This article is a part of a larger feature series titled Taking the Temperature of Diversity and Inclusivity at BC in 2018.
ichael Osaghae, chair of the AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC) and MCAS ’20, never thought he’d reach this point.
He’s always been passionate about the issues ALC works to solve for the Boston College community and the AHANA+ community within the institution, the management aspect and overall breadth of issues he has to cover in ALC now wasn’t something Osaghae saw on his horizon when he arrived in Chestnut Hill.
He immediately noticed, though, exactly how difficult it was to find students or administrators on campus having the hard conversations that encourage a more inclusive campus.
“It started at orientation,” Osaghae said. “I got placed in a group that wasn’t very diverse and I realized that these conversations around diversity, around identity, weren’t going to prominent—weren’t going to be pushed for. They definitely weren’t going to center around my experience as a black man and being marginalized.”
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”left” size=”2″ img=”https://magazine.bcheights.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/michael_longform_2-1.jpg” quote=”"I realized that these conversations around diversity, around identity, weren’t going to prominent—weren’t going to be pushed for. They definitely weren’t going to center around my experience as a black man and being marginalized."” cite=”Michael Osaghae, MCAS ’20” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]
saghae noted that when he got into BC, he “hit the ground running.” He sought out places where he could find a home—such as ALC—make new friends, integrate further into BC’s social culture. That said, he noticed that some people of color got left behind—some students didn’t have places where they could go to center themselves and to process their BC experience.
“I was an orientation leader this summer, and it was sort of to combat that—to provide representation in spaces that aren’t normally occupied by marginalized folks,” Osaghae said.
He said that being a student of color at BC is a microcosm of America’s more general culture surrounding marginalized groups. To Osaghae, part of the experience of being a student of color is continuous discomfort as you process your experience—both in America and at BC.
Osaghae’s mission is concentrating on areas where BC can improve in order to help students of color both process this discomfort and establish a culture where that discomfort won’t be inherent to the experience of marginalized students going forward. That means asking questions about how individual students of color and communities of color can advocate for themselves moving forward. If people of color are going to continue to be marginalized, how can people of color support each other in addition to advocating among other cultures that create the discomfort in the first place?
One of the issues Osaghae and ALC are working on at the moment is expanding the Multicultural Learning Experience (MLE) floors to Newton. Osaghae isn’t just looking to expand that experience beyond Main Campus though, he’s looking to revitalize it. That’s part of the rationale that he kept in mind as he approached adding input to what the Student Experience Survey should look like: The only way to better understand what needs to change is to talk to the people who are searching for such change.
The survey itself is extremely important to Osaghae.
“It’s probably the first opportunity students have to really make sure their voice is heard,” Osaghae said. “Especially when it comes to being marginalized, being a student of color, you’re never really going to have this platform to really air out your experiences, sit back with yourself, and ask BC to make changes that you see fit.”
Osaghae is happy with how the survey came out in the end, even if it’s not going to serve as the end-all-be-all in regards to handling issues pertaining to diversity and inclusivity on campus—ultimately, it’s a step in the right direction. He said he hopes it paves a pathway for students to get their word in with the administration. Students—ALC in particular was heavily involved in putting the survey together—were a part of the process of putting this survey together, and although Osaghae said that students will find problems with the survey, they should participate and then express those issues so that they’re taken care of moving forward.
“How can we make the most of [the survey], and really channel our frustration, our pain, our joy into something that really covers the BC student experience in its totality,” he said.
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#8b0000″ text=”#ffffff” align=”left” size=”2″ quote=”"Especially when it comes to being marginalized, being a student of color, you’re never really going to have this platform to really air out your experiences, sit back with yourself, and ask BC to make changes that you see fit."” cite=”Michael Osaghae, MCAS ’20” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]
LC is also looking to create inclusive spaces for culture clubs. Within the AHANA+ Caucus, Osaghae is trying to make sure the group is working together to create an atmosphere of love.
On the administrative side, he commended the University for providing access to administrators who are willing to listen to student leaders. Osaghae noted that he’s been involved in conversations with administrators throughout his entire time at BC—administrators who have been willing to not only listen, but engage with the conversations student leaders have brought to University leaders.
On the other hand, Osaghae also noted that the University falls short in terms of transparency and accountability in regards to diversity and inclusion—not only in regards to what is going to be done but the steps utilized to reaching the conclusion that an action is the right direction for the University and its students to embark upon.
Osaghae said that the reason the Student Experience Survey was created on the ideology that students so badly wanted to speak and be heard. The problem was that nobody knew when it was coming, even though the idea for the survey was born a year ago during the Silence is Still Violence protests, according to Osaghae.
“That’s an example where transparency could have definitely improved this thing that is so transformative and impactful and powerful, and it has the potential to be all three of those things,” Osaghae said. “But it could have been amplified even more.”
In terms of what’s changed in the last year, Osaghae said he believes it’s happening in one area in particular: the student body.
“This year I’ve just seen an unparalleled level of activism, and a focus and a drive to really let people’s voices be heard across the board—whether it be student leaders, cultural organizations, the Class of 2022—just a revitalized energy that’s really needed,” Osaghae said.
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#8b0000″ text=”#ffffff” align=”left” size=”2″ quote=”"This year I’ve just seen an unparalleled level of activism, and a focus and a drive to really let people’s voices be heard across the board—whether it be student leaders, cultural organizations, the Class of 2022—just a revitalized energy that’s really needed."” cite=”Michael Osaghae, MCAS ’20” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]
e noted that the “die-in” was made up of plenty of underclassmen, which he believed was evidence that not only is this campus concentrating more on advocacy, but that change is ongoing. It’s the most heartening part of his job: Seeing people rise up and take the mantle—taking it upon themselves to create the change they seek.
That doesn’t mean the campus climate is permanently on that trajectory. To Osaghae, that means reflecting as a campus on how the student body can actualize the changes it wants to see at BC.
“I think it’s a little early to tell whether more students are in it for the long run,” he said. “With the administrators—we’ll see. But we’re all at BC, and we’re all in this together, so we should be building bridges together.
“Hopefully, we’re able to see students and faculty and staff and administrators all come together to create something, like in the aftermath of the student survey working toward [improved] AHANA+ hiring retention. These are issues that have been present since BC’s inception, so how can we make an atmosphere that’s better, and foster that and change it.”