Once questioning at the 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Town Hall came to a close, a student rose from the audience to ask Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) presidential candidate Joseph Arquillo, LSOE ’17, about a picture featured on his public Instagram account depicting him dressed as a Native American. This followed Arquillo’s condemnation of inappropriate Halloween costumes, and support for Diversity and Inclusion’s “Dress with Respect” campaign.
“I made a mistake,” Arquillo said.
Diversity and Inclusion’s Town Hall was held on March 30 in the Vanderslice Cabaret Room, in which candidates for UGBC president were questioned on their plans to support inclusion on campus.
The Diversity and Inclusion debate used to be included within the UGBC debate. Arquillo raised concerns in January about a possible conflict of interest having the subgroups of UGBC question candidates who are previously in UGBC. Since the campaigning process was extended to three weeks this year, instead of the usual 10 days, Diversity and Inclusion and the Elections Committee jointly decided to split up the two events to allow for more attention to diversity issues and to avoid any sort of conflict of interest.
Members of the AHANA Leadership Council, the GLTBQ Leadership Council, and the Council for Students with Disabilities posed questions directly to the three candidate teams: Russell Simons, MCAS ’17, and Meredith McCaffrey, MCAS ’17, Nikita Patel, CSOM ’17, and Arquillo, and Matthew Ulrich, MCAS ’17, and John Miotti, MCAS ’17.
At the start of the Town Hall, each team was given the opportunity to introduce its platform and share its support for Diversity and Inclusion.
The first questions were asked by ALC. Patel and Arquillo’s team was asked about ALC’s “Dress with Respect” campaign. Patel drew on her personal experience as an Indian woman, and Arquillo brought up the inappropriate nature of Halloween costumes on BC’s campus.
“I know numbers don’t necessarily mean everything, but they do mean a lot to administrators.”
-Matthew Ulrich, MCAS ’17
Simons and McCaffrey said that they would attend diversity demonstrations and protests when appropriate if elected president and executive vice president. Arquillo added that he thought that the blackout that was held in the fall in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri was an important step for BC students.
Ulrich and Miotti were asked what they think the purpose of ALC is, and what role they would play within the organization. Ulrich responded that he hopes to increase turnout for Diversity and Inclusion events.
All teams were asked what events they had attended that were held by culture clubs on campus. Miotti and Ulrich admitted that they had not attended any events this year because of student turnout in the past.
Once ALC finished questioning the candidates, the Council for Students with Disabilities (CSD) asked Simons and McCaffrey about the importance of providing greater opportunity for students with disabilities. One student’s issue is everyone’s issue, Simons said.
When Miotti and Ulrich were asked about disability within their platform, Ulrich brought up his personal experience of being temporarily paralyzed. He spoke about his difficult decision to attend BC, as it is set on a hill.
Nick Minieri, chair of GLC and CSOM ’16, questioned Miotti and Ulrich about what they would do to increase support for GLC issues on campus. Ulrich stressed again that outreach and student turnout for events would be the first step, as he thinks it is important to involve the majority of students.
“I know numbers don’t necessarily mean everything, but they do mean a lot to administrators,” Ulrich said.
Patel and Arquillo were asked about their past experience supporting GLC. Arquillo spoke about his personal experience in the community, but said that he has not done enough to stand up in the past.
Simons and McCaffrey were asked whether they think that it is important to add gender expression to the University’s nondiscrimination clause. Simons agreed that it is vital to allow students to express themselves, and he said that he will work to modify the nondiscrimination clause if elected.
“Going forward, we need to make sure that these positive messages are being conveyed to administrators,” Simons said.
Candidates were asked about how they would handle GLC issues within the Catholic identity of the University.
“If we are not making sure that we have adequate resources for all students, we do not include all students, and all students are not comfortable here, then we are not living up to the Catholic identity,” McCaffrey said.
Diversity and Inclusion brought up its success in getting administrative approval for Laverne Cox to speak at BC. While the event did fall through because of Cox’s filming schedule, candidates were asked how they would continue efforts like these in the future.
Simons responded saying that he would like to hold events like this once a semester, instead of once a year. Patel stressed the importance of hosting big speakers like Cox to get students talking. Miotti also brought up the Asian Caucus’ success in getting John Cho to speak at BC, and his team’s plan to support cultural groups’ efforts.
Simons brought up the fact that while he does not identify with a lot of the diversity communities on campus, he feels comfortable having conversations with students and administrators about these issues. Miotti understands that it is difficult for him to fully understand these diversity concerns, which is why he said it is important for their campaign to include the vice president of Diversity and Inclusion within day-to-day affairs.
In the last 10 minutes of the Town Hall, students in the audience were given the opportunity to ask candidates questions about issues that were not covered.
One student asked how the candidates would get people to care about diversity issues on campus. Ulrich and Miotti stressed UGBC’s ability to increase student excitement around campus events. Patel thinks that UGBC’s brand and stigma must change before students will really begin to care. And McCaffrey thinks that to increase awareness around these issues, it must start with relationships. It takes personal connections across different student groups to get people to really care, McCaffrey said.
In addition to drafting their own questions for the Town Hall, the members of Diversity and Inclusion also took questions from students through an online form.
“This is something that we do care about and we can say that as much as we want, but it comes down to what we have done in the past and what we will do in the future,” Simons said in reference to diversity issues to close the Town Hall.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor