Op-Ed, Opinion

OP-ED: How to Be an Anti-Racist University

Op-Eds do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author(s).

Emma Ly is a junior in the College of Engineering.

The Boston University administration, faculty and student body need to take serious action in the dismantling of white supremacy within the boundaries of our campus. This is only possible through uprooting our lifestyles and the systems in which we operate — by changing both short-term and long-term practices.

This university capitalizes on its radical, anti-capitalist alumni of color — such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — by luring in prospective students with white-washed quotes and million-dollar buildings. All the while, BU perpetuates disrespect, maltreatment and negligence toward their students of color, most notably toward the underrepresented Black students on campus.

In contradiction to our school’s mission statement of holding a “commitment to inclusiveness based on merit for all students, irrespective of race, religion or economic status,” President Robert Brown practices the opposite.

Brown shows a lack of concern for the Black community by writing generic letters tip-toeing around the murders of Black people at the hands of corrupt police systems, fighting a subpoena from the Boston City Council in 2014 concerning BU’s lack of campus diversity and tone-policing professors for speaking out against the ignorance of their white colleagues.

BU faculty and administration serve as an example to those they educate, and when they choose to implement anti-racist practices to the wider community, or choose not to, it shows their students how they should behave in the world as leaders.

The University should be using its resources and platform to practice anti-racist work and learn about, rather than shy away from, the challenges faced by Black, Indigenous and people of color.

First, BU must bring about immediate change to campus by eliminating the BU Police Department, which is a private police force funded directly from tuition.

Private university police departments, such as BUPD, have been known to harass and racially profile BIPOC. They have mishandled rape and sexual assault accusations, participated in reckless behavior, shot unarmed individuals and handed off upper-level positions to corrupt, racist and sexist police chiefs.

In response to the deaths of countless Black Americans at the hands of police brutality, Brown created the Community Safety Advisory Group as a reform to improve community relations with BUPD. In reality, police reform is proven to be ineffective and continuously detrimental to the safety of racial minorities and women.

Brown needs to instead reallocate BUPD funding, which totaled $5.7 million in 2016, into student wellness initiatives that will benefit the wider community. BU needs to diversify and increase accessibility to Student Health Services on campus and find ways to support local public schools, grassroots organizations and businesses.

Universities, including BU, promote gentrification of surrounding neighborhoods, and the victims are historically communities color. BU needs to show that it cares about its neighbors, not just the property it is taking from them.

Next, BU needs to end its contract with our dining service Aramark, which profits off of private prisons, contributes to climate damage and monopolizes local produce markets — which effectively drives small farmers and producers out of business. Aramark also takes advantage of migrant workers, gives little health benefits and was even ranked No. 6 on HuffPost’s 2015 list of lowest-paying companies in America.

BU should move to in-house dining services and partner with local restaurants and grocery stores to cater to its students. This option is healthier and more sustainable for our local economy and environment.

Choosing where to spend money is a political act, and BU sits on millions of tuition dollars. Yet, it reinforces the school-to-prison pipeline, the suppression of workers’s rights and props up monopolies by employing such unethical, large corporations.

Anti-racism must be integrated into every aspect of the University community.

The creation of an anonymous “tip line” will ensure accountability and transparency without whistleblower repercussions when investigating cases of harassment or other racist exchanges.

Following in the footsteps of other schools such as the California State University system, all BU students should be required to take an ethnic studies class built around topics focused on unraveling racist and historically inaccurate ideas planted in students’s minds from childhood.

By ensuring a deeper, cross-cultural and historical understanding for students and faculty, we will further our understanding of how racism is ingrained in university systems — such as the celebration of Columbus Day and Patriot’s Day — and unlearn white-washed narratives of progressive alumni and the racist history of Greek Life.

Since learning is “interdisciplinary across majors,” according to BU’s mission statement, we must address implicit bias and the effects of systemic, institutional and individual racism in all courses. We should be offering projects such as researching the effects of gentrification through STEM methods, addressing representation in American media and understanding the economic effects of redlining on Black Americans.

Every part of campus has the responsibility to be anti-racist. This includes taking a stance against white supremacy by removing hate speech and racist slurs from “free speech” protection and creating fundamental action steps in response to those occurrences.

Finally, BU must make its admissions more accessible to prospective students by not requiring standardized testing, eliminating legacy benefits and waiving application fees in order to offer equitable access to those outside of privileged communities.

BU’s lack of diversity is not an isolated incident: it is the outcome of hundreds of years of the same systemic and individual racism that keeps most universities white.

It is dangerous to believe that increasing racial representation is necessarily progress by itself, because then we are just putting more people in a dangerous and unhealthy environment.

Historically marginalized students, especially those who are Black, shouldn’t feel the need to tiptoe around their peers or “explain themselves into existence.”

It’s our job to create an empathetic environment where we hold ourselves and each other accountable, as well as have the humility to criticize ourselves and the human desire to love and care for one another.

We must understand that there is a problem with our University’s lack of accountability. We can no longer claim ignorance, which was never a viable option. It’s not enough to solely talk about change. Even this article on its own is a meaningless collection of opinions and ideas without any action to support them.

We can no longer wait for the University to take concrete steps, or be accountable and transparent.

We must demand it from BU.

More Articles

Comments are closed.