Political Affiliation Protections Fail in Student Assembly Vote

A motion to add “political affiliation” as an identity protected under Section 5 of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College Constitution failed to pass in the Student Assembly (SA) last Tuesday.

Proposed by Sam Szemerenyi, a senator and MCAS ’20, the amendment was intended to protect all political affiliations from discrimination within the operations of UGBC. This amendment was intended to push back against the belief that UGBC is politically skewed, and create a more accepting environment for students, despite varying political views, according to Szemerenyi.

He saw the inclusion of “political affiliations” as a symbolic and proactive gesture, though he acknowledged the more pressing discrimination that the already listed identities face on campus. Szemerenyi specifically mentioned that the amendment would be passed with the caveat that hate speech would not be protected—the amendment would not serve as an excuse to discriminate against other identities protected by Section 5.

Czar Sepe, senator for political organizations in the Conduct and Student Rights Committee and MCAS ’21, voted in support of the amendment, but he believes if there was more planning surrounding the amendment, there would be a better cause to move it forward in the future.

“You can see through UGBC’s record that we are involved in political advocacy and political activism, so there’s nothing limiting us to [include] political affiliation,” Sepe said.

Szemerenyi disagreed with that argument, specifically citing canvassing he did last semester to inform the SA on the ramifications of the amendment.

“I took the entire semester to talk to people and address those individual concerns, many of which were expressed again,” Szemerenyi said. “Had I proposed it at the end of last semester, I have a good feeling that it would have passed.”

Opposing senators argued that, despite the caveat, political affiliation can be used as an excuse to discriminate against other protected identities. Many senators used the views of extremist political parties in the current political climate to prove the inefficiency of protecting “political affiliations.”

“A lot of people use political affiliation to spread anti-black, anti-Islam, anti-women sentiments,” said Berlindyne Elie, a senator and MCAS ’21, “I think [the inclusion of “political affiliation”] will promote a lot of xenophobic, racist, transphobic, and homophobic point of views.”

Other senators opposed the amendment because they felt there were no direct plans or motives attached to the change by Szemerenyi.

“All the protections the senator suggested primarily affected things that [UGBC] already covers or seemed like it would open loopholes for abuse,” said Kyle Garrett, a senator and CSOM ’19. “I was worried this would be a symbolic measure that doesn’t really accomplish anything but pointless clutter.”

Nate Hiriak contributed to this report.

Correction (11/2/18, 4:55 p.m.): This article originally said the resolution would protect political affiliations across campus, not just within the operations of UGBC, which is inaccurate. The school Garrett is enrolled in was also incorrect and has been altered to reflect that he is a Carroll School of Management student.

Featured Image by Sam Zhai / Heights Staff