‘My Presence Here Does Not Mean Anything’

Editor’s Note

This timeline is the product of dozens of editors, several professors, and a number of alumni. It has been in development since the “Silence is Still Violence” March in October 2017. It chronicles the history of the black community at Boston College through the lens of Heights articles, as well as a handful of outside press clippings. It should be noted, however, that coverage in The Heights was far from complete and, at times, ignored important voices.  

While the University has embraced some of the more progressive aspects of the Civil Rights Era right up through the present day, there are some issues that plagued the very first black student on campus that today’s black student population still identify as problematic.

This is a story of a student body learning to engage the outside world through activism. This is a story about a Jesuit school learning to reckon with a nationwide legacy of racism. Most of all, this is a story of the painful progress BC has experienced as it slowly integrated black students into its culture and community—the successes, the failures, the apathy, and the passion that administrators, faculty, and students have experienced over the last 100 years.

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This section is about the trailblazers who came to Boston College as the first black students, and the initial viewpoints on race here at BC.

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March 1863 – Boston College is founded by Rev. John McElroy, S.J., in order to provide higher education to the then-persecuted Irish Catholic immigrants of Boston, and began accepting students a year later, starting on Sept. 5, 1864. While the University proved successful in serving the needs of the marginalized Catholics in Boston, its message of openness and inclusion didn’t extend to other groups.


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December 1921 – An op-ed column praising Atlanta’s mayor for vetoing a proposal that segregates churches is published in The Heights, the earliest student voice addressing racism in America in the paper’s history.

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February 1936 – Louis J. Delahoyde, BC ’36, speaks out against racial intolerance within the Church, criticizing it for driving black people toward communism. “The Negro is not a problem but our views toward him are a puzzle,” he said. “We are pleased with the humor of the Negro and pay fabulous sums for his entertainment. Witness the prices paid for the so-called hot bands of the Negro. However, his sorrow and pathos bore us immensely. But the cap and bells of the jester no longer satisfy the educated Negro in the classical cap and gown.”

September 1933 – Casper Augustus Ferguson, BC ’37, becomes the University’s first black student. At this time, other predominantly white institutions had made more significant strides in regard to civil rights issues. Its Boston-area neighbors such as MIT, Harvard, and Boston University had been accepting black students since the late 1800s. Only six black students graduated from BC in the following 10 years.

“He was miserable there, and he was continually reminded of the fact that he was different, by everyone,” longtime neighbor Sam Turner told BC Magazine. “Students excluded him from every club and organization because of his color.”

He would only return to campus twice despite living only miles away: once in 1961 to see Ernie Davis, who would go on to be the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy, and again in the late ’90s for an AHANA Alumni Association dinner in his honor.


Older New England colleges and universities were historical trail blazers on this front. Alexander Lucius Twilight was the first black man in the United States to earn a college degree in 1823 from Middlebury College. Amherst College, Bowdoin College, and Dartmouth College had the second, third, and fourth black graduates in the country over the next five years. Just years after BC was founded, Harvard University accepted its first black undergraduate student. Among Jesuit universities, Georgetown (accidentally) hired its first black faculty member, former slave Patrick Francis Healy, in 1868, who later went on to become the school’s president in 1874. BC’s late start left it with a lot to catch up on.


[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”“He was miserable there, and he was continually reminded of the fact that he was different, by everyone. Students excluded him from every club and organization because of his color.”” cite=”Sam Turner, Casper Augustus Ferguson’s longtime neighbor” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

August 1937 – Lou Montgomery, BC ’41, becomes BC’s first black athlete, playing as a running back for the football team. Faced with the prospect of facing other powerhouse teams, mostly from the south, BC chooses athletic legacy over the moral high ground and bars Montgomery from playing at these schools’ requests. This then-commonplace agreement was known as the “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” an understanding that schools with black players would bench them against southern schools. BC even took it a step further, benching him when southern schools came up to Boston. Between his junior and senior year, Montgomery is benched six times, including three home games and two bowl games.

Contemporary Heights coverage showed little concern on campus —Montgomery’s treatment was either barely addressed or acknowledged without challenge.

The closest the coverage of the discrimination Montgomery faced came to activism was in Nov. 1939, when the paper criticizes the “foolish and time-worn bias” of the South, but immediately conceded that “to correct this southern tradition would entail a complete eruption in the pile of principles that cause the South to hold race distinction.”

When this happened with Harvard’s lacrosse team in 1941, there was so much backlash that the university took a definite stance against it.

Montgomery’s story is often passed over in favor of less condemning episodes of Eagles history. BC Athletics has a page of its website dedicated to “The 1940 Team of Destiny,” but makes no mention of the sacrifices its running back made to get them there.

March 1938 – Catholic students from all over New England assemble at the Interracial Conference held at Providence College. They discuss how to equally include black people into the Catholic Church.


[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”"We admit that to correct this southern tradition would entail a complete eruption in the pile of principles that cause the South to hold to race distinction."” cite=”The Heights’ "Tabloid" column, 1939″ parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]


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October 1949Dr. Ferdinand L. Rousseve is hired as a special lecturer. Seven years later, he becomes the first full-time black faculty member, teaching fine arts in the School of Arts and Sciences and later the newly-founded Lynch School of Education.


