The New England Classic, Boston College’s resident satirical news outlet, is making good on its promise—by campaigning against the Undergraduate Government of BC for not making good on its own. The editors and writers of the Classic will take to Stokes Lawn to call for the abolition of UGBC on Wednesday.
The Classic released its annual NEC Policy Bracket, featuring entries such as “47 is the new sex number,” “Leahy denounces racism,” and “Give Addazio hair,” on March 18. After 10 days of Facebook and Twitter polls, the people spoke, selecting “Abolish UGBC” as their 2019 policy champion.
The group knew from the outset that whatever won, they would push for it somehow—they just weren’t sure on the method yet.
“We were just talking about this earlier,” Josh Artman, editor-in-chief of the Classic and MCAS ’19, said. “In the finals, it was between like ‘Abolish UGBC’ and ‘Rename Fulton ‘East Stokes.’ And we were just lamenting, like, ‘Oh my God, if that had won it would have been so much easier.’”
Interestingly enough, neither of those two finalists were planned for the bracket. At the last minute, Artman came up with several additional ones on the fly.
“That didn’t even come up in the meeting,” Artman said. “It was like, ‘Oh crap, I need a few extras.’ Abolish ICE was a thing. I totally, totally did not intend for it get this successful.”
When the results of the bracket came in, a braintrust, aimed at finding some mechanism to abolish UGBC, formed. After some digging, Aidan Fitzpatrick, a writer for the Classic and CSOM ’20, found a form to register a student protest through UGBC.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, guys,’” Fitzpatrick said. “‘What if we use UGBC resources to try to abolish UGBC and protest them in the most satirical way possible?’”
Artman and Fitzpatrick quickly discovered that tearing the system down through the system doesn’t work. The next day, their request was rejected by the Office of Student Involvement (OSI), and the form was taken down. Naturally, Artman just turned around and filled out UGBC’s “Free Expression Reporting Form,” which promises to assist students who feel as through their freedom of expression has been restricted, as well as “provide a means for the UGBC to voice these concerns to the appropriate administrators.”
Artman ended up in the office of the OSI employee who rejected their requests. There, he learned that the UGBC protest registration form hadn’t been used in over two years. UGBC no longer handles protest registrations—the Dean of Students Office deals with them directly—but the form to register was still up on a page on the UGBC website. Artman said an OSI employee has since told him the page will be taken down.
“On one level, it is just nice to be sort of greasing these cogs of bureaucracy,” Artman said. “In a way, I already feel like the movement’s kind of helped.”
The Classic posted an Exploratory Survey for the Abolishment of UGBC on April 10, which received over 100 responses in 24 hours, according to Artman.
The responses ranged from lengthy essays—the longest clocked in at 256 words—to a single word, such as “sucks”; “lame”; and “yes,” which appeared three times.
More than anything, the responses were jokes: Highlights included “I got a bad housing and pick time and feel they’re responsible,” “I’m tired of seeing people wear their fancy ugbc sweaters,” and “Chaos is it’s [sic] own reward.” Another blamed UGBC for a whole host of issues, ranging from the respondent’s GPA, the lack of sunlight in his or her dorm, and UGBC’s complicity in the existence of the sewing club and Irish dance team.
Artman said his personal favorites are “UGBC smokes oregano” and “sƃuᴉppǝʍ ʇɐ sǝᴉɹɔ ɔqƃn.”
Some of the more serious responses included complaints that the student government lacks any real power and that members of the Executive Council receive stipends for their work—most other leadership positions in student groups are unpaid. Many also said that UGBC’s budget, which is set at $329,138 for the 2018-19 year, is too large for an organization that accomplishes too little.
One of the most common complaints students submitted were about UGBC’s own policy bracket for this year, which pitted the policies “LGBTQ+ Resource” and “Extended Hours in Rat” against one another in the first round.
Artman said that while on one hand this matchup was ridiculous, pairing less serious and more serious issues is one of the consequences of having a bracket.
“If you’re thinking about it, from how at least I hope UGBC thinks about it, they’re not saying, ‘Hey, these are policies that we’re going to get done,’” Artman said. “They’re saying, “Hey, guys, we’re an advocacy group. What’s first and foremost on your mind? Let’s check the polls.”
Just like the responses to the Classic’s survey, the revolutionaries at the Classic are stuck straddling the line between satire and real criticism.
