Opinions, Editorials

Russell Simons & Meredith McCaffrey for UGBC President, EVP

The 2016 Undergraduate Government of Boston College election season has stretched on over four weeks past its expected end date. In this time, the BC community has seen the pool shrink from three teams to one, and then, when the election was reopened, grow again to six and then shrink to three teams—one of which includes the former campaign manager of a team that previously dropped out. The ups and downs of this election cycle for the highest student government office have created an atmosphere of uncertainty, but all three of the teams that made it past last week’s primary have already proven themselves electable by the student body. Each of those teams has policy proposals that the student body cares about. But one team in particular has demonstrated its commitment toward UGBC, as well as its support of reasonable, long-term policy changes.

The Heights endorses Russell Simons and Meredith McCaffrey, both MCAS ’17, for president and executive vice president of UGBC. Their platform presents the most realistic and well-rounded approach to the challenges facing UGBC in the upcoming year, which range from an uncooperative administration to a student body that can be fractured. By focusing on concrete and achievable issues that span a wide range of topics while also presenting long-term policy plans, they would enter the executive positions with the greatest potential for success.

Simons, the current vice president of student organizations, and McCaffrey, a senator in the Student Assembly, have a breadth of UGBC experience. McCaffrey was originally slated to run with Olivia Hussey, current UGBC executive vice president and MCAS ’17. Although Hussey has since opted out of the race, McCaffrey’s close ties with her makes her privy to the long-term plans that were a basis of Hussey’s platform with Thomas Napoli, current UGBC president and MCAS ’16. Furthermore, delay in this year’s election means that the winning team has a much shorter period to learn from their predecessors. Simons and McCaffrey have demonstrated an ability to work with the student government, and would be less hampered by the truncated adjustment period. And, their previous connections within the administration mean that they will be able to spend their term having constructive conversations, rather than getting to know top administrators.

“By focusing on concrete and achievable issues that span a wide range of topics while also presenting long-term policy plans, they would enter the executive positions with the greatest potential for success.”

The platform presented by Simons and McCaffrey approaches every presidential responsibility realistically while also putting forward ideas that would promote concrete change, both in the short and long-term, such as creating a conduct audit feature on Agora Portal and advocating for increased AHANA presence in the faculty. Their platform also avoids over-focusing on one issue, which would risk a wider platform failure if this one policy did not succeed. By having expertise in the many areas of UGBC and spreading their policies to encompass these, they present the best possible platform for enacting change and engaging in productive discussion with the administration. UGBC relies heavily on the administration—even if a policy passes in UGBC’s Student Assembly, nothing will change for the student body unless approved by the administration. When this doesn’t work, UGBC must find new and innovative ways to present ideas when the administration is unresponsive. Simons and McCaffrey have demonstrated an ability to work within these channels in their work on the incubation phase project and student guide proposal. Yet, they have also learned from the failure of many parts of the free speech proposal, and know that creative methods are often necessary.

Both the teams of Matthew Ulrich, MCAS ’17, and John Miotti, MCAS ’17, and Nikita Patel, CSOM ’17, and Joseph Arquillo, LSOE ’17, present important issues not addressed by Simons and McCaffrey.

Ulrich and Miotti’s campaign focuses on enhancing the daily BC student experience by providing more student-focused events, like pep rallies, and encouraging attendance at athletic facilities. This would be an important step in unifying the BC community and establishing BC among its peers such as Villanova and Notre Dame, and the team deserves praise for this push to make BC more enthusiastic. But these programming proposals are largely the responsibility of the Campus Activities Board. Since its split from the programming division, UGBC primarily exists to draft policy and promote advocacy, while CAB exists to put on events and promote successful events, like rallies and talks. The Ulrich-Miotti platform relies heavily on these events and does not reflect an understanding of UGBC’s new role as an advocacy body, meant to pioneer long-term change.

Regardless of the election’s outcome, the ideas they present still remain promising and should be taken into consideration by groups such as CAB and UGBC. Working with BC Athletics to bring these proposals to reality could bring about serious and long-lasting change to student life at BC. As outsiders, they provide a fresh perspective that reflects the non-UGBC student body. The next UGBC leadership, as well as CAB leadership, ought to take their underlying ideas about promoting events into serious consideration.

Further, one of the most important parts of the Patel and Arquillo platform is the section about financial aid. The ideas presented in this section are relevant to every student and should be addressed by the next UGBC Cabinet. Ideas like sending out more frequent aid deadline reminders, creating a simple financial aid guide, and providing a financial aid open house are strong policies that should be considered.

But overall, the platform presented by Patel and Arquillo would be difficult to accomplish, due to a lack of realistic intermediate plans to enact their eventual goals. Although the color coding of the platform reflects an understanding of the degrees of difficulty they would face, the team does not present a well-thought-out plan to accomplish their goals, particularly those that seem more difficult, such as making “Backgrounds” a one-credit course. Furthermore, the Patel and Arquillo team does not demonstrate the same level of communication effectiveness that Simons and McCaffrey have shown, due to previous commitments to other organizations and a lack of experience with UGBC. Patel and Arquillo have several good ideas that focus on marginalized communities, but they lack day-to-day plans that would enhance student life as a whole.

Simons and McCaffrey are UGBC insiders. In this role, they could potentially become stuck in the same, inefficient routine that UGBC is known for among students. Despite promising ideas, they could find themselves mired in the administrative backlog that has made past UGBC administrations ineffective. They will need to actively step outside the UGBC bubble to see what the student body wants and needs. Their ability to think creatively as well as their proposed survey of the student body should push them to enact proposals that reflect the needs of BC students. Moreover, their clear passion for UGBC—marked by the detailed platform created in the short time after the race was re-opened—indicates their devotion to positive change.

While the other teams present relevant ideas that should be considered, the Simons and McCaffrey team has the most potential to enact concrete change and solidify UGBC’s role as an advocacy body, meant to represent all students. By expanding their ideas to every responsibility of the board, while also presenting concrete ways to make these ideas a reality, we believe they are the best option for UGBC’s future.

Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor

March 30, 2016