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UGBC Candidates Discuss Differences in Perspectives, Priorities in Final Debate

The two teams running for the Undergraduate Government of Boston College Presidency and Executive Vice Presidency met in Robsham Theater on Sunday night for the final debate of the campaign. Student voters will select either Taylor Jackson, MCAS ’21, and Alejandro Perez, MCAS ’21, or their opponents, Michael Osaghae, MCAS ’20, and Tiffany Brooks, MCAS ’21.

While the first debate limited candidates to issues of diversity and inclusion—topics they largely agreed upon—its sequel opened up discussion to a wide array of questions, largely focused on working with University administrators. During intermission, the audience was invited to submit their own questions for the candidates.

Candidates began by giving general opening statements. Jackson and Perez used the opportunity to express the three major themes of their candidacies: “community, commitment, and collaboration.” Jackson also described working with alumni as the campaign’s “red thread.”

Jackson works in Campus Activities Board’s (CAB) campus engagement division, while Perez serves as a senator for the Class of 2021 in the Student Assembly (SA).

In his first statement, Osaghae emphasized the duality of experiences students face at BC and his intention to create more positive moments through their “intentional, innovative, and intersectional” approach.

“I’m running to be your UGBC president because I’ve experienced moments of gold, [and] I’ve experienced moments of pain,” Osaghae said. “I want to make sure we can change that with our student government, encapturing what has worked for us as a community, but also advocating and working to change what hasn’t gone right.”

Osaghae is the chair of the AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC). Brooks serves as the senator representing Music, Art, and Performance Organizations in the SA.

James Mangan, MCAS ’19, and James Tallis, MCAS ’19—members of the Elections Committee—moderated the debate. They kicked off the evening by asking the candidates why the average student should care about UGBC.

Jackson and Perez, who started with the microphone, emphasized that UGBC offers representation that is often hard to come by when working alone.

“I believe that you should care about UGBC because on a campus of 10,000 students, one student can make a difference, but it’s going to be really hard for them to do so,” Jackson said. “I think that the job of UGBC on campus is to take the beliefs, and take the desires, and take what the students want to see happen on campus and make that happen for them or point them to the resources that are going to help them to do that in a timely fashion.”

Osaghae shared a concern that not enough people engage with UGBC, limiting its ability to represent the student body—not participating or caring about UGBC can create a hole in BC students’ potential experience, according to the candidate.

Almost every question asked the teams to compare themselves to each other, whether in leadership style, qualifications, or platforms. While the teams largely agreed on how issues such as sexual assault, accommodating Muslim students, and supporting the LGBTQ+ student community should be handled, all four candidates laid out differences in how they would approach certain problems.

Perez was the first to draw a direct contrast between the two teams, promising that he and Jackson would expand UGBC’s reach to all BC students.

“We think that there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of who UGBC reaches,” he said. “If you look out into the audience right now, I recognize a lot of you all because you’re involved in UGBC. I think that our message is to really capture the people that UGBC hasn’t reached out to yet, and we realize that that is a huge majority on this campus.”

In response, Osaghae said that a key point of differentiation between the teams is their platforms, with his focusing on “short-term, pragmatic changes that will hopefully be accomplishing [during their] presidency.”

Brooks cited her approach to leadership, as well as her personal identity, as an important strength she would bring to the office of executive vice president.

“I know what it feels like to not really have a voice growing up mixed race,” Brooks said. “I never really felt like I belonged to both of the communities I’m a part of and that I had a strong or grounding voice in one, so that made me very empathetic and passionate about representing those who need to have their voices uplifted.”

UGBC’s president and executive vice president meet with the Board of Trustees three times during their terms, which led the moderators to ask both teams what issues they would raise in their initial meeting with the University’s governing body and how they would ensure progress going forward.

Perez, who responded first, committed himself to getting BC to withhold investments in the fossil fuel industry—the subject of an upcoming referendum question, which will also be on the ballot on Thursday.

“This issue is very important to students on this campus,” Perez said. “We know that last year when we had a referendum for students’ sexual health, the referendum results were pushed aside, even though there was an overwhelming amount of support for distributing contraceptives on this campus. We want to make sure that doesn’t happen again with this issue, because we know there is a lot of support for having BC divest in fossil fuels. We will show that to the administrators—we will show that to the Board of Trustees.”

Osaghae and Brooks agreed on the importance of divestment, but also explained that they would prioritize allocating resources toward the LGBTQ+ community—which the other team signed onto during their rebuttal—through the creation of an LGBTQ+ center on campus.

Their platform contained proposals for this center—which they suggest could temporarily be housed in Carney Hall—as well as a corresponding full-time position in the Dean of Students Office. In their platform, Jackson and Perez called for a “Pride Summit,” modeled in the image of BC’s annual Women’s Summit.

Audience-submitted questions asked about more specific issues, such as advocating for Muslim students during Ramadan and supporting LGBTQ+ students.

With respect to working toward continuity with the outgoing UGBC administration, the two teams differed sharply. Jackson and Perez highlighted their “outsider” status, arguing that the diversity of experience within their campaign allowed them to approach issues from a different angle. They specifically emphasized the way in which the “widespread” involvement of their team allowed them to source many of their campaign initiatives directly from students.  

Conversely, Osaghae and Brooks voiced support for many issues that the SA had incorporated into their resolution last December—namely hiring more mental health counselors of color—and vowed to continue initiatives pioneered by Ignacio Fletcher, UGBC executive vice president and MCAS ’20, such as regular meetings with UGBC senators and the continuation of a “Student Assembly Handbook” for writing resolutions.

Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Editor

February 11, 2019