“The line is massively blurred,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think at this stage, I think we still have license to continue making fun of UGBC. I think there are a lot of shortcomings. But one thing that I find really surprising and backwards with this whole thing is how much more I’m starting to like them since starting ‘Abolish UGBC.’”
Fitzpatrick admitted that he had an initial prejudice against the elected members of UGBC, one that stemmed from their overly serious demeanor. Judging by the student replies, he wasn’t alone: “UGBC is one-sided and does not reflect the views of all of BC,” one student wrote. “It is a bubble and is not transparent. Abolish UGBC.”
BC is a serious place—too serious, most of the time, in Artman’s eyes.
“I feel like if UGBC was a little bit more humble, they would present themselves more as an advocacy group,” he said. “But I think a lot of times, or at least just what you end up seeing on social media, [they’re saying], ‘It’s a student government, NYAH!’”
The OSI employee recommended to Artman that the Classic put together some sort of plan for the movement before meeting with Dean of Students Tom Mogan—in Artman’s retelling, “so [he was] not just going to be in his office looking like an idiot.”
Enter Doug Girardot, a writer for the Classic, contributor for The Heights, and MCAS ’21—the Martin Luther to the movement’s 95 Theses—who put together a petition for the dissolution of UGBC.
“Kind of like the whole ‘Abolish UGBC’ movement that Josh and Aidan spearheaded, the memo I wrote started out as a joke, but then I started to take it more seriously as I went on,” Girardot said. “Overall, the form of the document is satire, but the content is a lot less of a joke, even if it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek.”
The dissolution resolution touched on many of the points raised in the student body’s responses, specifically mentioning UGBC’s budget and lack of influence, in addition to pointing out that, given low student turnout, the organization is generally not reflective of the student body.
Preempting charges of anarchism, the Classic’s manifesto included a proposal section. Prior to abolition, it recommends that the non-elected branches—the AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC), the GLBTQ+ Leadership Council (GLC), and Council for Students with Disabilities (CSD)—split from UGBC and receive direct financial support from the University.
While Artman said ALC, GLC, and CSD do great work, he described the student Senate—formerly known as the Student Assembly—as “basically a dressed-up advocacy group,” since every resolution it passes is non-binding.
Additionally, the Classic suggested that funding previously allocated to UGBC be rerouted into financial aid, such as grants, scholarships, and awards.
One surprising response to the movement came from Reed Piercey, UGBC President and MCAS ’19. He caught wind of the protest as the registration form made its way to OSI and contacted Artman about it, hoping to talk.
“The way I interpreted it was that they are comically expressing a lot of the disengagement and issues of UGBC that I think everyone perceives,” Piercey said. “Which I think is definitely worthwhile, and that’s why I wanted to talk to them about it.”
Artman recalled that Piercey was not only open and engaged, but also understood the complaints about the size of the organization as sincere criticism and noted that UGBC began restructuring to meet that very problem earlier this year.
“The way we can frame it at the protest is that we’re not abolishing ourselves, sorry to disappoint, but we’re doing the next best thing, which is cutting a third of our members,” Piercey said.
Michael Osaghae, UGBC president-elect and MCAS ’20—who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, the same day as the protest—said he’s treating the protest as a learning experience. He’s been using it to talk to people about where UGBC has missed the mark and where it can go in the future, he said.
“[I’m] trying to take a positive spin on it, but also just recognize that UGBC has some role on campus, and not all of our work has been seen where it’s visible,” Osaghae said. “In large part, the protest made me think about what are ways that we can publicize our initiatives, publicize what we’re doing in a more transparent fashion.”
Artman also expressed some sympathy for UGBC, saying that, despite all the bluster, there is a solid foundation at the organization’s core. He pointed to the recent referendum on divestment from fossil fuels as an example of the organization forcing the University to create a “paper trail” on an important issue.
“I mean half of the faults that are directed at UGBC are probably the University’s fault,” Artman said. “But it’s easier to pick on them. What [UGBC does] is actually really important.
“Hey, someone has to fill out the paperwork, file the motion, show it to the University for them to say ‘Hey, great, we don’t care.’ Having them on record saying we don’t care, I think is huge. And it’s an important part of the process.”
Featured Image Courtesy of The New England Classic