For more than a week, Boston University students have been overwhelmingly disappointed in the University’s response to recent events surrounding police brutality.
Following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Abery, among many more, BU students have collectively raised nearly $125,000 in seven days in support of the Black Lives Matter movement through a joint fundraiser coordinated by dozens of campus organizations.
Students have called on the administration to match this amount in an act of support for the movement.
This donation would be an impactful gesture for the University to make, and it would show solidarity with the student body’s aims.
However, despite BU’s substantial wealth relative to even most other private institutions, making a commitment to match all donations may not be realistic following recent financial tolls taken by the COVID-19 pandemic.
President Robert Brown announced that the University would suspend employee retirement contributions, go under a hiring freeze and implement cuts to optional spending. In addition to these measures, senior leadership have taken pay cuts and layoffs remain a possibility.
Though it’s clear these past few months have induced significant financial strain on BU’s budget, the University also remains committed to implementing affordableBU, a program that will meet 100 percent of student financial need starting with the Class of 2024.
Logistically, it is understandable if the University cannot make a promise to match the full amount of funds raised. Such an action could prompt further cuts to campus staffing and resources when, instead, BU could choose to invest that amount in campus resources that benefit both the school and the BLM movement.
Still, this does not mean the school should not be donating.
It is reasonable for the University to make a sizable donation, even if it cannot match. Some individual donors within senior administration, such as Brown, can afford to give much more than what they have contributed so far.
Yet donating money — while encouraged and appreciated — is much easier than creating visible change. BU administration needs to take the time to look at the inequalities within its own institution and create a plan that involves concrete steps forward.
BU recently announced the launch of an anti-racist research center that will be spearheaded by a leading historian on racism, Ibram X. Kendi. The project had been in the works for close to a year now, so this was conveniently golden timing for the University.
Regardless, this center is a meaningful step toward addressing the problem of racial inequity throughout the BU community. As students of this university, we want to see true changes implemented come Fall, and this is one tangible development.
That being said, BU must look inward and implement more change rooted in self-awareness, starting in the classroom.
The curriculum itself perpetuates a white culture, as a majority of classes teach from white authors. We need mandatory courses covering African-American history, Native-American history and the history of other minorities that have been systematically oppressed in this country.
A genuinely comprehensive curriculum would include more voices from scholars and professionals of color. To graduate from this university as truly well-rounded and informed citizens, students must leave with a larger understanding of and empathy for those oft glazed over in our textbooks.
STEM skills have grown to be prioritized in academia, and it may seem as if traditional humanities studies are growing irrelevant. But the sort of issues — such as systemic racism — studied in humanities pervade every aspect of life, including professions founded in technology and medicine.
Black women are three to four times more likely to die due to pregnancy complications than white women for a variety of systemic reasons. One big factor is that doctors often undervalue the severity of these women’s symptoms, not believing their complaints as readily as they believe those of white women.
This is just one example of why future doctors and practitioners need to be educated on the racial disparities still prevalent in this country.
To ensure a more diverse curriculum, BU needs also to intentionally hire a more diverse staff — this goes for all aspects of campus. It seems that, often, those who are in authoritative positions are white. For a college campus, that is unacceptable. A more diverse teaching faculty will create a platform for a wider array of perspectives and conversations to be held.
In addition to the lack of diversity among faculty, there is a disconnect between the racial groups on campus.
Many students choose BU because it markets itself as the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr.’s theology education, and as a community threaded together from 131 countries. But upon stepping foot on campus, some students are shocked to realize the actual demographics of the University.
Yes, BU is globally diverse, but not so much in terms of ethnicities and races on campus — students can oftentimes still feel ostracized. It is even more disappointing to notice the evident segregation between domestic and international students.
As a community, we have become complacent with the status quo and allowed this apparent divide between students to continue. Subtle yet ingrained barriers can be hard to breach, but students need to start reflecting on whether they themselves have been selectively forming relationships when considering what type of student they’re more comfortable approaching.
We can begin to combat this divide by changing the way Orientation is held. BU holds a separate Orientation session for international students, which seems counterintuitive — if a student chose to go to an American school, then they likely would want to meet more Americans. They cannot be excluded from such an influential bonding event before the start of their college experience.
Such a large international student population further evidences the need for a diverse staff that understands how to treat all students with respect and equality. It is problematic for professors to delineate their students based off of race, yet some have been said to do so. BU must take the care to properly train its staff to recognize their underlying biases.
Moving forward, BU also needs to focus its attention on amplifying diverse voices and serving diverse needs.
That includes inviting more people of color to speak on campus. It also includes diverting funds to resources for students, such as mental health services, that are beneficial for students across the board.
This country has a lot of work to do in learning how to effectively combat the racist values it was built on. But BU can make an incredible contribution to the future of this nation if it commits to doing more — beyond matching a donation amount.