Boston University Administrator Tells Student She Shouldn’t Be at BU

“I’m sorry,” says Emily Mercedes Nuñez, a second semester senior at Boston University, shaking her head as tears fill her eyes. “I want all the work that my parents have done to mean something. They came here from the Dominican Republic so I can have a better life and better education. I want their hard work to pay off.”

Last Friday, March 30, 2018, Emily walked into Boston University Student Accounting Services hoping to receive a copy of her transcript so she can complete her application for Teach for America. She hasn’t paid off this semester’s tuition, and she knew obtaining a transcript is one of the services she’d be denied access to until she pays. Still, she was hopeful she could convince them to make an exception, something she knew they have done before and they told her they have done before.

Emily goes home every weekend to Providence, Rhode Island to help her father with his small grocery store business: “My mom and dad work every day 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to put me through Boston University.” During the week, she works as the senior office assistant to the dean in the Questrom School of Business.

From left: father, mother, niece, Emily, sister

Photo Credit: Emily Nuñez

When Emily walked into the Student Accounting Services office, the person at the front desk didn’t have the authority to make the decision on her transcript and went to get the assistant director. The assistant director told her that because there is a hold on her account, and she doesn’t have a specific payment plan in place, he couldn’t grant her an exception, but he went to ask the director, Kathleen Hynes. He reported that she said no as well, but Emily was persistent and asked to speak with her directly to explain her situation.

Emily needs her transcript to get a job to pay off her tuition. Because she grew up in a low-income, minority neighborhood, she feels particularly strongly about joining Teach for America: “Growing up I witnessed disparities in education between low-income, minority communities and high-income, white communities. There should be equal education everywhere, and I want to be a part of that change.”

“It was never my intention to argue about university policy, however, I needed to explore every avenue if that meant that I would potentially be granted an exception in order to order my transcript,” Emily wrote in her Facebook post detailing her experience. While the assistant director was getting Kathleen Hynes, the person at the front desk advised against speaking to the director and told Emily that Kathleen Hynes has “no mercy.”

According to Emily, Kathleen Hynes "came out knowing she would tell me no. There was a wall between us. There was no sense of understanding or effort to understand.” Emily had already been told no twice, but the third time when Kathleen Hynes told her, she also told Emily that she doesn’t belong at Boston University if she can’t make her payments.

Up until then, Emily had stayed calm, but that struck a nerve: “At that moment, all the hard work I had done meant nothing.” Emily responded by saying, “How dare you? How insensitive of you. I’ve earned my right to be here.” She kept repeating, “How dare you?” over and over again through angry tears. Emily remembers Kathleen Hynes having a smirk on her face after Emily began to get upset. Emily said, “She told me ‘there are plenty of public schools you could have gone to. You shouldn’t even be enrolled this semester.’”

Emily needs her official transcript, but what bothers her most is how Kathleen Hynes treated her: “Someone in her position has to have some level of professionalism. She should have empathy, especially in an office dealing with student finances.” Emily says this is a common situation as, “I have had financial aid tell me and my friends that our issues that keep us from paying aren’t legitimate.” She looks down and says, “Everyone goes through their own problems, and so to hear that my issues aren’t valid is disheartening.”

Photo Credit: Emily Nuñez

Luckily, Emily was able to receive an unofficial transcript from an advisor she had worked with in the past at the University Service Center. However, this is only a placeholder, and Teach for America will need an official transcript. Although her main goal isn’t to argue with the university policy on financial holds, she doesn’t believe transcripts should be one of the resources withheld from students: “I understand why some resources are withheld like housing, but a transcript represents how much work the student put in. It has nothing to do with finances.”

Emily laid out clear steps that she wants Boston University to take. First, she wants, “Boston University to publically address the situation, say that they know what happened, and say that they’re looking into it.” Second, she says, “I also want Boston University to do a reevaluation of Kathleen Hynes’s position and have her placed on leave until we can be sure that she embodies the values that Boston University claims to have.” The value she’s referring to is that if students meet the academic standards, “the university is open to anyone regardless of socioeconomic background.” Finally, she wants Boston University to reassure students that it maintains these values.

“This is what every minority student hears,” Emily says. “I’m doing this for current and future students. I want Boston University to know my story. I want them to know what my parents went through and continue to go through to make these payments. I want them to have empathy.”

A young woman who commented on Emily’s Facebook post works in the office of Steve Singer, the Associate Dean of Students and Shared Business Services, and she shared Emily’s story with him. He called her after hearing about her situation to let her know that the university knows about her situation and that they’re here to help her. Colin Riley, the Executive Director of Media Relations at Boston University, replied to Her Campus and said, “In looking into this, it is clear that the university was not as flexible or sensitive as we should have been with Emily Nuñez. We have reached out to her to make sure she knows she is a valued member of our community, and to ensure she has the transcript and support she needs to continue with her job application process.”

“At the end of the day, the professors and resources at the university are amazing. People have been supportive so far. I’m staying positive,” says Emily. She still wants reform within the administration: “I want any student who has ever felt this way to speak up because I can’t do this alone.”

 

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