Boston College has been the subject of national attention the past week or so, following a pair of racist incidents and a subsequent walkout by students protesting what they call the administration’s years-long failure to directly confront racism on campus.
In the first of the two incidents, two Black Lives Matter signs on dorm room doors were defaced, made to read “Black Lives Don’t Matter.” In the second, a screenshot of a Snapchat was circulated online, showing a blackened sandwich with the caption “I like my steak and cheese like I like my slaves.”
Provost and dean of faculties David Quigley and vice president for student affairs Barb Jones released a statement acknowledging “several incidents of racist behavior,” and reaffirming that “Boston College condemns all acts of hate and is committed to holding any student who violates our standards accountable.” They report that a further investigation is ongoing. University spokesman Jack Dunn said the BC Police Department and the Office of Residential Life are aware of the events and are conducting that investigation.
But the mood of the walkout on October 18 was one of hurt, anger, and dissatisfaction with the administration’s response. Students shared their experiences of racism on campus: some recalled posters for Hispanic Heritage Month being defaced; others having their hair touched and played with; and others being subjected to racial slurs, and even being pelted with fried chicken. A student named Howard Huang asked, “How many times have we had to fight injustice at this Jesuit institution,” which then “just sends out a short-ass email and just calls it a day?”
Such sentiments aren’t new. For years, student groups such as Eradicate Boston College Racism have accused the administration of being indifferent or hostile to anti-racism movements, alleging that the administration prefers to characterize racist events as mere isolated incidents rather than as part of a pattern or indicative of the larger culture. In a 2014 letter to the administration, black students accused the school of being more interested in talking about “diversity” than in addressing concrete instances of racism. Students have also accused the administration of blocking protests by threatening disciplinary action if protests are not registered and approved.