UGBC Candidates Debate Objectives for Diversity and Inclusion

The two teams running for Undergraduate Government of Boston College president and executive vice president presented their platforms on diversity and inclusion on Tuesday night.

The teams, Taraun Frontis, CSOM ’19, and Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS ’20; and Reed Piercey, MCAS ’19, and Ignacio Fletcher, MCAS ’20, each had a chance to discuss their plans to promote diversity and inclusion on campus. The teams first spoke about their general platforms involving diversity and inclusion.

Frontis and Sheikh plan to make it more accessible for students to report incidents of bias on campus, implement a diversity education module in conjunction with the AlcoholEDU program for first year students, and expand the multicultural learning experience to Newton and additional floors on Upper Campus.

“We would want to implement some sort of education program to work with AlcoholEDU, which would require first year students to take a cultural competency test to use it as a basis to continue dialogue,” said Frontis.

Piercey and Fletcher aim to integrate the AHANA+ Caucus more with the rest of UGBC and create a series of events on campus called “Difficult Dialogues” in which students will discuss controversial issues regarding diversity and inclusion. They will also advocate for more diversity in the staff at BC, call for more Montserrat student representation, and advocate for an LGBTQ+ resource center.

The candidates were then asked a series of probing questions about their knowledge of current initiatives for diversity on campus and their plans to enhance the experiences of underrepresented individuals. The moderators asked them about their knowledge of the divisions of Diversity and Inclusion under UGBC, which identities are represented under the AHANA+ acronym, and what GLBTQIAP+ stands for.

They were also asked to list what else they need to do to educate themselves on diversity and inclusion and how they planned to go about doing so.

“There are countless living experiences in this room that I do not know and I cannot know,” said Piercey. “This means that … I would challenge myself every minute of every day to be an ally.”

Frontis noted he needs to be more cognizant of students with disabilities and mental illness on campus, while Sheikh said he needs to educate himself more on LGBTQ+ issues, especially those regarding transgender students on campus.

“My plan to do this is by being present in conversations where people’s identities are represented and centering their voices over mine,” Sheikh said. “So that means taking a back seat, closing my mouth, and opening my ears.”

In the next portion of the debate, the candidates had to discuss how they would address a number of controversial topics on campus.

The first question, directed towards Piercey and Fletcher, asked them team how they would plan to get the administration to listen to student voices more. Piercey responded by arguing that there are various institutional obstacles in place that challenge students who require accommodations from the University, whether it be for learning disabilities, housing, or transportation. As a team, Piercey and Fletcher hope to streamline that process to make it more centralized for students.

Frontis and Sheikh were asked to respond to how UGBC should go about advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in the context of a Jesuit Catholic university. The team feels it is important to implement a LGBTQ+ resource center and have a full time LGBTQ+ staff member who has training in dealing with discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community. Sheikh added that this all rests on the addition of a student center on campus, which is something the team emphasizes heavily in its platform of diversity and inclusion.

Piercey and Fletcher were then asked in what specific ways they have personally supported the LGBTQ+ community at BC, and Piercey responded that his familiarity with the Diversity and Inclusion Programming Board and the planning of the GLBTQ+ Leadership Council (GLC) formal have helped him understand how to advocate for members of the LGBTQ+ community on campus.

“As a friend and a person, it is my job to be accepting of everyone and get to know everyone for who they are and how they are comfortable here,” Fletcher said. “Our main goal is to make BC a home for everyone.”

When asked what steps they plan on taking to promote a more proactive approach in initiating change on campus, Frontis said he and Sheikh will pressure the administration to create a module for diversity education.

“We are working on being more transparent and making it clear to everyone about the issues [regarding diversity and inclusion] that are going on,” Frontis said.

Later, Piercey added that BC is not taking efforts towards diversity comparable to other similar universities around the country.

“Our platform is built on the idea of creating a larger reach in UGBC to break complacency,” Piercey said.

Both teams concluded by emphasizing the key points of their platforms and clarifying their personal goals and qualifications as candidates.

“My experience as an AHANA+ association council chair, my experience as a Bowman Advocate, and my experience of being an orientation leader have all contributed to being where I am now,” Frontis said.

“The role of being at BC is being able to learn more about different cultures, about different people, and about different ways [of life] and that is my goal,” Fletcher said. “I am in this learning process in making everyone feel comfortable about who they are and make everyone at BC feel like they are at home.”

Featured Image by Katie Genirs / Asst. Photo Editor