LTE: Three Trends That UGBC Policy Leaders Must Address
Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 00:01
There is a gripping election in the works on the Heights. A previously uncontested election has heated up, and the annual campaign energy has started to course through campus. The candidates will have several platform points—some more serious than others. They should be paying close attention to three trends that will shape both the immediate and long-term prospects of this University. The hybridization of the sciences and humanities, the diversification of the student body, and the execution of the [Institutional] Master Plan will affect every Boston College student and Eagles to come. The student body and its representatives must have a say in these matters that will profoundly shape BC.
As a Jesuit university, the hybridization of the humanities and the sciences speaks to the heart of what it means to have a holistic, liberal arts education. No one will dispute that fostering both of these broad academic categories is necessary. The issue is how best to pursue the integration of the greatest aspects of time-tested humanities in a climate that demands graduates be more exposed to STEM fields. We have seen massive investments into STEM and a higher-level focus on attracting more researchers and award-winning scientists that bring BC both prestige and grants. Strengthening our STEM resources is a step in the right direction. Where student policymakers must be involved, however, is to become more outspoken on how STEM can strengthen and not replace our history of liberal arts education. Rather than only competing against other schools directly on the strength of our STEM departments at the expense of the humanities, does not BC have much to gain from offering an innovative hybridization of the two? I certainly think so, and more students should be outspoken regarding the fate of their ultimate gift from BC—their education.
Our education is strengthened through conversations—conversations that are taking place with ever more diverse peers from different walks of life around the world. Our student body has more women, AHANA, international, and socio-economically diverse students than it has ever had in its history. This trend will continue as our world becomes more globalized and so long as we maintain our commitment to financial aid. All this being said, student leaders can play a large part in fostering an environment that is both inclusive and allows for discussion. Cliques are the easy way out. Earlier and more intensive outreach to all students to get them involved reaps substantial long-term benefits. Strengthening our mental health resources for a diverse student patient population is another step, and informing students of just how diverse the Heights has become should be seen as a source of community pride and progress.
Of course, there are few things as visible as new buildings when it comes to progress. Student leaders should be prepared for more sightings and sounds of cranes, masonry, and heavy machinery. The election and inauguration of alum Marty Walsh only adds to BC’s list of illustrious graduates. The policies supported by our new mayor and his signals so far would indicate greater political and local support for BC to move forward with its campus building plan. The elements of this plan have been set long ago, and elements of its completion will take years. And yet, student leaders must take the long-view when advocating on matters related to construction. The quality, cost, and inclusion of resources that have been supported by every UGBC administration since the plan’s unveiling must not only be continuously lobbied for but even more vigorously campaigned. If our school is to be radically altered physically, from the building of new structures and the demolition of old ones from the Plex, Edmonds, and areas bordering Campanella Way, then our student leaders must be bullish in ensuring that student positions are not only heard but actively taken into consideration.
No matter what campaign students consider—be it the classic insider, outsider, and dark horse tickets—they should make a decision based off how well each team can address these trends, at least in part. Success in this election will be determined by each team’s success in messaging complex and nuanced solutions to the student body. Admittedly, UGBC does this poorly. We need a team that has gripped not only the ideas but how to rouse the entire student body to action for the next year and those to come.
UGBC Executive Vice President