12/16/2014 05:39 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When a School Lets Everyone Down: The Myth of 'Men and Women for Others'

As a high school senior, I was adamantly against attending a Catholic college. I resented my forced time in Sunday school and my lack of choice in whether or not to get confirmed at 14 and I firmly believed that religion exists as an institution to oppress certain groups of people. As a senior in a public high school in the fall of 2012, I firmly believed that religious colleges existed to churn out misguided graduates ready to perpetuate a conservative agenda that would favor the Church.

When I was rejected from my top two schools, I agreed to indulge my parents and give the objective next "best" -- read "highest ranked" -- school on my list a chance. In April of 2013, I shadowed a then sophomore at Boston College. I was initially intimidated by the collegiate gothic architecture that made every building look like a church, but an hour and 15 minutes spent in a classroom changed my perspective on what it meant to attend a religious school.

I sat in a class called Person and Social Responsibility, better known to the BC population as PULSE. PULSE is a combined philosophy and theology course aimed at answering questions of social justice through a full academic year's worth of religious and secular philosophy, as well as a 10-12 hour per week service commitment in Boston. The time I spent in a PULSE class convinced me that BC, as an institution, remained true to its motto of "men and women for others," by perpetuating a commitment to creating a just society. That fateful day in 2012 convinced me that Catholic school might not be so bad.

Though I am fortunate enough to be a current PULSE student of the very same professor in whose class I shadowed almost two years ago, I now realize just how wrong I was. The school's response to recent protests on campus in the wake of the no-indictment decisions in the Brown and Garner cases and to the idea of student activism in general has demonstrated to me that "men and women for others" and "ever to excel" are emptier statements than most students would like to believe. The school is suppressing the voices of the students, and thereby teaching them to suppress those of others.

Recently-renovated St. Mary's hall is home to a beautiful chapel, and also to BC's population of Jesuit priests. Last week, students staged a die-in protest in the St. Mary's chapel in response to the decisions not to indict the officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The students involved are now subject to disciplinary action by the university as protests must, by school policy, be registered and approved.


Section 4.6.9 of the Boston College Code of Student Conduct states that: "applications for permits for all activities in the nature of a public speech, rally, demonstration, march, or protest must be submitted a minimum of 48 hours in advance to the Dean of Students." The notion of an approved protest is absolutely absurd because it allows the school to censor even student activism. The administration controls even what students can protest and when they are allowed to do so, which has led many students to realize the oppressive nature of the school's policies. A school that truly wanted to perpetuate a motto of "men and women for others," would allow students to stand for others, to protest racism and bring awareness to an issue of social justice.

In the fight against racism, my school has chosen the side of the oppressors. The school itself has become an oppressor, while its Catholic values clearly teach that good followers of God always take the side of the oppressed. BC has let its students down by not living up to its motto of "men and women for others." By punishing students for protesting, BC has made it very clear that the only lives that matter are those that keep their heads down, defer to a conservative administration, and believe blindly in what the institution teaches.

The resignation of the vice president of the student government last month under pressure from the Office of Student Involvement shed light on a school administration bent on suppressing the values of students in favor of its own. The university's response to the St. Mary's hall protest solidifies the students' worst fears that the school's power to perpetuate its own value systems not only exists to punish students for having dissenting opinions, but fails on its own stated value of service to others who face adversity.

I ultimately chose my school for the quality of the education I'd receive and decided that dealing with some policies that I disagree with would be worth my while for the opportunities being a Boston College alum will grant me in the future. I now know that the idea of "men and women for others" is a hoax. BC talks the talk but it by no means walks the walk when it comes to social justice. The administration is completely anti-progressive, a characteristic exemplified by its adversity to even peaceful protest.

I used to spend a lot of time defending my school: "I love it here," "They don't enforce a lot of the conservative rules," but I now realize that the administration needs to start taking some responsibility for letting its students down. I want to excel here, I want to be a woman for others, but I can't do that without an administration that is willing to support the needs and values of the student body, and of the just society it claims to want to create.