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UGBC Presidential Candidates Talk Diversity and Inclusion at Town Hall Event

The three teams running for Undergraduate Government of Boston College president and executive vice president met in a diversity and inclusion-focused townhall debate last night. Moderated by Meredith McCaffrey, UGBC executive vice president and MCAS ’17, the event featured questions about BC’s approach to LGBTQ resources, institutional racism, and students of high financial need.

The three remaining teams are Akosua Achampong and Tt King, both MCAS ’18; Raymond Mancini and Matt Batsinelas, both CSOM ’19; and Daniel Wu and Jack Kelly, both MCAS ’18. Davis Pollino, CSOM ’19, and Sebastian Biber, MCAS ’19, dropped out of the race this week after they decided to support Achampong and King. Biber said they would like to use the next year to gain some more experience with student politics, and then run as juniors.

McCaffrey’s first question asked which community at BC the teams consider the most underresourced. Achampong and King said the disabled community, and highlighted UGBC’s Council for Students with Disabilities (CDS).

“I think that oftentimes students with disabilities can become viewed as a homogenous group,” King said, calling for an expansion of how BC thinks about disabilities.

Mancini said the first-generation student population is underserved, and also highlighted CSD, which he said is underfunded in UGBC’s budget. Asked by an audience member later in the debate whether he thought too much of UGBC’s budget went to events like the GLBTQ Leadership Council (GLC) Formal and the AHANA Leadership Council (ALC) Boat Cruise, Mancini said he would like to see the events become more cost-effective. He said a lot of his friends do not feel welcome at those events because they are aimed at specific populations.

Wu also thinks the cost could become more efficient. His running mate, Kelly, said he thinks that for freshmen, these events are among the first times they are exposed to those groups, so he wants to continue them and ensure that the message welcomes all students.

Achampong, the current chair of ALC, said that the reason these events exist on campus is because the communities that hold them did not feel heard. GLC negotiated at length with administrators in the mid-2000s to work out of the details of an off-campus gala event, which was renamed this year to be a formal.

“If you go to the AHANA Leadership Council Boat Cruise, which I did attend, it was actually majority students who do not identify as AHANA,” she said.

Another question asked whether the candidates think BC can balance its Catholic identity with support for its LGBTQ+ population. King said she doesn’t think the two communities are mutually exclusive, and Achampong highlighted a point in their platform of encouraging the University to establish some gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Mancini said he has respect for the LGBTQ+ community and said his team would help to support LGBTQ-identifying students.

“When it comes to Catholic faith, we need to make sure that the principles of a Jesuit education, the Jesuit values, are still upheld, and I think that we can do both,” Mancini said.

The next question asked whether institutional racism exists at BC, which all of the teams affirmed does exist. King said that the fact that she thinks that having racist structures in a community does not mean every person in the community is racist. Mancini said discrimination does exist at BC, and that to say otherwise would be false.

There was some confusion during Mancini’s answer to a question about whether organized protest has a place at BC. He began his response by voicing support for students’ free speech rights, but then, apparently connecting inclusion to support for student athletes, suddenly criticized UGBC for holding its election campaign kickoff last Saturday during men’s basketball’s game against Louisville.

“I believe that it would be remiss of me not to be confused about athletics being introduced into the last question,” Achampong said. “I’m not really sure how that goes with movements and protests.”

Mancini later responded during his answer to the next question, which asked for an accessibility issue the candidates had noticed on campus.

“Part of BC’s diverse identity is the fact that we have great, tremendous, smart athletes,” he said. “To say that they should not be included in this debate is disgraceful.”

Mancini referenced the number of stairs on campus as a challenge to students with disabilities. Achampong and King’s platform calls for a BC app, which they said they did not expect to achieve in one year but which could include accessibility routes on campus. Achampong also is calling for all signs to include translations in braille.

Wu called for a more streamlined communication between groups that are built around diversity on campus, including heritage organizations.

“I think it’s all great that they’re there, but not all of them are a cohesive unit,” he said. “Along with education you can learn about people, their heritage, and their culture.”

February 8, 2017

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