Boston University Leads Day-Long Discussion About Racism
by Grace Ferguson
Boston University held its Day of Collective Engagement on Wednesday. The university led the 8-hour virtual event to talk about racism and respond to the Black Lives Matter movement.
In his opening remarks, BU President Robert Brown said that having a conversation is an important first step to confronting racism—and there were many conversations throughout the day. BU faculty and staff-led discussions about the history of racism, allyship, inclusive curriculums, and more.
The event featured a town hall where BU President Robert Brown and Provost Jean Morrison answered questions from the community. But as for specific plans, there were no surprise announcements. Brown and Morrison did hint that there could be an announcement on Thursday. But the details were hazy.
At the town hall, Brown addressed the university’s financial commitment to being antiracist. BU’s Black student union, Umoja, and the BU Student Government have raised over $141,000 to donate to antiracist organizations. The students have asked BU to match their donation, but the university has not done so.
Brown said the university plans to use its money on internal initiatives. He mentioned that he and Morrison have both personally donated to the fundraiser. Brown donated $2,000, and Morrison donated $1,000
Community members also asked if BU would divest from for-profit prisons. Brown did not know whether BU held those kinds of investments. The president said that had not come up in front of BU’s responsible investing committee, but “it will as a result of today,” he said.
Brown pointed to the rising number of minority students at BU. In 2008, 13 percent of students were racial or ethnic minorities, but last year, 29 percent of students fell into that category.
Brown also referred to university-wide initiatives that he said benefit students of color. For example, under the AffordableBU program, the university has pledged to meet 100% of students’ financial need.
Also, this spring, BU stopped requiring the SAT and ACT for admission. That decision was because of COVID-19, but Brown said the university has been considering going test-optional since January.
BU has already taken some steps to address racism and police brutality. The university has hired Ibram X. Kendi, a leading scholar on racism who will found BU’s Center for Antiracist Research. And on Tuesday, the university announced that it would form a Community Safety Advisory Group. The new committee will make recommendations for the Boston University Police Department.
Brown heavily implied on Wednesday that this is just the beginning of the university’s antiracist efforts.
“There will be measurable progress, I assure you, and we will be transparent about it,” Brown said.