There are two candidate teams for the upcoming Undergraduate Government of Boston College election for president and executive vice president: Taraun Frontis, CSOM ’19, and Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS ’20; and Reed Piercey, MCAS ’19, and Ignacio Fletcher, MCAS ’20. Last semester, incidents of racial bias sparked significant student activism, and left the campus environment in a sensitive state as we entered 2018. The candidates succeeding current president and Akosua Achampong and vice president Tt King, both MCAS ’18, must recognize the disconnect between the student body and UGBC’s activism, and propose concrete initiatives that address this divide and growing student concerns. Right now, the student body needs a strong advocate voice, especially for the minority populations on campus, to prioritize building a student experience that will allow every student to be able to take full advantage of their college career. Considering the actions that BC needs for the coming year, Frontis and Sheikh have proven themselves to be qualified advocates for all students.
In advocating for students of color, Frontis helped initiate the oncoming adoption of DiversityEDU last semester when he took part in a small meeting with many of BC’s vice presidents. Along with previous interactions with the administration, Frontis has worked toward improvements for the student body, including the implementation of the Bias Investigation Report Team (BIRT). Frontis and Sheikh have shown the student body that they are able and eager to engage the administration in difficult conversations regarding the needs of the student body. Both Frontis and Sheikh have developed productive working relationships with key members of the administration because of their involvement in previous UGBC proposals.
Sheikh is the most qualified to serve as executive vice president. During his time as a senator in the Student Assembly (SA), he has sponsored and cosponsored resolutions on topics ranging from UGBC’s transparency to addressing student needs during the uncertainty of the Trump administration’s travel ban last winter. After proposing the travel ban resolution and speaking at the demonstration, Sheikh worked with Associate Vice President for Student Affairs George Arey to designate housing on campus for students who could have been affected by the ban. Furthermore, as the chair of the Intersections Committee and a senator for the Class of 2020 in the SA, he works with the AHANA+ Leadership Council, the GLBTQ+ Leadership Council, and the Council for Students with Disabilities. Sheikh has worked with administration members to ensure that resolutions he has passed receive the attention necessary to enact change.
The pair’s platform puts an emphasis on alerting the administration to inequalities within the student body and working to address them. Due to their communication with the administration in past resolutions aimed at improving the experiences of marginalized students at BC, Frontis and Sheikh are very familiar with the facts supporting their initiatives. By prioritizing programs like DiversityEDU and BIRT, they address the University’s current shortcomings in those areas. The candidates have indicated that they have received anecdotal feedback regarding students feeling underrepresented by GLBTQ+ Leadership Council (GLC). Although they have not collected any concrete data regarding marginalized groups, they want to ensure that every student has a positive experience. To do this, they will investigate aspects of the University and promote action based on student testimonials.
Frontis and Sheikh are following in the footsteps of Achampong’s initiatives, specifically in regards to making people of color feel more welcome at BC. The candidates are looking to continue expanding the number of AHANA+ faculty members and students of color on campus. Sheikh recently met with Dean for Students Thomas Mogan to discuss this year’s increased proportion of AHANA+ faculty hires, and the team’s response has been to encourage the continuation of the hiring practices so that African and African Diaspora Studies can become an independent department within two to three years. They will also urge the administration to implement the Campus Climate Survey proposed by students last semester in order to collect data that shows how minority students feel on campus. They plan to continue encouraging the administration to divest from fossil fuels and private prisons through pressure from all associated with the University, specifically citing student petitions and alumni requests.
In their platform, Frontis and Sheikh also encourage expediting the establishment of a student center so that they can designate an LGBTQ+ resource center in spite of the perceived conflict between the school’s Catholic values and the needs of a constantly diversifying student body. However, there is a significant disconnect between their stated goals and the logistical feasibility of such a project. The University has said a number of times that it intends to eventually create a student center. BC has tried to build a student center three times since 1995, but has run into obstacles with the city of Newton. Yet, it is clear that a student center is a priority for the University. Given the 2008 financial crisis, however, other projects originally slated to finish earlier—like the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society and athletic improvements—are only now being completed. The team must be willing to work with the University through its process of erecting new buildings, and understand that the University is in agreement with UGBC and students on the center’s creation. Spending a significant amount of time and effort in this initiative, therefore, should not dominate Frontis and Sheikh’s platform and their activities as executives if they win.
Piercey and Fletcher have demonstrated dedication and passion for their initiatives, but lack the diligence that Frontis and Sheikh give to marginalized students’ current need for action. Through no fault of his own, Piercey was abroad during the formative events of last semester, and lacks the experience Frontis and Sheikh gained during those months. Piercey and Fletcher’s platform is more general, appealing to the broader student body, but is not as explicit as Frontis and Sheikh’s. For instance, when we asked Piercey and Fletcher about the installation of an LGBTQ+ center on campus, they noted that the center should exist, suggesting a room in Carney Hall as its potentially temporary home. When Frontis and Sheikh were asked the same question, they explained that although they believed the University absolutely should have a LGBTQ+ center on campus, there are more steps to take before reaching the point of putting a making a more permanent home for a center. They believe that UGBC needs to work on improving the effectiveness of organizations like GLC before addressing the broader issue of a center. In the current social climate surrounding BC, we feel that Frontis and Sheikh can deliver on minority student demands at a different level, while also serving the greater student body with just as much effectiveness as their opponents could. As students of color, their voices are vital and unique in a way that can further facilitate the ongoing conversations the administration and student government body need to have over sensitive on-campus issues like race and sexuality.
As president and executive vice president of UGBC, next year’s officers first and foremost must advocate for the student body. Frontis and Sheikh propose deliberate steps to improve the experience of marginalized students at BC with plans to hear the voices of those whose issues are most pressing, while pressuring administrators to appropriately address them. Showing their concern for the most urgent needs of the student body, their inclusive initiatives prove them to be the most qualified candidates in this year’s election.