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Historically, the Civil Rights Movement began when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in May 1954, mandating that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional. The time period is also marked by the lynching of Emmett Till in August 1955 and Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama, making her the symbol of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the “mother of the Civil Rights movement.” As the decade progressed, the Boston Busing Crisis brought the civil rights movement to Boston. Students on campus begin to criticize apathy toward civil rights. BC students and faculty begin to speak out on segregation toward the end of the 1960s, coinciding with a 1967 letter by Pedro Arrupe, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, in support of racial integration.


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November 1951 – The BC Sociology Academy establishes the Interracial Justice Commission. It is made “… to study and discuss racial issues from the student viewpoint.”

May 1954 – Brown v. Board of Education is unanimously decided by the Supreme Court. There is no record of any reaction on campus.

October 1955Coverage of the Emmett Till trial by The Heights. The article makes the case that the defendants were guilty of his murder and that the jury was racist.

December 1955The Montgomery Bus Boycott begins. There is no record of any reaction on campus.


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April 1960BC student Joseph Mullin writes a column entitled “Coffee-Colored Compromise” that condemns the apathy on BC’s campus. “It has been amazing to me that so many of the concerned voices of this campus … have as yet to speak out on the burning moral question of our decade: the battle by the Southern Negro for his constitutional rights,” he said.

May 1960Boston University News editorializes on the “despicable lack of moral fiber” found in institutions of higher education in Boston. The Heights, inspired by this, decries the apathy from BC students, but then suggests that “the very distinct possibility of Communist influences on popular demonstrations is sufficient to cause a mistrust of such actions by devoted anti-Communists.

May 1960 – On the sixth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the Emergency Public Integration Committee (EPIC) organizes a rally celebrating the anniversary and the progress made since the decision. Students from Boston-area colleges and universities attend, but none from Boston College.

March 1961 – An editorial titled “Listen, Patriot” denounces the Georgians Unwilling to Surrender (GUTS) movement, which opposed the admission of black students into schools in New Orleans. “We hope that Americans will recognize the paradox of this group calling its members ‘freedom-loving citizens’ and will not be influenced by the evil it dictates,” the editorial said.


[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”"Why is it that these institutions which make no pretense to being Christian can become overwhelmed by the immorality, not to speak of the illegality, of the situation in the South today, while we, who claim to be the true Christians, give assent by our silence to the white segregationists? This is a sad commentary on the social and moral consciousness of Boston College…"” cite=”Joseph Mullen, in "Coffee-Colored Compromise," 1960″ parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

June 1963 Thousands of students in Boston stay out of school to protest de facto segregation, or segregation that results from geographical and social sorting. Opponents of busing argued that since any disparities in opportunity or quality of education resulted from private choices and not the law, there was no need to intervene.

September 1963One month after the March on Washington, over 6,000 black and white protesters march through Roxbury to protest Boston’s school segregation, as reported by The Atlantic. The marchers demand that the Boston School Committee chairwoman Louise Day Hicks, who strongly opposed busing, be fired.

October 1963 – Law School Dean Rev. Robert F. Drinan, S.J. criticizes Boston for “ethnic grouping” and de-facto segregation.

November 1963Fifty-six faculty members issue a statement calling upon the city of Boston to redistrict the school districts with regard to the size of the population and break patterns of segregation. “Boston should be able to pursue educational experiments designed to ease tensions and frustration not only in the schools, but finally in the community as a whole,” the letter said.

November 1963 – Twenty-two faculty members deny de-facto segregation in response to their colleagues’ letter. “The undersigned think that in [our colleagues’] praiseworthy eagerness to make a reality the God-given principle of equality, such statements have overlooked facts connected with the problem that give striking evidence in at least six areas that the civic conscience is awake, that there is no policy of segregation in the Boston schools, that the city and the school authorities have been and are taking great initiative in the direction of redressing cultural inequity where it exists,” they said.

November 1963 – Public attention is shifted toward the University due to the two conflicting statements. Hicks praises the 22 faculty members who argued that segregation was not occurring in schools and criticized those who challenged the school system. This ended a long period of time in which the BC faculty appeared to be apathetic about community affairs.


[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”"If we look to the School Committee and the school administration to take the initiative in breaking a potentially vicious circle and in redressing inequities caused by prejudice, thoughtless custom, or mere inertia, it is because we expect education to provide as well as to foster leadership in the realization of American ideals."” cite=”A statement to The Heights from 56 faculty members, 1963″ parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

November 1963Almost 300 white priests, ministers, and students march in silence in front of Boston City Hall, the School Committee building, and the State House “to confess the responsibility of the white participants for de facto segregation in schools.” Among the marchers are several BC faculty members and students.

February 1964Protesting the Boston School Committee’s refusal to recognize de facto segregation as an educational problem, the Stayout for Freedom Committee, in conjunction with the NAACP, hold the Stayout for Freedom. Eighteen BC students participate.

