Updated Feb. 15, 1:13 p.m.: On Thursday afternoon, Jake Robinson, A&S ’16, submitted to several campus news organizations, including The Heights, a document summarizing data collected by Thomas Napoli, presidential candidate for the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) and A&S ’16, on the student opinion of free speech at BC. Robinson, who is campaign manager for the team of Cassidy Gallegos, LSOE ’16, and Michael Keefe, A&S ’16, included with the report a letter that he intended for distribution to the general student body. Robinson’s letter stated that the data, which was collected by Napoli as chair of UGBC’s Institutional Policy Review committee, was not sound and, as a result, the rationale for a proposal Napoli wrote on Free Speech was clouded. He also criticized the accessibility of the document.
“This is not something that I can stand for or permit to continue to happen to an organization that is near and dear to my heart,” said Robinson in his letter.
He noted that the letter, sent on the first day of voting for the 2015 UGBC elections, was not written in regards to the campaign, but was rather his expression of concern as a member of UGBC.
The report in question, which was finalized in early December, was used by Napoli in the drafting of a proposal on a free speech policy that he presented to the Office of the Dean of Students near the end of last semester. The policy is still undergoing a process of review.
Robinson suggested that statistics cited by Napoli regarding student attitudes toward free speech could be misleading, calling to question a statement Napoli made at Wednesday’s debate between the candidates.
“While I was working on free speech policy last semester, I surveyed undergraduates and found that over 60 percent of students don’t feel like they have the voice to influence University decisions,” Napoli said at the event.
Robinson cited part of the survey that says 82.9 percent of students feel they are “able to freely express myself and my opinions on campus in a public space,” saying this conflicts with Napoli’s claim.
Napoli said, when drafting the survey with the Office of Student Involvement (OSI), the questions were framed to move from broad to specific. He said was referencing the committee’s finding that 60.3 percent of students do not believe that the student voice has the ability to influence University policy decisions, according to the data.
“We expected to think that students, when presented with a big idea, would think that they had it, but then with more specific questions about controversial issues, and being able to talk in public places, and to influence university policy decisions, that the numbers would start to go down,” Napoli said. “And for the most part, a lot of these statistics do show that.”
Robinson’s letter, which never directly mentioned Napoli, criticized that the December report was not made available to students earlier.
“In a time of claiming transparency, the data behind the reason for pursuing a free speech proposal has been clouded,” Robinson wrote. “This data is what should have been shared with the students three or more months ago!!!”
According to Napoli, the document has been available to the UGBC general body since it was finished in December, but he received no inquiry about it. He said he first heard of Robinson’s request on Thursday morning in a Facebook post he was tagged in and that Robinson never personally asked for the document.
“It was completely available to everyone in UGBC,” he said. “No one had asked for it. It was absolutely open to anyone who wanted to look at it. I think people just didn’t really feel the need to look at it.”
Napoli added that Gallegos previously asked to see his Free Expression Proposal, and that he honored her request.
On Thursday morning, the campaign managers for Gallegos and Keefe and for James Kale, LSOE ’16, and Jose Altomari, A&S ’16, were given the survey data by Mark Miceli, associate director of student engagement in the Office of Student Involvement.
“I thought that the use of the data by Thomas represented an unfair advantage, as he only had access to the data as a result of his current position,” Miceli said in an email. “I only thought that it would be fair to also release the summary data to the other teams.”
Robinson says that he first learned of the existence of the document at Wednesday night’s presidential debate. He was surprised that, as a member of UGBC, he had not known about these materials.
“We just don’t think that that’s the best way to start out a campaign or a presidency with this as something that wasn’t even brought to the attention of the student body,” Robinson said.
In regards to Robinson’s comments or the availability of Napoli’s data, no formal complaints were filed with the Elections Committee, though Napoli was asked to provide a statement on the Election Committee’s Facebook page:
The EC has asked Thomas and Olivia to provide a statement with necessary details and information regarding an issue that…
Robinson emphasized that he was not offering his criticism in the capacity of campaign manager for the Gallegos and Keefe team. He said that he expressed his concern as a member of UGBC.
“This is a sad day for me as a member of UGBC because I believe that UGBC endeavors to do as much for our students as possible,” wrote Robinson in his letter.
Heights editors John Wiley and Mujtaba Syed contributed to this report.
Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Staff