UGBC Focuses In On Ways To Advocate Effectively
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
The UGBC is best known around campus for the two concerts they organize every year. What is less well-known is the work that they do to influence and shape the policies that University administrators put in place. While they have no power to implement policy, they do offer suggestions based on what they perceive to be the needs of the students.
“[UGBC] can offer creative solutions and hold administrators accountable,” said Matthew Alonsozana, senator and policy caucus chairman and A&S ’14. “No policies require student input before being passed.”
Although lacking implementation power, UGBC departments have successfully petitioned the administrators for substantial policy change. This has been accomplished primarily through the University Affairs (UA) department, led this year by Director Harry Kent, A&S ’13, and Deputy Director Radha Patel, A&S ’13. Their department is broken down into Academic Advising, Dining, Academic Affairs, Sustainability, Health and Safety, and Service.
As the former Service Coordinator, Patel described the Service Assembly that UA worked with the Volunteer Service Learning Council, Campus Ministry, and other BC service organizations to set up. They put together a brochure to be distributed to all incoming freshmen so that they would know all of the service opportunities available and not just the most-advertised, such as 4Boston.
One of the big changes that has occurred on campus in the last few years is the introduction of the Seeking Help for Alcohol Related Emergencies (S.H.A.R.M.E.) policy for alcohol, which came from the health and safety directorship.
“At one time, the fear of disciplinary repercussions overshadowed the need for providing medical assistance to students who needed it,” Kent said. “Now, UGBC has changed campus culture in order to promote proper Health and Safety protocols that allow students to prioritize the wellbeing of others over their fear of getting in trouble.”
Currently, the department is working with the Provost’s office to put the finishing touches on the Advisor Evaluation forms that will be distributed to all undergraduate students at the end of the year. In the works for the last three years, the forms will include a 15-question survey that will be solely for the advisors, department chairs, and deans. On the project since he was a freshman, Kent described the effort as an attempt to hold advisors more accountable.
“One administrator told me that advising has been a problem at BC for 30 years,” Kent said. “That amazed me. Students say ‘My advisor is terrible,’ and advisors say that students don’t show any interest in coming to advising meetings. This will recognize fantastic advisors and hopefully encourage other advisors and the department to do better. But as students, we need to recognize that advising is a two-way street and that we need to take the first step in improving the relationship with our academic advisors.”
In addition to the advisor evaluation forms, UA has also helped the Academic Advising Center redesign their website and post suggested topic guides for students when they meet with their advisors. Kent described it as “a one-page cheat sheet with questions geared for each year.”
One of their major focuses for this year is Dining Policy. Patel explained the new role that UA has taken regarding dining this year and their collaboration with ALC, Asian Caucus (AC), and Senate to collect data and understand from where the changes have come. One of the major concerns is the yet-to-be-implemented changes that will require all BC organizations to use BC Catering for all food events on campus.
“This directly affects culture clubs,” said John Wang, co-director of AC Policy and A&S ’14. “Food is an important trait of culture clubs. They are proud of their food culture, and it needs to be authentic. BC Catering has not always been able to be authentic, while outside vendors have.”
In order to address this problem, as well as the frustrations that Hillside has been taken off the mandatory meal plan, the policy groups are working with Student Life to put on a State of the Heights event. Chris Duffy, director of Student Life and A&S ’13, and Jenna Denice, assistant director of Student Life and LSOE ’14, want to get student input similar to that gained from the State of the Heights last year on concerts and events policy.
“We view our role as it relates to policy as helping facilitate a dialogue between administrators and students on campus,” Duffy said.
Although Student Life is primarily focused on programming and providing support, such as State of the Heights events, for policy initiatives, Duffy and Denice described one of their new positions, Plex and Facilities Coordinator, as having a role in policy formation. George Radford, the inaugural office holder and A&S ’15, is a trainer and works with supervisors in the Plex.