The Heights endorses Nanci Fiore-Chettiar and Chris Marchese, both A&S ’15, for president and executive vice president of UGBC. The Fiore-Chettiar-Marchese team’s platform offers the best and most realistic vision for Boston College’s student government in the year ahead. With well-developed plans of action for many of their platform points and extensive UGBC experience under their belts, Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese are best equipped to execute their vision for UGBC in the year ahead.
UGBC currently stands at a crossroads. Both last year and this year were spent looking inward-last year with the creation of an entirely new structure for UGBC and this year with its implementation. UGBC, and whoever leads it next year, needs to move past this transitional phase, turn outward, and focus on building new relationships with both students and the administration. In the past, UGBC’s reputation has largely been defined by the successes or failures of its most visible projects-namely, the Fall and Spring Concert. UGBC must take the recent divestment of the programming department as a chance to establish a name for itself as a serious and responsible organization with the capability to advocate for more than students’ entertainment.
In this new structure, Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese have the clear advantage. As current senators, both have a considerable amount of UGBC experience-Fiore-Chettiar in both the executive and legislative branch, and Marchese in the legislative branch, where he is now serving as the president pro tempore of the Student Assembly (SA). Both are well-versed in how the student government works and what steps must be taken in order to effect their proposed changes. Although they do seem like a classic example of an insider team, Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese are aware of UGBC’s past shortcomings and have expressed both frustration with the way things are currently run and a desire to change UGBC culture and the manner in which it interacts with the rest of BC. They both advocated for more transparency in the SA this year, and, if elected, they promise to increase student awareness and access to UGBC’s initiatives, advocacy, and expenditures. Their plans include regular State of UGBC meetings, town halls, and more outreach to students, all of which are promising in terms of keping the student body informed and holding UGBC accountable for its actions.
The team of Lucas Levine and Vance Vergara, both A&S ’15, on the other hand, lacks a realistic plan for implementing its platform points. While Levine and Vergara outline several short-term goals in their “100 Days Plan” that may appeal to many students, they have not detailed any coherent larger vision, or even laid out the steps they would take to execute their immediate plans. They also appear to have little understanding of how policy advocacy works. While Levine and Vergara have been extremely active over the past three weeks, they offer the student body no specific way to hold them accountable for sustaining that level of commitment and energy-which is essential for the year-long term in office. Although running as outsiders lends their team a certain amount of strength, it is far more important that they seem to have no real perception of how to effect change in the organization.
Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese offer a balanced combination of short-term goals that can be accomplished during the next year and long-term objectives for which they can lay the groundwork. For example, they want to advocate for increased student rights, especially regarding free speech on campus, and use UGBC’s budget to support more green initiatives.
They also seem to have a good grasp of the larger, often unaddressed, cultural issues facing BC students. Starting within UGBC, they want to increase the number of students who receive Bystander Education training, by encouraging Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) to have their members trained in the Bystander program-they said that they would incentivize that process by using it as a factor when making funding decisions. Another concern that has been a focus of their campaign is that of socioeconomic status, which they want to address both by increasing campus discussion on the topic through forums like BC Ignites and by offering new resources, such as a UGBC-run iClicker rental program and a BC-specific textbook exchange website, to help students cut costs. Both of these plans are well within the purview of UGBC, can be accomplished during a single year, and would help students save money on essentials for a college education.
These kinds of specific and measured goals are indicative of the sort of planning which their opponents lack. Both Levine and Vergara are deficient in UGBC experience and lack a nuanced understanding of how the student government, advocacy, and the University administration function. Given that advocacy is the primary role of the new UGBC, the possibility of unprepared leaders in such a position is disconcerting.
In their long-term vision, the Fiore-Chettiar-Marchese team has outlined several areas in which it can build a foundation for the next few UGBC administrations. Eventually, they would like to see both behind-the-scenes improvements, like a student seat on the Board of Trustees, and more visible changes, such as the establishment of an on-campus pub. Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese have broken down the path to achieving said goals into steps and are taking a realistic approach to what they can and cannot hope to achieve in one year.
In addition to a well-developed platform, Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese have drafted a timeline, which matches most of their platform points with specific dates by which they should be accomplished. This is a welcome variation on the usual campaign material, as it provides a straightforward and easy way for the student body to hold the team accountable for the promises they make during the campaign season-a perennially difficult task. Along with a timeline, they have broken down some of their platform points based on difficulty, recognizing that some of their goals will take more time than others.
There are certainly areas in which the Fiore-Chettiar-Marchese team must improve. As UGBC insiders, Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese likely do not have the best perception of what the average BC student wants from the student government, which is one of the areas in which the Levine-Vergara team excels. Throughout the campaign season, Levine and Vergara have made a visible and concerted effort to connect with the student body and learn what changes they want to see. If elected, Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese must follow in the footsteps of their opponents and put in the time to step outside of the UGBC bubble and communicate with students from many different parts of the BC community, so as to remain aware of what concerns most BC students. Additionally, in order to raise awareness of what UGBC does for the student body, they ought to execute smaller, yet more visible, parts of their platform early in the year.
Although Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese are both strong candidates, the team dynamic is of some concern. While serving in the SA this year, they have often voted against each other on major resolutions. This is disconcerting, given how important it is for the president and executive vice president to work well together. In order to be successful next year, Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese need to step fully into their respective roles. Within UGBC, they should work to foster a collegial and professional atmosphere among the departments and branches and must be willing to compromise when necessary. If elected, they must also keep in mind that it is far easier to talk about transparency in someone else’s administration than it is to remain committed to their promises of an open government-when problems arise, they must be willing to stay honest with the student body about their shortcomings.
While the Levine-Vergara team brings a fresh perspective and some good ideas for UGBC, the Fiore-Chettiar-Marchese team will do better in today’s environment at running the student government and making the most of their year in office. Their team is in the best position to draw on this year’s transition and set the foundation for further action in the years to come.