Last night, UGBC Executive Vice President (EVP) Chris Marchese, A&S ’15, announced that he would be stepping down from his position, effective immediately. At face value, there is nothing problematic with the manner in which Marchese announced his decision: He cited “personal reasons,” and officially informed the Office of Student Involvement (OSI) last Tuesday, before telling the rest of UGBC on yesterday evening.
The manner in which his successor—Vice President for Student Initiatives Connor Bourff, A&S ’15—was chosen during the intervening days, however, is extremely disconcerting.
Article V, Section 6B of the UGBC Constitution lays out the order of succession “if there is no Executive Vice-President for UGBC.” The President Pro Tempore of the Student Assembly, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI), and the Vice President for Student Organizations (VPSO) all precede the VPSI. According to Marchese, current VPDI Martin Casiano, A&S ’15, and current VPSO Dhara Bhatt, CSOM ’15, were both offered the position and turned it down before Bourff was offered and accepted it.
President Pro Tempore Mike Rosella and President Nanci Fiore-Chettiar, both A&S ’15, and Marchese all confirmed to The Heights that Rosella was not offered the position—a significant deviation from the Constitution, as well as Section 3C and Section 4 of the Student Assembly’s Standing Rules, which both hold that the President Pro Tempore will serve as the Chairperson of the Student Assembly in the EVP’s absence.
Fiore-Chettiar said in an email that the Constitution provided very little guidance throughout the process of choosing a successor, but did not give a reason for disregarding the protocol that is laid out, beyond stating that “[W]hoever took [Marchese’s] spot had to be familiar with all aspects of UGBC, not just the Student Assembly.”
More significant than the order of succession, the Constitution also holds that a new EVP will be appointed “with the advice and approval of the Student Assembly and the Director of the Student Programs Office [now the OSI].” This is delineated in Section 6A, which refers to when the position of President is vacated and the EVP moves into that role—but there is no stipulation elsewhere in the document that EVP vacancies due to other reasons would be handled differently.
“This entire situation was unprecedented,” Fiore-Chettiar said. “Section 6 specifically outlines the succession for President, and subsequently the succession outlined in [6B] occurs for the EVP once that person assumes the presidency—not simply if the EVP position falls vacant. Additionally, there is no formalized process in the Constitution for the ‘approval’ of the Student Assembly. In this case, we sought the approval of the EVP (who at the time was Chris), since it is the EVP’s job to serve as the liaison and voice of SA to the Executive Council.”
Regardless of whether this interpretation holds—that Section 6B only applies when the position is vacated by an EVP moving to the the presidency, rather than stepping down for other reasons—it is senseless to rely solely upon the outgoing EVP to provide the legitimacy of the SA in approval of the new candidate. If this clause and Fiore-Chettiar’s interpretation were only to apply to the situation in which the EVP becomes President, the rationale would be similarly illogical, as the legitimacy of the newly appointed EVP would be based on the selection and then approval the same person—the former EVP, who would then be serving as the new President.
In this case, as Fiore-Chettiar wrote, the decision to appoint Bourff was made solely by the UGBC Executive Council—a body composed of the UGBC president, all vice presidents, and the two co-directors of the Undergraduate Leadership Academy—in conjunction with OSI. The Student Assembly was not consulted, Fiore-Chettiar, Marchese, and Rosella confirmed, and was not informed of the decision until yesterday’s meeting. While this may seem like a simple tweak in procedure, it is in fact a grave violation of UGBC’s—and, by extension, the student body’s—rights.
UGBC is frequently criticized for its bureaucracy, but the preponderance of guidelines exist for a reason: to officially establish the way in which Boston College’s student government handles its responsibilities and mediates the relationship between the student body and the administration. Ignoring its governing document and relying instead on OSI’s oversight and authority to determine ad hoc procedure subverts the legitimacy of UGBC leaders in particular, and undermines the existence of a student government in general. The actions of OSI in this move are even more concerning than those of the Executive Council. As representatives of the University tasked with ensuring that UGBC’s rules are followed, OSI is responsible for maintaining standards that follow the contract that UGBC has with its constituency—that is, the Constitution.
The UGBC president, EVP, and all senators are chosen through student elections. Denying senators a voice in the succession of EVP has effectively denied all BC students a say in who will serve as one of their two most visible and powerful representatives, showing a total disregard for the rights of the student body.
While Bourff may well be the best choice to replace Marchese as EVP, the question of his suitability for the position is overshadowed by an extremely worrisome willingness on the part of OSI to override the already limited power of UGBC and by extension further curtail the voice of BC students. At the same time, UGBC’s compliance in ignoring its own Constitution is also alarming. A change in leadership midway through the academic year is one issue—a change in the fundamental principles upon which UGBC operates is quite another.
Featured Image by Daniel Lee / Heights Senior Staff