March 1965James Farmer, the architect of the March on Washington and former national director of the Congress on Racial Equality, speaks at BC’s Law School Forum about the struggle for equality. He states that it could be achieved through two goals: to “tear down the walls of racism” and construct “bridges of brotherhood.”

March 1965A demonstration march runs from from Selma to Montgomery, nicknamed “Bloody Sunday,” due to the brutality and violence that Alabama state troopers used against the peaceful demonstrators. Seven BC students drive to Alabama the following week to demonstrate peacefully on behalf of the Southern Christian Leaders Conference.

March 1965Two opinion pieces are published, entitled “Civil Rights” and “Civil Wrongs.” “Civil Rights” argues that BC students should “commit themselves body and soul to this revolution,” referencing Selma. “Civil Wrongs” argues that BC should not send students to Selma due to the “unlawful” violence from the demonstrators.

October 1965Drinan criticizes Catholic racial apathy. “If anyone, and especially a Catholic Jurist, refuses to accept the fact of the basic inequality of racially unbalanced schools, he is either very ill-informed or prejudiced to the point where his bias, unconsciously or otherwise, clouds and changes his judgement,” he said.

May 1966 – BC is selected by the Office of Economic Opportunity to host the “Upward Bound” program, which brought black junior and senior high school students students to BC to participate in workshops designed to help them prepare for college. The program would continue for 10 years.



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November 1967 – Kevin White and Hicks face off in the Boston mayoral race. Hicks was a member of the School Committee and a fierce opponent of busing. On the topic of her bigotry, a 2017 retrospective by the Boston Globe said, “Her sly campaign slogan—‘You know where I stand’—left all that unsaid.”

October 1967A group of 12 BC students launch “Alternative,” a program in which they tour the country speaking to high school students in cities that witnessed racial violence.

November 1967Pedro Arrupe, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, releases a letter to every Jesuit in the U.S. calling for sustained efforts across the the Jesuit community and for Jesuit schools “to make increased efforts to encourage the enrollment of qualified Negros” through recruitment programs and financial aid.

The letter opens: “The gravity of the current racial crisis in the United States and its serious impact upon Christian doctrine and practice impel me to address this letter to you. I do so with a great sense of responsibility and after consultation with the American Provincials and other men knowledgeable in the field of race relations. The problem is urgent and complicated. It is not easy to put into writing what I would like to say to you, but I know you will read my words in the spirit in which they are written.”

March 1968In an effort to draw more black students to BC, the University establishes a $100,000 scholarship fund and recruitment program called the “Black Talent Program.” The program was based around a committee, which included two Roxbury community leaders, that would judge the applicants and “special tutorial program” to assist them upon admittance. The coordinator expected 25 students to attend the school under the fund in its first year. There were only 13 black students in the ’67-’68 school year. Still largely a commuter school, Roxbury was both nearby and almost entirely black.

April 1968One day after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., BC holds a memorial service on Bapst Lawn and cancels classes to encourage students to attend a demonstration in Boston. This event, located in Boston Common, gathers over 10,000 attendees who all came to mourn his assassination. The Heights described an “unspoken feeling of solidarity” at the gathering. The University Committee Against Racism leads all-day workshops on “Racism and the Black Rebellion.” Student leaders meet with and lobby administrators for the memorial, lack of classes, and workshop. Academic Vice President Rev. Charles Donovan, S.J., is initially hesitant to cancel classes because “he feared giving an impression of panic.”

September 1968 – In an orientation address to the freshman law students, Larry Schonbrun, the Law School chairman, said “As regards to racism and an orientation to Boston College, I’ll just give you some facts and you judge as you see fit. There are no black law professors here, but that’s true of most law schools. However, there is not one black person on the entire staff of the law school in any capacity. Last year, out of a student body of 500 we had five black students.”

January 1969The Black Forum of Boston College is created. As described in the paper’s ‘briefly’ section, it was designed to “develop its members’ level of consciousness regarding the politics of this campus and the Roxbury community, knowledge of black achievements in art, literature, and music, social sensitivity and awareness of blackness.”


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March 1969 – The Black Forum presents eight demands from the administration:

  1. Survey the curricula at the various greater Boston colleges and universities who have components which are relevant to a comprehensive Black Studies program.
  2. Determine what areas need to be supplemented and recruit black faculty members with an interdisciplinary background in the social sciences to offer courses in the specified areas.
  3. Propose a cross registration program to other universities with a program of Black Studies in which each university could supplement its own curriculum with that of other universities and consequently maximize its use of its own resources.
  4. Hire several full-time black faculty with joint appointments in the areas of social sciences who would spend one half of their time: 1) developing and implementing an interdisciplinary, comprehensive Black Studies program. 2) developing methods to acquire funds for endowed chairs in the Black Studies program.
  5. Join, and, if necessary, develop various consortiums with other universities to attract and finance black graduate students as well as an increasing number of black undergraduates.
  6. All personnel who are to be hired for the Black Studies program will have to be approved by the Black Forum
  7. The Black Forum will be represented in all transactions concerning the Black Studies program within the University and with other universities.
  8. A minimum of 50 blacks should be enrolled in the Class of ’73. The demands are mainly concerned with the creation of a Black Studies program, which would not be complete of its own.

April 1969 – Executive Vice President Rev. Francis X. Shea creates the University Committee of Black Students. The committee consisted of five students from the Black Forum; Professor Pierre Fontaine, their advisor; and Rev. Theodore Lockhart, the Assistant Dean of the Black Talent Search Program.

May 1969 – After eight weeks of meetings of the University Committee of Black Students and Studies, the University announces that a Black Studies program at BC will commence the following semester. Donovan, now Dean of Faculties, chairs the group. They discuss creating a Black Studies program either independently or in conjunction with other schools and acknowledge the fact that these courses would be taught by a primarily white faculty. The students on the committee also desire greater sway in the Black Talent Search, as they felt that their recommendations were being ignored. The same meeting creates an advisory body comprised of faculty and administrators.

September 1969BC admits 50 black freshmen under the Black Talent Program for the Class of ’73. The new director, A. Robert Phillip, announces that each would receive a counselor and tutor.

September 1969 – The newly created Internal Racism Project announces plans to work with the Black Forum to educate the staff, faculty, and students about problems facing black people through movies and discussion.

December 1969 – Dr. Jane Moosbruker, who is heavily involved with the Internal Racism Project, is denied tenure despite strong student and faculty support, letters of recommendation, and petitions. The last time this happened, in September 1969, there was student protest in support of her.

December 1969The Black Forum hosts conference for national black leaders. “It is not true that BC is without bigotry,” said Carl X. Lewis, president of the group. “My presence here does not mean anything.”

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After a decade of burgeoning activism,  BC and America seemed poised to acknowledge injustice across society. But time and time again, progress wasn’t always in a straight line for black students—in fact, the line progress took was often one that dipped. This era was no different. Black students were often left to extract concessions from the University without the help of their peers.

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February 1970The Black Student Forum holds a march of over 500 students. During the protest, black students decry the Black Talent Program as “tokenism” and accuse the administration of undercutting the program’s budget. They also share concerns with the recent satirical flyers with “Irish Catholic demands,” and a prying survey about spending habits that they believed to be mandatory. The next day, students hold a sit-in to demand a meeting with administrators. Notable portions of their requests include:

  1. a house in Roxbury for the business and social functions of the BSF
  2. a separate black dormitory on upper campus by September 1970
  3. for 10 percent of the class of 1974 be minority students and that half of that number be high risk
  4. appropriations out of the normal operating budget for the recruitment and financing of minority students
  5. elimination of the use of aptitude test scores as a major factor in determining eligibility for admission of minority students
  6. supportive services to all minority students to ensure successful college careers, including tutorial, counseling and summer programs

February 1970In response to the student strike, the Board of Directors establishes the Black Talent Scholarship Fund, which gives $500,000 in additional funding to the Black Talent Program, endorsed the creation of a committee on black students and studies, and promised to aim for 10 percent minority student population on campus “as soon as feasible.”

March 1970Black students occupy Gasson Hall after their demands are not met. The University threatens them with a restraining order, but no students are ultimately brought before the conduct board.

March 1970 – Moosbruker is again rejected from tenure by the A&S Promotions Committee, which was accepted by University President Father W. Seavy Joyce, S.J. The committee took over consideration “at the request of the Psychology Promotions Committee, which declined to decide ‘in view of the continued rumors and misinformation,’” the article said. As the President’s decision is the final step in the promotions process, Moosbruker has exhausted the possibilities of being granted tenure under regular procedure. She stated in an interview that she was uncertain concerning her future plans.”

October 1970 – Black students of Fenwick Hall argue that a dorm solely for black students is necessary “to help make this adaption to white society easier,” and to have “a haven from ignorant stares and rude behavior,” according to the article.

December 1970The Black Talent Program comes under fire by white students who felt that it received too many resources. The BPT budget increased by $125,000 every year until hitting $500,000 in 1972 ($813,200 and $3,253,000 when adjusted for inflation, respectively). “The Program has been criticized by some for draining unwarranted sums from the already anemic university budget. Many white students resent the high proportion of financial aid most black students receive, and feel threatened by black students’ attempts to establish their own community on the BC campus,” one Heights article said.

February 1971 – Phillips, the director of the Black Talent Program is dismissed following his recommendation that the students of the Black Student Forum take over the full administration of the program. Students had begun handling the program’s operations (but not establishment of policy), drawing criticism. In an interview with Boston College Magazine, Phillips described his motive: “I was treated pretty badly when I was here. I had to fight for an office. I had to fight for office supplies. I had to fight to get the trash emptied. And frankly, tactically, it’s a helluva lot harder to wage that kind of abuse against 50, 75 students. This was a one-man target until I included students in the process.”

