This week Boston College received a $10 million donation to beautify campus from the foundation of Mario Gabelli, Boston College benefactor and parent and current University Trustee. In response, the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) released a statement on their Facebook page to express disappointment over the fact that the gift will be spent on campus improvements.
As a result of the donation, BC has named the open spaces around Conte Forum the “Gabelli Plazas,” according to the BC Chronicle. The article noted that the plazas are some of the most frequented spaces on campus. It also cited the previous gifts Gabelli has given to the University, including support for University’s Presidential Scholars Program and the J. Gabelli Endowed Professorship and his co-founding of the Boston College Wall Street Council. The residence at 80 Commonwealth Ave., Gabelli Hall, was named for him in 1995.
“One of our goals in developing the campus is to bring more attention to important outdoor spaces and the role they play in the lives of our students,” Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead said to the Chronicle. “The Gabelli Plazas are incredibly vibrant, and not just on game days. Most members of our community walk through and pause at these plazas almost daily and now, thanks to the wonderful gift of the Gabelli family, we can sustain and enhance them even further.”
UGBC wrote in their Facebook post that they are “ashamed when students come to us saying they have not received the support they need, knowing that the University is soliciting funds for its beautification.” The post also acknowledged that the University is unable to dictate how donors give their money.
“BC’s leadership continues to generate tremendous fundraising campaigns for campus beautification without meeting, even once, with UGBC representatives.”
-Thomas Napoli, UGBC President and MCAS ’16
In their Facebook post, they highlighted the areas that they believe need to be improved. These included the need for more staff in the University Counseling Center, a first-year women’s program equal to that of Freshman League, and external consultants to address the issue that students of color do not feel supported by the University or included in the BC experience.
Thomas Napoli, UGBC President and MCAS ’16, noted in an email to The Heights that he is grateful to attend such a beautiful school with beneficent donors who make vital contributions to the University. He went on to say that as student representatives, UGBC feels obligated to point out that the announcement seems out of touch to many on campus.
“There are reasons this is the case,” Napoli wrote in the email. “BC’s leadership continues to generate tremendous fundraising campaigns for campus beautification without meeting, even once, with UGBC representatives (if there’s some other student advisory committee, we’ve never heard of it).”
Napoli explained that because UGBC does not have access to the University leadership, they try to raise the students’ issues to the University through public demonstrations and private meetings, such as their Big 5 Campaign. He wrote that within this campaign were formal requests for additional mental health professionals, an increase in women’s mentorship programs, and for financial commitment to create an inclusive environment for AHANA students.
“It appears the Conte plazas will be renovated before these other issues are addressed,” Napoli wrote. “This is frustrating, and UGBC is doing what we can to address these problems with our own limited budget.”
Napoli noted the UGBC BC Chats program launched for mental health as a peer-to-peer support program for students in need, as well as the Kevin Breel speech and SLAM! the Stigma events UGBC hosted to promote awareness for mental health issues. He said the student government has also dedicated a committee to women and gender this year for the first time for women’s advocacy, as well as sponsoring the mentorship program, the UGBC Leadership Academy. Finally, he noted the efforts UGBC has made to create a more inclusive environment for students of color by creating a working proposal of steps the University can take to move forward, as well as the conversational programs about race and racism, Backgrounds and Skin Deep, that the group hosts.
Napoli wrote that there are certain problems that the group cannot fix entirely on their own, and all three of the concerns UGBC highlighted in their Facebook post fall within this category.
Members of the University administration were contacted for comment, but have not yet responded.
“It is literally our job to voice the difficulties, struggles, and ultimately the hopes of students, and sometimes this means calling on the University to realign its priorities,” Napoli wrote. “We are so grateful for Mr. Gabelli’s donation, but we expect better from BC.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor