Boston College has again rejected student appeals for greater LGBTQ support on a campus which has been slow to provide in contrast to many of its Jesuit university peers.
The new leaders of student government for the coming year, Christian Guma and Kevork Atinizian, had campaigned on developing a plan for how an LGBTQ resource center could be established on campus, reported campus newspaper, The Heights:
“Guma and Atinizian have held two virtual meetings with [Vice President for Student Affairs Joy] Moore and one with [Director of Student Outreach and Support Caroline] Davis since being sworn in in late April, with the goal of first establishing a dedicated space for LGBTQ+ students and then working toward a full center. Guma said he believes the administration is negotiating in good faith, but Moore told The Heights in an email that a center for LGBTQ+ students is ‘not a current university priority.’ . . .
“Moore added, though, that the recent establishment of Student Outreach and Support Services (SOSS) as a separate office from the Dean of Students Office has resulted in a new space for students served by SOSS, including LGBTQ+ students. In an interview over Google Hangouts, Davis said she hopes that the space, which contains a “cozy waiting room” with rainbow couch pillows, will become a place where LGBTQ+ students feel they can come freely.”
Moore admitted that LGBTQ students are clear they do not always feel welcome and/or safe on campus, though Moore defended the college as having existing resources like a peer mentoring program and an LGBTQ retreat. Davis was a little more forward, according to the news story:
“Davis, who works extensively with LGBTQ+-identifying students, said she would support a University decision to build an LGBTQ+ resource center but, because the University does not seem willing to establish a center, feels her energy could be better used supporting LGBTQ+ students in other ways that might accomplish some of the goals of a center.
“Davis said that the biggest area SOSS is lacking in its ability to support LGBTQ+ students is a lack of dedicated staff—Davis is currently the only full-time staff member working to support LGBTQ+ students [as a small portion of her job]. The other branches of SOSS, Disability Services and Case Management, which works with students in crisis, both have dedicated full-time staff working solely in these areas.”
The debate over support for LGBTQ students at Boston College, and specifically the question of a resource center that schools like Georgetown University have, has been ongoing for years. But college administrators have rejected student requests, in part on the basis of Catholic identity and financial decisions. But those reasons fall flat for many students. The Heights noted:
“BC doesn’t always base its policies on its faith, though. Last month, BC rejected the Vatican’s call for Catholics to divest from fossil fuels and other industries and companies harmful to humans and the environment, saying that BC’s ‘decisions regarding investments and governance are made by University leadership, in concert with the Board of Trustees.’
“Moore did not deny that BC’s stance on an LGBTQ+ resource center and LGBTQ+ issues in general is a financial decision as well—when The Heights asked if BC bases its LGBTQ+ policies on how they might affect donations to the University, Moore replied only that ‘Boston College is grateful for all donations made to the University.'”
In continuing to deny student appeals for greater LGBTQ support through a dedicated, staffed resource center, Boston College is slipping behind many of its Jesuit higher education peers. Some schools, like Georgetown and Marquette University, have full centers. Many other universities have implemented such things as gender-neutral housing and restrooms, “preferred name” policies, and an LGBTQ law clinic, among other initiatives. Catholic higher education has been a leader for the wider church in building inclusion. If Boston College wants to be a top-tier Catholic institution, it should look hard at its mixed record on LGBTQ equality and work to do better.
This post is part of our “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 7, 2020