September 1971 – A verbal exchange between a white security guard and a car of black students over parking on upper campus leads to about 15 black students throwing small objects, including rocks, at the guard. Black students also cite allegations of bookstore employees openly shadowing black shoppers to prevent shoplifting (bookstore personnel claimed 1 in 24 caught shoplifters were black), the replacement of pillows in the black dorm with old ones (student workers refused to do this, as they felt it was overtly racist), and a failed attempt at blocking the appointment of a professor to the Black Studies program.




[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=” "Many white students resent the high proportion of financial aid most black students receive, and feel threatened by black students’ attempts to establish their own community on the BC campus…Yet at the same time, most whites are ignorant of or indifferent to the real situation of the black student at BC."” cite=”A 1970 Heights article” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

September 1971Alice Jeghelian, a Nursing counselor and member of the Committee on the Role of Women (COROW), becomes Special Assistant to the President and the first director of BC’s new affirmative action program. Reporting at the time suggested that the University was expecting to be forced to start such a program by the government at the conclusion of an investigation into alleged sex discrimination policies.

February 1973The Board of Trustees approves the Affirmative Action Plan for equal opportunities in hiring.

October 1973 – The search committee for a minority dean continues after its last two recommendations withdraw from consideration. Some students fear that the dean would be expected to lead the Black Talent Program, which had been student-run since 1971. The committee was made up of “three faculty or administrators, two Spanish students, and two black students.”

October 1974 – The Black Talent Program criticizes the administration for not adjusting the program’s funding to match increased tuition costs, thus reducing it even further into “tokenism.”

February 1975 – Duane Deskins, BC ’76, becomes the first black UGBC president.

April 1977BC reexamines its minority program after the President’s Committee on Minority Education at BC calls the University’s handling of minority students “a record dotted with failure.” It finds that only 28 percent of minority students admitted in 1972 graduated with their class — well under the national average of “66 – 70 percent.”

April 1977Fenwick Hall is fully integrated in compliance with federal laws after seven years of mostly black students on the second and third floors. Many black students voice concern about the loss of a black community space.

September 1979UGBC replaces the “Minority Students of BC” office with “AHANA Students of Boston College;” the first use of the term. Students felt that the term “minority” was both pejorative and inaccurate.

“Minority is taken as a down grade [sic],” said UGBC Executive Assistant for Minority Affairs Alfred Feliciano. “It affects how the student evolves in the university.”

January 1977 – The first issue of Collage, BC’s “first minority paper,” releases. The paper would publish 12 print editions over the next two years. Each issue featured various events and speeches within the black community—both at BC and nationwide—and advice or opinions columns.




[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”"Fenwick itself is a black community, where blacks from different backgrounds get a chance to interact. Expanding Fenwick could cause a sense of loss of the black community vs. a community."” cite=”Kenniaah Samuel, Coordinator of the Black Talent Program, and Assistant to the Director of Minority Student Programs, 1977″ parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

October 1979 – The Black Student Forum raises concerns about University holdings in companies with South African interests.



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March 1980 – Dr. Charles Smith, a black professor, is verbally attacked by white BC students as he was driving home from campus. The students yelled racial slurs, including n—-r and s—-k, at him and threw their beer and pizza at his car. Two BCPD officers refuse to allow Smith to accompany them to the scene of the crime or Upper Campus to identify suspects, who were never found.

September 1980 – BC fails to admit a freshman class adhering to 10 percent admitted AHANA students. In the 10 years since the goal had been set, it was only achieved twice.

August 1981 – The Class of ’85 is 11 percent AHANA students, a marked improvement over the 8.4 percent of the previous year.

January 1982 – Amanda Houston is named Program Coordinator of the Black Studies Program, the first to fill the position.

February 1983 – The Black Student Forum writes a letter to the editor outlining problems at BC, primarily the 1.8 percent black enrollment and a perceived lack of interest by the administration in reaching out to potential AHANA students.

March 1983 – Black students reject the recent across-the-board praise for the University by University President Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J., saying that it ignored the problems with admissions policies and minority enrollment. “At this point in our history, all of the programs of the University are extremely strong, and on every side there is a level of enthusiasm and satisfaction with the University which is truly extraordinary,” Monan said.

March 1984 – UGBC and the Black Student Forum release “The Boston College Black Students’ Guide to Prospective High School Students” to supplement the standard recruitment literature.

October 1984 The Heights reports that total minority enrollment doubled in the past decade but black enrollment fell slightly.

October 1984 – The Boston College Black Faculty, Staff and Administrators Association calls on the University to speak out about the recent arrest of a black student by campus police.

“Given the recent authorization of some campus police officers to carry firearms, this incident and its handling should be recognized as unveiling a potentially dangerous situation,” the letter said. “One which, if not addressed, might both one day result in a person of color sustaining a tragic injury or loss of life, or foster development of such a poor public relations image of Boston College that efforts to recruit faculty, staff and students or to raise funds would be detrimentally impaired.”

1985 – Black Studies becomes a minor.




[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”"For an institution that outwardly and constantly states that they have a commitment to minority enrollment at Boston College it would seem advantageous for them to attend [a meeting with us]."” cite=”The Black Student Forum, 1983″ parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

March 1985 – Eight black students host a panel about race on campus alongside administrators. “Panelists spoke about the difficulty in finding social activities that would be of interest to black students. The students said they needed greater input in the planning of BC sponsored events. They also called for a stronger voice in UGBC. Housing conflicts often arose as some of these students found themselves to be the only black resident in a particular dormitory,” the article said.

September 1985 – The University divests their stock in companies with business in South Africa. Monan states that the decision was financially motivated rather than based on policy.

October 1988 – A senior writes an LTE concerning his experience with racism on campus, titled “BC’s colors not maroon and gold, just white.” He details personal accounts of stereotyping and prejudice as well as vandalism targeted at black students and unfair newspaper coverage of black athletes’ academics.

March 1989 – Dr. Voncile White, a black professor, receives a threatening note targeting her for speaking out about race on campus. “Please, do yourself and the BC community a favor: don’t think we are all racist, mean, rich white people,” the note read. “Be nice to us in a sincere way and stop walking around here with such anger and hatred. [Signed,] A Friend.”

October 1989 – AHANA House is renamed to Thea Bowman Center. During the dedication ceremony, Bowman calls on AHANA students to teach the BC community to include AHANA in the first stage of plans, not just the final stage, and challenges the white BC community to find out how it feels to be a person of color.

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As a new millenium approached, the activist spirit that defined the ’60s returned to campus. Protests over racist incidents or feelings of helplessness courtesy of an administration lacking the racial credibility black students—or any other race for that matter—were searching to spark direct action. But for all the statements, marches, die-ins, and many other public displays of distress, students began to face a new question: …had anything changed?

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September 1993The core includes “cultural diversity” as a requirement for the class of ’97.

“The purpose of this requirement is not to create a BC Utopia that is free from all racism and prejudices,” one Heights article said. “It is evident that one course could not accomplish this unrealistic goal. According to Professor Richard Cobb-Stevens, the requirement should provide students with a ‘serious acquaintance’ with a culture that is non-western or a culture that has been ‘neglected’ in United States.”

February 1995Chris Stephen, a candidate for UGBC president, is challenged at a debate over his slogan, “Bringing UGBC Back to You.”

“No matter how you justify the slogan, it insinuates that they are bringing UGBC back to you … and that it was in the hands of the AHANA students,” said William Dorcena, CSOM ’95 and then-UGBC president.

The College Republicans of Boston College responds by saying that “Chris Stephen has not and will not back down to these liberal groups who fear UGBC will be run by the students who actually pay for it.”

Over 300 students assembled to demand a meeting with University President J. Donald Monan, S.J., who, with several other administrators, ultimately address them. Student demands include “a consistent response to all racist and discriminatory language affecting the BC community, an increase in the number of AHANA professors, a more diverse core and electives, and the recognition of the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community of BC.”

February 1995Fliers for a black professor’s lecture and a wall are defaced with racial slurs in Hardy and Voute. In a similar incident, an article written by a black graduate about her experiences at BC is covered with racial slurs and thrown into a bathroom.

February 1995 – 30 students from Family in Struggle Together (FIST) protest the racial climate at BC by assembling on the court during halftime of a basketball game. BC’s six black players join them.

December 1995 – FIST releases demands for the University following a closed-door meeting for AHANA students only. Their list includes higher enrollment rates for qualified black and Latino applicants, an emergency financial aid fund for black and Latino students, merit-based scholarships for departments with little student diversity, more diversity in faculty hires, and the creation of a position for a black or Latino administrator with influence over the hiring process.

March 1996 – Professor Ellen Friedman discovers a swastika drawn on her office door. The Heights condemns the lack of a strong response by the University in a statement titled “Silence promotes ignorance.”



[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”"We did it because of the extreme dissatisfaction we feel in response to the current racial climate at Boston College which is only representative of the basic conditions which have preexisted at this University, such as the percentage of black students enrolled, the hiring and treatment of black faculty, the treatment of black athletes and the current financial aid crisis besetting black students on this campus."” cite=”A statement released by FIST following their silent protest during a basketball game, 1995″ parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

November 1996 – AHANA council and UGBC co-sponsor a town hall meeting with representatives from BC and BCPD. Black students share stories of times they felt victimized by undue suspicion coming from BCPD.

1997 – Lou Montgomery is posthumously added to BC’s Hall of Fame.


[aesop_timeline_stop num=”2000″ title=”2000s”]

April 2001 – A guest columnist for The Heights writes about her experience with a black thief and past experience being sexually assaulted by a young black man. She said that she now struggles not to stereotype young black men as criminals, as it seems rational to be wary at this point.

The next issue contains responses by students who criticized the original piece for openly pushing and embracing stereotypes. There were six total respondants: Kashaka Nedd; Camille Y. Townsend; R. Vincent Lake II, Executive Director of ALC; Shedrick Gavin; Edward Stack; and J.M. Hairston.

A May 2001 Op-Ed defends the original piece, asserting that the responses were overly abusive and lacking in compassion.

February 2003 Associate Academic Vice President for Faculties Pat De Leeuw says in an interview with The Heights that hiring and retaining a diverse faculty is a high priority for the University. From 1992-2001, AHANA faculty grew from 42 to 70. The presidents of UGBC and Black Student Forum both endorse this push as necessary for the comfort of potential AHANA students.




[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”" I am no longer an innocent black man. I am the living memory of the fear you felt. Just as you have been twice a victim of robbery, I am daily a victim of stereotyping."” cite=”Kashaka Nedd, BC ’03, 2001″ parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

April 2004 – Obeying No Establishment (ONE) issue demands about racial diversity to University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., which included finalization of candidates for the director of the Office of Affirmative Action, the modification of the history core curriculum to become less Eurocentric, and the public release of police reports with information on the race and gender of suspects. When they find Leahy’s office closed, they leave. Later that day, two administrators make a public announcement offering a private meeting, but their microphone was unplugged by a student leader of ONE.

April 2004Members of ONE protest by Boston College’s Main Gate entrance on Marathon Monday, dressed in black with blindfolds over their eyes, which represent “the University’s blindness to their demands.” They also carry signs with messages, such as “Racists, sexists, and homophobes work here,” and “Boston College is blind to racial justice.” The next day, the group gives a presentation on the history of student activism at BC and past issues regarding AHANA student enrollment.

June 2004 – ONE demands that First Year Experience include a talk by Donald Brown, the director of AHANA student programs, and a representative from the Women’s Resource Center. Dawn Overstreet, assistant director of FYE, responds by saying that while discussion is welcome, the orientation program already includes skits and speakers addressing race.

November 2004 – The administration faces backlash while hiring a new associate director for First Year Experience. The student advisory committee, created after student protested against FYE in June 2004, felt as though one candidate had already been promised the job before the committee could interview any candidates.

May 2005 – BCPD responds to accusations of racial profiling through proposals to amend the complaint process, create a brochure with tips for police interactions, and release demographic statistics on arrests. These statistics showed that since 2000 the number of AHANA students arrested was proportional to the number of AHANA students enrolled, but critics say that data didn’t account for unrecorded stops and parties that had been shut down.

2005FACES is founded for the purpose of providing students with a better environment to discuss race and racism on campus.

February 2006BC’s Black Studies program is renamed to the African and African Diaspora Studies program under program director Professor Cynthia Young. The program was originally an offshoot of the Black Talent Program before becoming a minor.

September 2006University officials and student leaders condemn the swastikas that appeared in the AHANA Leadership Council (ALC) and GLBT Leadership Council (GLC) rooms over the summer. BCPD opens an investigation into the incident.

September 2006ALC meets to discuss hate symbols drawn in ALC and GLC conference rooms over the summer. Student leaders had written a letter to Leahy after the incident initially occurred, but discover he had not yet read it as of a meeting several days later. ALC also raises concerns about the secrecy surrounding the University’s hate crime protocol.

October 2006Students organize to call for a more clear and effective protocol for hate crimes after an allegedly drunk white student shouted racial slurs at black students. “We’re speaking out against the fact that there is no public or institutionalized hate crime protocol,” said Omolara Bewaji, 2005-06 president of ALC and BC ’07.  

October 2006 – Students and administrators attend rallies and community meetings to address a lack of protocol for hate crimes. Fliers that promoted white supremacy are found in several buildings days after the rallies.

November 2006 – In an LTE titled “President’s Message to Community,” Leahy condemns the hate symbols and asked “that all of us rededicate ourselves to helping BC live up to its heritage and ideals.”

November 2006 – Vice President for Student Affairs Cheryl Pressley submits an LTE describing the violent assault of a black student by three white men, one of whom was also a BC student. All three faced charges in criminal court, but both the victim and the suspects claim there was no racial motivation.

Pressley went on to address several popular “inaccuracies” concerning the October altercation between a white student and several black students.

“I can assure you that a ‘crime,’ as some have called it, was not committed,” she said. “By all accounts, a group of female students, black and white, got into an argument that evening. Apparently out of anger, one of the students used racially insensitive language. Her words conflict with the standards of what we expect of our students at Boston College. Her words, how ever, do not constitute a crime. Biased speech, however distasteful, is not criminal activity.”

Pressley further explains that both groups maintain that that physical altercation that ensued was in self-defense. Student services issues sanctions against all of the students.


[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”"We’re speaking out against the fact that there is no public or institutionalized hate crime protocol."” cite=”Omolara Bewaji, president of ALC and BC ’07, 2006
” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

February 2007 – BC comes under fire for a lack of Black History Month programming. “We’re not really doing much of anything. BC doesn’t really do anything for anyone’s history months,” said Noelle Green, president of the AHANA Leadership Council and BC ’07.


[aesop_timeline_stop num=”2010″ title=”2010s”]

April 2012 – United Front organizes a rally to raise awareness of the injustice of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Participants wear hoodies and held signs with messages such as “Do I look suspicious?” and “It’s not just black and white–we want to end the injustice!”

September 2012 – Three students share their experience with racism on campus at the first BC Ignites. The program is styled after the Women’s Resource Center’s annual “Take Back the Night.”

