The Undergraduate Government of Boston College hosted the first of two debates between the two teams of presidential candidates on Wednesday. The debate’s focus centered on each team’s approach to issues of diversity and inclusion on campus—there was no disagreement between the teams over how such problems should be handled, and students were denied the opportunity to ask the candidates questions.
The duo of Taylor Jackson, MCAS ’21, and Alejandro Perez, MCAS ’21, faced off against the team of Michael Osaghae, MCAS ’20, and Tiffany Brooks, MCAS ’21.
James Mangan, MCAS ’19, and James Tallis, MCAS ’19—members of the Elections Committee—moderated the debate. The format was as follows: One team is asked a question and is given two minutes to respond. The other team is then given two minutes to rebut, after which the first team gets one minute to rebut.
Neither team used the rebuttal to directly oppose the opposition’s points, however, as the candidates were often in agreement regarding the importance of an ongoing campus-wide conversation regarding inclusivity and diversity. If the rebuttal was used at all, it was often used to expand upon a previous point, whether made by the candidate or their opponent.
“If you are at a table and you look around, you ask, ‘Who is missing from this conversation?’, ‘What voices aren’t there?’,” Osaghae said. “That is where diversity comes in … now what are you going to do once they’re there? Are you going to listen to their voice? Are you going to process their experience?”
Perez expressed a similar sentiment, saying that dialogues regarding diversity and inclusion do not happen enough on campus, an issue which his team’s administration will look to address.
In response to a question regarding tangible support for LBGTQ+ students on campus, Jackson suggested an event similar to the Women’s Summit, where different LGBTQ+ leaders, activists, and figures could speak to students about their experiences in post-college life as members of the gay community.
“We also just really want to push the resources that UGBC offers,” Perez said. “We have this great organization in [the GLBTQ+ Leadership Council] … I think we can do a better job of advertising these resources to people on campus, as well as opening up more spaces for LGBTQ+ students to meet.”
As Osaghae does not identify as LGBTQ+, he said that it is important for him and Brooks to “step back” and allow other voices to be magnified, a sentiment which Jackson and Perez mirrored in their rebuttal.
Osaghae also articulated his support for transgender students having the ability to change their gender pronouns on the Agora Portal, a statement that drew a chorus of snaps from the sizable crowd gathered in the Heights Room.
“As an administration, we would definitely be working to create innovative and intersectional events that will happen throughout campus and throughout the year to make sure that the dialogue is always happening,” Brooks said in response to a question to how her administration will put on events that are “educational, serious, and entertaining.”
She also mentioned collaborations with different art departments to create a series depicting intersectional and diverse issues through different mediums.
Both teams voiced their support for a November 2018 UGBC resolution that called for, among other provisions, increased prayer spaces and a resident chaplain for students that practice Islam.
“We’d work to create a committee between UGBC and MSA and make sure that Muslim students have a hand in every step of the way, so that they know what they need will be taken into account and that they have some control over the environment they’re creating for themselves,” Jackson said, as she explained her team’s plans to build on the previous resolution.
In regard to academic change, Osaghae advocated for the establishment of an official African and African Diaspora Studies department, which he said would open up the opportunity for students to be able to have conversations relating to race issues, specifically anti-blackness.
Jackson said that a change that she would like to see is making the admissions supplemental essay question concerning diversity compulsory—a demand that was included in UGBC’s resolution in response to the racist vandalism in December, but previously rejected in a letter to UGBC by interim Vice President of Student Affairs Joy Moore.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff