Fr. Leahy Issues Letter On Race Relations

When he arrived on campus last year, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, indicated that from time to time he planned to address issues of the day with members of the University Community. Last week, he wrote the following letter on the issue of race relations to students, faculty and staff.

During the past months, as I have made my way around the campus and talked to many of you about your hopes for Boston College, I have become aware of concerns that we, as a community, need to address if we are to succeed in reaching our enormous potential. Today, I want to speak with you about one of these issues, race relations.

I do so against the background of an America legally committed to the concept of equality but often confused and troubled about the issue of race. We have seen this in the public discussion of the Simpson verdicts, in responses to the Ebonics proposal of the Oakland, California school board, and in the sometimes heated debates over affirmative action-to name three recent and prominent examples.

As a Catholic and Jesuit university, as a community believing in the power and possibility of knowledge and redemption, we at Boston College must stand against racism and racist behavior. Our Judeo-Christian heritage proclaims that we are members of one human family, each one of us made "in God's image." And as brothers and sisters, we have an obligation not simply to tolerate one another but also to care for one another and to sustain one another with the love and understanding that lights the path ahead with faithful hope.

Do we always live up to our high calling? No. Each of us knows of instances of insensitivity, prejudice, or racism on our campus. That this behavior is unacceptable-conflicting with our very mission and core values-should be equally obvious to all. But to understand that these things happen is not reason to give up, or cast away hope, or excuse ourselves from further striving. Ignorance and irresponsibility are present here, as they are present everywhere. But so are goodness and wisdom, and in abundance. These are our tools, the tools of a university, which we must use to build a community that not only honors our hopes for the world but also acts according to them.

Through educational programs, respectful challenge, personal encounter, and friendship, many individuals and groups at Boston College already are working to overturn stereotypes and to address racial problems within our community. And they are doing admirable work.

Students, in particular, seek greater awareness and responsiveness on the part of all of us. And we-students, faculty, and staff of Boston College-can do more. All of us need to be involved in helping create a truly just community. More of us should be aware of racial concerns on our campus and involved in resolving them.

For that reason, I have asked Academic Vice President William B. Neenan, SJ, and Vice President for Student Affairs Kevin P. Duffy to reorganize and strengthen the University Council on Intercultural Affairs. Besides these vice presidents, who will serve as co-chairs, the council will include delegates from registered AHANA organizations, the UGBC, and the Graduate Student Association as well as other concerned members of the Boston College community. Among the responsibilities of the council will be to foster regular student-administration communication about racial matters and to make sure that such issues are brought to the attention of proper University officials for response.

I am confident that this council and its members, in conjunction with individuals and organizations already at work to enhance racial harmony on campus, will help us to become the just and caring community that is the only acceptable goal for Boston College.

Achieving that goal will take continued strong institutional commitment and sustained effort from each of us. In the words of the prophet Micah, I ask that we commit ourselves as members of this community to always act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with our God, Father of us all.

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