September 2012 – BC retires Lou Montgomery’s number.

November 2014 – Boston College students march across campus to gather in front of BCPD headquarters in protest of the grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson.

December 2014Over 60 faculty and students stage a “die-in” in St. Mary’s Hall to protest police brutality, the inadequate response by the administration, and University policy on free speech. Barb Jones, vice president for Student Affairs, and University Spokesman Jack Dunn questioned the protestors’ choice of location.

“While we understand that many within the BC community have strong feelings of anger in light of recent events in Ferguson and Staten Island, there is a strong sense of disappointment that they chose to violate sacred space by protesting in St. Mary’s, the campus residence of the Jesuit community,” Dunn said in an email.

December 2014 – UGBC Executive Council criticizes the administration for considering disciplinary action following the St. Mary’s die-in and the lack of response regarding racial justice. Black Student Forum pens a similar letter in which they outlined demands for more faculty of color, diversity training, and a better program for admitted AHANA students.

March 2015 – The administration releases a statement about recent racial issues. The letter addresses the University of Oklahoma fraternity that has been ejected from the school for racism; the shooting of Tony Robinson in Madison, Wisconsin; and the 50th anniversary of the March on Selma. “We must stand up as a community to confront racist and bigoted behaviors,” said Dean of Students Tom Mogan.

October 2015 – Thirty members of Eradicate Boston College Racism hold banners and cover their mouths with duct tape in protest at a talk given by MacArthur Genius Grant winner and prominent journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates. “Although we’re really good at saying we need to address inequality elsewhere, as soon as we turn the mirror to BC they stop saying that,” said Cedrick-Michael Simmons, a sociology Ph.D. candidate, who gave a speech on racism at Boston College during the Q&A segment.



[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”"Students have found little solace in the tepid responses from Boston College, and are understandably voicing their frustration. Despite disagreement among administration and students over the logistics of the die-in, there is no excuse for the lack of response from the University regarding the issue of racial injustice."” cite=”UGBC Executive Council, 2014″ parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

December 2015Fifty members of Eradicate Boston College Racism march across BC singing parodies of classic Christmas carols to promote racial equality as part of their “Twelve Days of BC Racism” campaign. One month later, five members receive disciplinary action for disruption and unregistered protesting.

February 2017 – Four members of Eradicate Boston College Racism receive sanctions from the administration for their participation in an unregistered protest held in November 2016 in response to President Trump’s election. Three more members are called to disciplinary hearings about a December protest that called for BC to become a sanctuary campus.

February 2017Akosua Achampong, BC 18, is elected as the first black female UGBC president.

October 2017Two students find their “Black Lives Matters” signs vandalized in Roncalli Hall. The same weekend, a screenshot of a Snapchat comparing black slaves to a burnt sandwich circulates through the student body. Students gather in O’Neill Plaza, with several of them sharing their own stories of racism on campus. Both the meeting and a follow-up walkout two days later are unregistered.

October 2017The administration releases a statement providing an update on the events of the last weekend and promoting an upcoming solidarity march through campus. Students feel as though the statement did not take a strong enough stance and that the University failed to properly describe the bias-related incident conduct process.

October 2017Almost 2,000 students and faculty participate in the “Silence is Still Violence” march to protest the perceived silence from the University following the events of the past week. Student leaders and members of the administration spoke out against hate on campus. Over the course of the next several months, the University unveils “Diversity Edu,” an online program that teaches skills to understand the impact of unconscious bias, language, and behavior.

September 2018Nineteen percent of BC faculty identify as AHANA, continuing a steady trend of a 1 percent increase per year.

October 2018 The recently-enrolled class of 2022 is 33 percent AHANA.



[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”"No justice, no peace, no racism at BC.” ” cite=”Students and faculty marching in "Silence is Still Violence," 2017″ parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

October 2018 – Over 100 students participate in a public “die-in” to mark the anniversary of Silence Is Still Violence.

December 2018Michael Sorkin, CSOM ’21, is arrested for allegedly damaging property in Walsh Hall, as well as allegedly writing “f—k n——s” and “n——s are the plague” on walls, tables, and a mirror in Welch Hall. The University releases two statements over the next 24 hours, one to students on the morning of the incident and one to faculty a day after it took place. UGBC passes a resolution calling for immediate action, as well as presenting longer-term steps BC could take to improve campus climate surrounding diversity and inclusion. Over the course of several weeks, the University holds two events with students, and interim Vice President of Student Affairs Joy Moore writes a letter to the community, detailing the steps the University will and will not take.



[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#FFFFFF” width=”100″ align=”center” size=”2″ quote=”“It is not true that BC is without bigotry. My presence here does not mean anything.”” cite=”Carl X. Lewis, president of the Black Student Forum and BC ’72, 1969″ parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Senior Staff

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One thought on “‘My Presence Here Does Not Mean Anything’

  1. ‘My Presence Here Does Not Mean Anything’ – Magazine – The Heights | Education February 5, 2019 at 10:34 pm

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