While this may be the first year Kalkidan Tadesse, the newly appointed chair of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s Conduct and Student Rights Committee and MCAS ’21, is a part of UGBC, it is far from her first time dealing with the bureaucratic intricacies of getting campus-wide change initiated.
She spent her first year on campus devoting her time, along with seven other students, to spawning a program that will help students further their understanding of race and diversity on campus. That program, which later became known as DiversityEdu, is now a mandatory education program on campus.
“I had a lot of experience working alongside UGBC without being in UGBC, so I had opportunities to hear students concerns, and I also had the same concerns that they did,” Tadesse said.
Now, entering her second year on BC’s campus, Tadesse is taking on a new set of challenges.
“[Conduct and Student Rights Committee is] a committee that focuses on student issues on campus, so anything on campus regarding demonstrations, student conduct, or transparency issues, we deal with as a committee,” she said.
The committee of seven students plans to go about navigating these particular issues by focusing on two main principles: accountability and sustainability—the accountability of faculty and students when dealing with conduct issues or student rights, and the sustainability of all previously, and subsequently, passed programs by the committee, such as DiversityEdu.
“We are thinking of creating a committee alongside the [AHANA+ Leadership Council] and working alongside Dean [of Students Tom] Mogan and the administration to create a committee that oversees DiversityEdu to uphold what we want it to do,” Tadesse said.
Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Joy Moore said that DiversityEdu will be tweaked to address student concerns, and she’ll be working with Tadesse’s committee to get that done.
The immediate focus for Tadesse will be on establishing a framework for the other pillar of her committee: accountability. All BC students have a set of rights that are given to them by the administration, according to Tadesse. Yet, she believes that the vocalization of those rights from the administration to students has left a lot of people in the dark about what they can, and cannot, do on campus.
“We found that a lot of students don’t know their rights on campus and don’t know who to turn to,” Tadesse said. “They’re nervous to ask their RA if they can have a demonstration, and if they look on [BC’s] website, they won’t find a concrete answer.”
The proposed solution from UGBC’s Conduct and Student’s Rights Committee is twofold: First, the committee is working with University Communications to establish something akin to a customer service system for conduct questions. Students will be able to anonymously ask conduct questions to UGBC members, according to Tadesse.
Second, she and her committee are looking into publishing a small pamphlet that lists the Code of Student Conduct and Students’ Rights, which Tadesse says was born out of a frustration with the code of conduct section of BC’s website, where there is “no one concrete area where your rights [as students] are listed.” Although Tadesse is devoted to her accountability and sustainability initiatives, her committee also has big plans when it comes to a prevalent on-campus issue across the country: free speech.
Tadesse’s plan, inspired by Georgetown’s recently minted Free Speech Project, is called the “Red Square” and encompasses an area on campus that allows students the freedom to express themselves with healthy dialogue among people of different backgrounds, and who may have different opinions. The idea was a part of the platform of Taraun Frontis, CSOM ’19, and Anneb Sheikh, MCAS ’20, in their campaign for UGBC president and executive vice president last year, and Tadesse believes the Red Square will resonate with students who want to have passionate conversations with larger groups of people.
“We found that students were having these hard conversations among their own friend groups, but students weren’t given a cumulative area where students can go and find a resolution,” Tadesse said regarding the surge of on-campus protests last year in the wake of racist incidents in the BC community.
While a policy like the “Red Square” may take a long time to get implemented, Tadesse and her committee are already in talks with the BC administration about the possibility of such an area becoming a reality.
“It’s an ongoing conversation, and we’re excited to see what will come out of that,” she said.
Correction (10/31/18, 1:36 p.m.): This article and its headline previously identified Tadesse as the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The article and headline have been modified to reflect that she is, in fact, chair of the Conduct and Student Rights Committee.
Featured Image Courtesy of UGBC