Boston College didn’t formally integrate until 1968, almost five years after the University of Alabama. Today, 48 years later, white people still make up 84% of BC’s faculty, 96% of our vice presidents and deans, and an estimated 96% of full members of our Board of Trustees (a group that currently includes no one who identifies as Black or African American). In November, the Executive Council of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College made the point that “when top-level administrators meet to make institutional decisions, only white voices are heard.”
Institutional practices that privilege and reward Whiteness have been incredibly resilient at Boston College across generations, just as they’ve been at other universities. In our recent spotlight on NPR, we discussed why we think a growing number of students in the US are resisting this racialized status quo. We hope these three key points will help more groups push their campuses toward reform, even as they face backlash and pressure from administrators not to challenge institutional racism or even name it as a problem on campus:
1) Collaboration is critical. The more diverse the group can become (in backgrounds, institutional power, positions on campus such as undergraduate and graduate, etc.), the less likely it is that calls for change will be framed as the wants of a special interest group instead of the critical needs of a community. Furthermore, this is an opportunity to help create the community you wish existed on campus, one that helps address the harm racist systems do both to white people, socialized into racial dominance, and to people of Color.
2) Feelings and fear often trump facts and evidence. Don’t assume that simply sharing research and data, however compelling, will convince administrators to acknowledge and address the problems you raise. In response to evidence of institutional racism, people may try to intimidate you or make you feel bad for taking a stand. The emotional politics of racism are powerful. This is why creating a community of support is crucial.
3) Problems with resource allocation need solutions that change resource allocation. Problems like institutional racism and absent support for working class and poor students weren’t caused by lack of discussion. They’re rooted in the political economy of higher education and histories of racism and classism. To address them, consider targeting your critiques at resource allocation and control, and pairing those critiques with a vision of alternate ways to distribute resources and power. Refuse to believe that endless dialogue and meetings on “diversity” and “inclusion” are a sign of progress, especially when those conversations are used to litigate whether systemic bias, discrimination, and inequality even exist.
One of EBCR’s faculty allies likes to remind groups she speaks with about racism that it’s a problem that developed over centuries and won’t be solved quickly in higher education or any other area of social life. Her words indicate why organizing for the long haul is important. At the same time, we believe students should push for politics that acknowledge the immediacy of the harm done by institutional racism—using direct action and other forms of public dissent. Last year (and already in 2016), students at Brown, Yale, Mizzou, Brandeis, and Ithaca, among other places, showed the power of these methods to deliver gains. Groups like EBCR have more work to do as we learn from their example and our own experience carrying the history of anti-racist struggle forward on our campuses.
Eradicate #BostonCollegeRacism (EBCR) is an organization of Boston College students, staff, and faculty, as well as supporters and volunteers around the country. They formed in spring 2015 after the non-indictment of former Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown and have grown from a few students publishing infographics to a movement that uses research and direct action to challenge institutional racism and white supremacy within Boston College. Contact them on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Boston College Office for Institutional Diversity, September 2015