Sunday at 5pm in Stokes 295S.
The Catholic Church is no stranger to controversy in its nearly 2000-year history, but perhaps the most well known in recent years is its opposition to LGBTQ rights; Boston College, as a Catholic Jesuit University, is no exception, as GLBTQ+ Leadership Council (GLC) Chair Chris Rizzo discussed.
Today, GLC is the main student organization for the queer community here at BC, but it is by no means the first. Lesbians and Gays of Boston College (LGBC) was first founded in the late 1980s, and went through several iterations before becoming today’s GLC. Established in 2003, the club made the move to join UGBC in 2011. According to Rizzo, wanting to avoid the eventual dissolution of clubs like LGBC, GLC wanted to establish themselves as a permanent part of BC. “We’re in it for the long haul, you know,” he said, referring to the club’s institutional integration. “We’re going to survive because we’re a concrete part of UGBC and Boston College as a result.” However, GLC’s position as a part of student government should by no means be taken as an indicator that Boston College is a pro-LGBTQ school.
The school’s opposition to many of GLC’s demands has two main roots, the first of which is BC’s Catholic principles. Father Leahy, while deserving of blame, shouldn’t be made out to be a boogeyman for a long and deeply rooted issue. Perhaps the most infamous example of tensions between secularism and Catholicism at BC is the fight between former university president Rev. J. Monan and Cardinal Bernard F. Law. Monan and the Archdiocese of Boston, who had conflicting ideas over new Vatican regulations that would allow the church to regulate Theology professors and in extreme cases, even cease for a school to be Catholic. Cardinal Law, in his 1986 commencement prayer, even prayed for BC to be “ever more clearly Catholic.” (BC Heights, Walk the Line) These tensions, while not directly related to queer issues, likely played a part in LGBC’s push for an LGBTQ LLC at Haley House in 1989 to be denied. And while Law was ultimately disgraced after he was found to have covered up the molestation of children within the archdiocese, many issues, including an LLC, still are opposed by the administration.
The second point of resistance at BC is the funding for the school. The school has the 48th largest endowment in the world and the biggest of any Jesuit school at $3.8 billion (as of last year). With such a large amount of money, it follows that the donors who are able to fund a large part of the endowment wield significant power over school policy. To ensure BC’s access to that money, Rizzo pointed out that BC “needs to adhere to certain principles and things that might not welcome LGBTQ student presence.” Inversely, changes that would serve to support the queer community would “run up against BC’s financial goals,” jeopardizing BC’s budget. Such an idea seems to be supported by a headline from The Heights from two years ago, which says “As BC Again Rejects an LGBTQ+ Resource Center, It Doesn’t Deny Donors Influence Its Policies.”
Indeed, the resource center has been one of GLC’s longest and most intense fights. The center’s symbolic value as a challenge to conservative Christianity has led to proposals being shot down in 2011, 2013, 2016, 2019, and most recently in November 2021. Historically, the administration has relied upon two main arguments, which the GLC has amended in their latest proposal, leading to Chris calling the latest rejection one “without a real reason being given.” The first argument is that of space. Boston College’s small campus has lots of competition for limited space, which means that a resource center oriented towards LGBTQ students does not fit. However, the administration’s rumored plans to build a new pavilion in upper campus to house several existing centers calls into question why they cannot fit what requires little more than what he called “a room and a desk.”
The second counter argument centered around that of money, which the administration argued would be an issue in creating such an office. However, even with a donor from the class of 1991 offering a donation of several million dollars to fund such a center, the administration denied the GLC’s application. And while the Office of Student Outreach and Support Services (SOSS) under Caroline Davis does run various programs supporting LGBTQ+ students including discussion groups, the Pride Peers mentoring program, as well as the Spectrum retreat, such efforts ultimately fall short of a dedicated LGBTQ resource center that many students argue that BC needs. Indeed, out of other schools in Boston, BU, Northeastern (founded 2011), Harvard, MIT (founded 2001), and Tufts (founded 1992), and Brandeis all have dedicated LGBTQ+ resource centers.
Despite the many challenges facing GLC and its efforts on campus, there has been progress made in recent years. AXIOS, which combines faith and sexuality, was finally founded in 2019 after a 6-7 year effort. A QBIPOC discussion group, initially denied by admin as a student organization, was able to be hosted by the SOSS as one of several of their discussion groups. The GLC has also worked with Shauna Cooper-Gibson to incorporate BC Allies into the Diversity Steering Committee, bringing more advocacy to the week of welcome’s diversity education program. In light of recent progress, one can only hope that soon the primary criticism of BC will be its slow commitment to LGBTQ rights, not the lack of one at all.