Today, I’m celebrating my second anniversary with The Rock, and I’m so proud of where this publication has gone and how it’s grown since I joined. The Rock has always prided itself on honest expression—the good, the bad and the ugly—and in my two years here, I’ve been pretty earnest, even when it hurt. I’ve found it’s always worth it to say what you need to say.
BC is big on appearance. First things first: the people. During my freshman year, BC was voted among one of the hottest colleges in the country. We care a healthy amount about nutrition and exercise. We’re timelessly fashionable. By some strange coincidence, we’re a good-looking bunch of 9,000. (There’s a comedy group on campus that has a “no uggos” rule. I don’t think I could find a single person at BC who qualifies as an “uggo”, unless it’s a metaphysical “uggo” quality we’re referring to.)
Then there’s the campus itself. I’ve led enough wide-eyed prospective families around BC to know that it’s a truly spectacular place. Take a look at St. Mary’s, at Stokes, at Gasson. Look at the new path through Middle Campus, which added greenery to O’Neill but razed the (beloved, yet weird-smelling) trees in the quad. No expense spared–there’s always some plan in the works to make campus more beautiful. Thanks to my dad’s work in BC’s capital projects department, I know a thing or two about these plans. (Don’t worry, Mods— you and your mystery stains are sticking around for a while.)
For instance, the architects of BC work hard to make campus more accessible, a tough job when your university is literally built into a cliff. My dad told me once that the more traditional members of the administration don’t always approve of ADA-compliant plans, because handicap ramps on our pretty buildings are an eyesore.
BC is big on appearance, but what’s the cost?
This isn’t just a physical beauty deal. BC likes to seem as though they’re invested in social justice, in topics relevant to a greater conversation. We love to talk about conversations. But how many of these conversations are we really having?
In September, I spoke at BC Ignites, a UGBC-sponsored event to “ignite” conversation on campus. This installment of Ignites focused on mental health awareness, as part of the new “Be Conscious” initiative. According to our deposed EVP Chris Marchese, the initiative’s online blog, where students might share stories of their own struggles with mental health, was inspired by the Gavel’s “Authentic Eagles” section. (As a former member of the Gavel’s staff, I have a lot of respect for what they do, and the content of Authentic Eagles is consistently impressive. But the name of the section raises an eyebrow for me—is their other content inauthentic? I digress.)
At BC Ignites, I got up with six other speakers—all exceptionally well-spoken, thoughtful, and patently good-looking individuals—and told a story about my personal struggle with mental health. Telling a story like that takes guts. Ever since I’ve come to terms with what’s wrong with me and got the guts to tell my story, I’ve been doing it wherever I can. I like to think it’s not about me anymore. I didn’t do BC Ignites to get my picture in the Heights, or so the cute guy who lives upstairs would tell me I did a good job. I do it because when you say something bold, you never know who might be listening. Who might hear something they relate to, and think “Thank God someone else feels this way. I thought I was the only one.”
Here’s where I’m bothered. UGBC puts together this initiative, “Be Conscious”, about mental health awareness. It’s a great way to get people talking about an important subject. But what’s changed? If you call UCS saying you need an appointment—even if you say it’s an emergency—you’ll have to wait weeks before they’ll see you. If you take a leave of absence to deal with your mental health issues, you’ll find yourself in a bureaucratic nightmare trying to come back. In my early years at BC, I considered taking time off almost every semester, but I was always scared off by the idea of being left behind when I came back.
We don’t talk about this. All the speakers and summits, all the gorgeous and striking “What I Be” photos, they don’t talk about how hard it can be to admit that you need help when your university doesn’t meet you there. The “Be Conscious” initiative, like many on-campus initiatives, has a noble goal of trying to start a conversation. But if the conversation doesn’t go anywhere, what’s the point of starting it in the first place? Because talking about it, even if nothing changes, looks good.
Let’s talk for a second about the die-in last month. I’ve long kept my nose out of debates pertaining to the non-indictment verdicts, because I don’t think I know enough to make an opinion without offending someone. I’ve read countless articles, Facebook posts and tweets to try and inform myself, but I’ve largely stayed quiet out of fear of overstepping my bounds. But here’s what I’ve got. I was actually at St. Mary’s on the day of the protest to attend the Chorale concert, and regardless of my opinion of whether the die-in was effective or legal or whatever, I think it’s laughably two-faced for the administration to put their foot down on the student protesters.
I was at St. Mary’s and I saw faces I knew. They were PULSE volunteers, Heights columnists, classmates, friends. I was listening to Christmas music and they were braver than I–they cared about the issue enough to risk trouble. They were black, Hispanic, white, male, female, they were BC. And they got thrown under the bus for making a radical move which pointed out not just the iniquity of the world we live in, but may have jabbed a finger at the part of BC’s administration that, when it comes down to it, maybe doesn’t care as much about the tough subjects as it should.
I worry that this whole diatribe comes off as vitriolic and harsh, and I’m not trying to rip on UGBC or the administration or anyone. Tomorrow I’m moving back to BC to start my final semester, and I’m not as excited as I feel I should be. There are a lot of great things about BC; I owe this school my life. I want to love it here. I want to come back to BC decades from now and remember how much I loved it. I want the joy and opportunity that this university has brought me to outweigh the disappointment. With one last round left to go, I’m not sure it will. But maybe they’ll surprise me this time.
(Editor’s Note: This article has been edited from the original to reflect that the Be Conscious initiative’s blog, not BC Ignites, was inspired by the Gavel’s “Authentic Eagles” section.)