Never have I ever kept my mouth shut when I have an opinion about an issue no matter how trivial or controversial it may be. For this reason, I write in a public forum, more specifically The Rock at Boston College. I couldn’t be happier to be a member of such a motley crew of a staff, all of whom are incredible writers, and I’m also proud to have the opportunity to be a part of a campus publication. I applaud UGBC President Nanci Fiore-Chettiar’s eloquent response in our fellow journalistic outlet, The Gavel, to Kwesi Aaron’s dismantling of the “Never Have I Ever Campaign” published on The Verge. Fiore-Chettiar combatted Aaron’s arguments with her own, defending the campaign for what its original intentions were and how they want to better the campaign. You can read both articles for yourselves here and here.
From the get-go, I’ve had varying opinions about the “Never Have I Ever” Campaign. I advocated for what it sought to communicate and saw how much potential it had to ignite conversation about what it means to be privileged at Boston College. However, as the campaign released more photographs of students proclaiming their “nevers,” I started to see a shift in focus from what it means to be privileged in a global society, to an American society, to solely becoming a critique of the BC community.
It’s no secret that Boston College attracts wealthier, Catholic, and predominately white high school upperclassmen during the college application process. I consider myself to be pretty privileged to fall into that demographic. I’ve never had to worry about going to a premier university. My family is relatively well-off financially. I have supportive parents and siblings. In the grand scheme of things, I am privileged, but with the shift in the “Never Have I Ever” Campaign, I began to recognize the spots in my life where I wasn’t so “privileged” in the eyes of the campaign.
My parents divorced during the recession, meaning my family faced financial difficulties ranging from turning off the heat in the car during winter to save gas while riding on E so we wouldn’t have to spend the grocery money to watching my dad almost lose his business. Did this time in my life classify me as “less privileged?” As someone who does take medication to “get through the day,” as someone who can’t get married in his or her own Church, as someone whose sexual orientation is “used as an insult,” and as someone who can relate to a number of other instances presented by the campaign, I feel the campaign’s aim is to seemingly make me feel less privileged compared to my fellow BC students.
To an extent, I feel that I myself have missed the mark of “Never Have I Ever,” but at the same time I feel that UGBC has taken the initiative to promote a campaign that magnifies my and other students’ issues into something they are not. The campaign uses the issues faced by the “less privileged” in an almost self-righteous ploy, as if a photographed student is saying he or she can identify never having experienced said issue, while also giving the message that he or she can understand how hard it must be to be so “underprivileged.” My experiences don’t make me less privileged than anyone else at BC because I am part of the <5% of the entire world that has the opportunity to receive a college education at a top-tier university.
I get that UGBC is trying to bring awareness to issues regarding privilege, but I don’t feel as if my problems equate to the problems of people around the world. All of them can be solved with a change in perspective, something “Never Have I Ever” should communicate, but falls short in doing such. I can’t get married in my Church, so I guess that means I can have a destination wedding in Hawaii because same-sex marriage is legal there. My intelligence was underestimated because of my American accent when I went to Europe, and how lucky I was that I got to travel to other countries. I lost a few friends when I came out of the closet and have been ostracized for practicing my religion, but I certainly grew deeper in friendship with more people as a result of both of those. On a more serious side, I never faced jail time or impending execution for my Catholic faith, my sexuality, or my willingness to speak out for women’s rights.
The last thing I want is UGBC making an “obstacle” in my life out to be a hardship that burdens me and labels me as someone who is less privileged than the rest of Boston College and beyond. Everyone has his or her personal struggles, and UGBC is definitely trying to communicate that with the campaign. Unfortunately, the focus of “Never Have I Ever” remains largely on critiquing our own already very privileged BC community and guilting students into “checking their privilege” without much regard for the rest of the world. Here’s one for your Facebook page, UGBC: Never will I ever let someone else define my experiences as something that will undermine my own privilege.