For the last two semesters, students and faculty at Boston University have seen F— It Won’t Cut It signs and messaging all across campus. Now, they are at the center of a BU Student Government investigation.
StuGov’s COVID-19 University Oversight Committee opened a formal investigation into FIWCI March 21 to discover where their funding has been coming from and to look into allegations of harassment and abuse perpetrated by members of the public health initiative.
Ezra Bale, a senior in the College of Communication and chair of the CUOC, said the investigation has been on the committee’s pending case list since December 2020.
“There’s just been a question of fairness and again, a question of behavior and funding,” Bale said. “That’s what we’re looking into.”
He said a motivation for the investigation’s launch were posts on the BU Reddit page that questioned where the money for FIWCI initiatives has been coming from over the past few months — for example, on last week’s Wellness Day, the organization gave out 1,000 free Bluebikes codes for BU students.
The post on Reddit also drew attention to how FIWCI was able to “hold outside events while [Student Activities Office] student organizations, up until recently, were not allowed to do so.”
In addition, Bale said he and other members of the CUOC had heard allegations of verbal abuse committed by members of FIWCI, which he could not provide more information about.
“A sort of superiority complex seems to be the commonality in some of these allegations,” he said.
Currently, the investigation is in its early stages. Bale said the CUOC is reading old BU Today articles detailing the origins of FIWCI and contacting the campaign’s administrators and founders.
The investigatory body’s next steps will be to put out a survey for students and faculty to detail experiences with FIWCI and eventually, Bale said, a public report will be released by the CUOC with their findings and suggested actions for the administration to take.
“I believe there are things that F— It Won’t Cut It does that are very beneficial to the school,” Bale said. “This is not to be something that is belligerent, it is not meant to be something that is harmful or an attack or anything like that. We just want to know the truth.”
While Bale said his committee is in the process of reaching out to administrators and the founders of the campaign, FIWCI strategist and project manager Hannah Schweitzer, a December 2020 COM graduate, said the group has yet to hear from the CUOC about the investigation.
Schweitzer said she cannot comment on how BU communicates its budgeting and plans, but she understands why some believe it is a student organization rather than a public health campaign, given it is run by a team of 15 students.
“We’re answering those DMs, we’re behind that account, we’re sending out those Bluebikes codes,” Schweitzer said. “It does look like a student organization, but it’s a campaign and it’s just a bunch of students really passionate about talking about COVID safety.”
Hailey McKee, a public relations manager for FIWCI who earned her master’s at BU in December 2020, said while the group has seen posts on Reddit asking for students to come forward with their negative experiences with the organization, they have yet to hear directly about any allegations of verbal abuse the CUOC is investigating.
“Of course, we’re absolutely disappointed and disturbed to hear of any allegation, whether that’s harassment or abuse,” McKee said. “We encourage anyone who has felt this way to please talk to us.”
BU spokesperson Colin Riley said the CUOC’s investigation will learn that FIWCI is an academic program funded by the University’s “investment to deal with COVID-19.”
He added its work, in part, allowed for BU to remain on campus throughout the Fall semester and emphasized the national recognition they have received.
“It doesn’t sound like someone doing an investigation is giving them recognition,” Riley said, “for the extraordinary job they’ve done.”
Riley said the “confusion” over FIWCI receiving supposed special treatment from BU possibly stemmed from people suggesting the campaign is a student organization rather than an academic program.
“I think it’s been extraordinarily transparent, we’ve said from the outset what this work is,” he said. “It’s been important work, it’s been extraordinarily successful. Anything that suggests otherwise is missing the point.”
Vanessa Bartlett contributed to the reporting of this article.
CORRECTION: A previous version of the article misstated that Ezra Bale is a senator in the BU Student Government. Bale is no longer a senator as of February. The article has been updated to reflect this.