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Massive Protest at Boston College
On Friday, April 15, 2005 over 1,000 students, professors and administrators gathered in support of ending discrimination against members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, and Transgender (GLBT) community at Boston College. As student organizers called for a university strike, hundreds of students opted not to attend classes, with dozens of professors expressing their solidarity by canceling their sections.
The official notice of non-discrimination for Boston College does not offer any legal protection from discrimination for members of the GLBT community. In fact the clause is written in a manner to deliberately invoke an exemption from Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws. For over a decade students and faculty have worked to get “sexual orientation” included in the statement, but their requests have repeatedly been rejected by the University.
In early March, the student body overwhelming endorsed the addition of “sexual orientation” to the non-discrimination policy. A student referendum was passed by 84% with the highest voter turnout in Boston College’s history. The referendum also received the support of over 200 members of the Boston College faculty, staff, and Jesuit community. Despite such tremendous support, the University President, Fr. William Leahy, continues to reject the student’s proposal, which organizers claim more adequately reflects the welcoming and inclusive attitudes of the BC faculty, staff, and students who make up this community. In response to such ongoing reluctance, student organizers decided on a strike and day of action as the next necessary steps for this growing movement.
As the day commenced, student organizers proclaimed, “We strike because our Jesuit education demands that we put our knowledge into action. We strike because we care deeply about Boston College. We strike to uphold the human dignity of every person, regardless of her/his sexual orientation.”
At noon droves of people congregated in the center of campus for a rally, which included speeches and personal testimonials by members of the student body, representatives of the student government, and high-ranking faculty members.
Theresa Hammond, chairperson of the accounting department, reflected on the difficulties that she has experienced as a homosexual professor working at Boston College. Overwhelmed by the success of the rally, she commented, “This is the greatest event that I have witnessed in my fifteen years at Boston College.”
Following the rally the group marched beyond the borders of their campus and along Commonwealth Avenue in Newton reciting chants. For over an hour, slogans such as “Who’s school? Our school!” and “Discrimination, NEVER! Equal rights, NOW!” could be heard throughout the Heights.
Looking back on the events of the day, Ravi Kalwani, Research Assistant in Merkert Laboratory and member of the class of 2005, stated, “The passion exhibited today on our campus expressed that which I have been trying to convey for the last four years. It was laborious work, but as my eyes welled up with tears and my heart skipped a beat I realized that today was, indeed, a watershed moment in the history of Boston College.”
Organizers were overjoyed with the massive turnout and the enthusiasm demonstrated by all of those involved. With the next round of negotiations slated for Tuesday, April 19, students look to the meeting with hope and strongly believe that the changes to the non-discrimination clause that they desire will soon be made.