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Keith A. Francis Weekend in Conversation with Honest AHANA Experiences

Every April, BC hosts its Keith A. Francis AHANA event for students most recently admitted to the university. Existing as both a one-day and full-weekend event, it is a unique and important opportunity for incoming AHANA students to meet other students on campus who share similar backgrounds and identities. Although in the years following the pandemic, the event has been restricted to being held online in a shortened form, the class of 2027 will be the first group welcomed back for an in-person gathering. As advertised by the university website, it is the first year that both the single-day and full weekend programs will be offered simultaneously, with the intent of offering as many opportunities to get to know BC as possible. While there are traditional orientation days in the summer before their first semester, the Keith A. Francis weekend presents a chance for students to truly decide if there is a community at Boston College where they can feel at home. 

There is no doubt that the AHANA community at BC is tight-knit and strong; most students point to the Thea Bowman AHANA Intercultural Center (BAIC) as the heart of AHANA student life on this campus. Dozens of student organizations also focus on creating both all-encompassing and small, specific communities for students who only make up 35% of the total student population. When students are both willing to seek it out and know where to look, the community of AHANA students can be empowering. However, there are many aspects of the BC culture that prospective students do not learn about until after matriculation.

When asked about their participation in the Keith A. Francis Day in 2022, two members of the class of 2024 reflected on their experience as second-year AHANA students interacting with the attendees. The first student I spoke with recounted the prominence of questions about experiences of racism on campus from Black prospective students who were hoping for transparency. This student believes that the event can be helpful, but only because of the students who offer advice and extend a helping hand rather than because of the university’s efforts. The second student I spoke with also agreed that the event was valuable because it helped showcase many different cultural groups and organizations on campus spanning various activity types. While she appreciated the efforts of the event, she lamented that student volunteers were advised not to speak on the hate crimes and racism that happen on campus out of fear that it would deter students from enrolling. She felt that while this aligns with the positive intent of the program, it may help to blindside potential new students regarding the reality of being a student of color at BC.

It is clear that the program aims to portray the BC culture and AHANA community in the most positive light possible. While well-intentioned, current students at the university have more honest remarks regarding their experiences as students of color. A student in the class of 2024 remarked that the administration might admit students of color, but they do not listen or advocate for us. She described the constant feeling of being devalued and disregarded when it comes to being a student of color at BC, saying that it is rather isolating and you feel hyper-visible. A student in the class of 2025 spoke more specifically about the isolation experienced as a student of color in the Carroll School of Management (CSOM). They reflected on the constant attempt of professors to be “colorblind” while simultaneously refusing to learn about them as an individual. They also commented on the failures of the administration to take actionable steps to improve the conditions for AHANA students on campus, leading the community to feel constantly othered and disregarded.

As was made evident by the students who shared their experiences on campus, there appears to be a disconnect between portrayed and true experiences of AHANA students at BC. Two students from the class of 2023 and 2024 touched on the tendency for BC to market the rising percentage of AHANA students while simultaneously refusing to adjust the amount of support and resources the students require. The first student in the class of 2024 that I spoke with was extremely honest, stating that events targeted toward incoming AHANA students are very disingenuous at a school like BC, essentially relying on token staff and students to put on a facade of diversity. To these students and a majority of the AHANA community, the lack of support and response to hateful acts make it evident that the university holds no regard for its students who are not white.

As the Keith A. Francis event is rapidly approaching, it is imperative to consider the consequences of withholding true student experiences from prospective students. While the BAIC, its faculty members, and its students do difficult and positive work to make BC accessible to incoming students of color, the disconnect between what is displayed and what is true cannot be denied. The administration and student body as a whole is wildly different from the community that the visiting students are exposed to during their visit, giving them false hope and feelings of safety. It begs the question: by hiding the truth, are we welcoming our future AHANA eagles to a campus that will harm them?

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Bleachers music enthusiast and hammocking fanatic. Hoping to make the world a better place through oxford commas, feminism, and bagels.