North­east­ern faces ire about more than ICE

Boston Herald - - OPINION - Joyce Fer­ri­abough Bolling is a me­dia and po­lit­i­cal strate­gist and com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist.

Ku­dos to the stu­dents at North­east­ern Uni­ver­sity who re­cently marched to try to con­vince the school to dump its in­tern­ship con­tract with ICE. Two thou­sand fel­low pe­ti­tion­ers agreed with their stance. They don’t be­lieve the school’s stan­dards and values are in align­ment with an agency whose ac­tions, un­der the heart­less dic­tates of Pres­i­dent Trump, cou­pled with the harsh di­rec­tives of AG Jeff Ses­sions, have taken on a Gestapo-like brutish­ness. I would like to be­lieve ICE’s tac­tics are also not in line with Amer­ica’s values.

The ICE sit­u­a­tion is not the only is­sue North­east­ern cur­rently faces. Oth­ers closer to home fes­ter just below the sur­face.

Com­mu­nity ad­vo­cates are watch­ing closely how the uni­ver­sity treats its long­time minority busi­nesses on cam­pus amid the school’s ex­pan­sion ac­tiv­i­ties.

And es­pe­cially stun­ning is the move by North­east­ern to evict the renowned and widely re­spected African-Amer­i­can Mas­ter Artists-in-Res­i­dence Pro­gram (or AAMARP as it is bet­ter known) — send­ing shock waves through­out the minority artists com­mu­nity and the com­mu­nity at large.

The is­sue has come to the at­ten­tion of Mayor Marty Walsh, state Sen. Nick Collins and City Coun­cilor Kim Janey, who rep­re­sents the district where North­east­ern sits, chairs the Coun­cil’s com­mit­tee on Arts, Cul­ture and Spe­cial Events and is a strong pro­po­nent for ex­pand­ing busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties in the city for women and mi­nori­ties.

For minority busi­nesses, get­ting a foot in the door has al­ways been and con­tin­ues to be a strug­gle. And far too few are be­grudg­ingly deemed able to “make the grade,” even af­ter jump­ing through hoops to get the nec­es­sary col­lat­eral to do busi­ness in the first place. Some com­pa­nies and in­sti­tu­tions have the un­mit­i­gated gall to con­sider the in­clu­sion of minority com­pa­nies an “added cost” of do­ing busi­ness. I say con­sider it mak­ing up for years of ex­clu­sion.

Bot­tom line is that if you are a minority busi­ness or in­sti­tu­tion and you sur­vive for 30, 40 or 50 years in ser­vice, you must be do­ing some­thing right. But minority busi­nesses con­tinue to grap­ple with what I will call the “ex­pend­abil­ity” fac­tor, which is akin to the “last hired, first fired” syn­drome, an all-too preva­lent prac­tice in the minority work­force.

On the sur­face, it seems North­east­ern does bet­ter than most in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing in reach­ing out to be more in­clu­sive, but some say not by much. As neigh­bors and abut­ters to a mostly ma­jor­ity minority com­mu­nity, there is a per­pet­ual tug of war be­tween ex­pand­ing stu­dent hous­ing in the com­mu­nity, which adds to NU’s bot­tom line, and the need for more af­ford­able hous­ing in the com­mu­nity.

To its credit, North­east­ern does house pro­grams that sup­port com­mu­nity ser­vice and en­hanced learn­ing. AAMARP is one of the more rec­og­niz­able na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally. There re­ally isn’t a pro­gram quite like it that sup­ports African-Amer­i­can artists and ben­e­fits North­east­ern and Bos­ton as a whole by show­cas­ing our world class African-Amer­i­can creative com­mu­nity.

Be­fore AAMARP got its evic­tion no­tice, the group was plan­ning its 40th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion, which would have no doubt gar­nered North­east­ern high praise for its decades-long spon­sor­ship. Rea­sons given for the evic­tion range from safety con­cerns to the de­sire to use the build­ing for other pur­poses. An al­ter­nate lo­ca­tion was not of­fered to house the pro­gram. So, in essence, the pro­gram will be home­less. That is un­ac­cept­able af­ter a 40-year mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship and, in my opin­ion, in­con­sis­tent with the values that North­east­ern es­pouses.

At a time when Rox­bury is cel­e­brat­ing the first an­niver­sary of its des­ig­na­tion as a cul­tural district, nei­ther our busi­nesses nor our artists on North­east­ern’s cam­pus should be con­sid­ered ex­pend­able.


HOT TOPIC: North­east­ern stu­dents and com­mu­nity ac­tivists protest the school’s in­volve­ment with U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.


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