As their tenure at the top of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College pyramid comes to an end, Reed Piercey, UGBC President and MCAS ’19, and Ignacio Fletcher, Executive Vice President of UGBC and MCAS ’20, are feeling relief.
Both noted that their relief isn’t solely rooted in the overwhelming process of running UGBC from its top-two spots—balancing UGBC responsibilities with scholastic ones is equally difficult. Piercey and Fletcher both said that one of their number one pieces of advice for their successors is to quit every other club they’re involved in to stay sane.
“I think it kind of tested my ability to stay committed to something that could often be frustrating and could feel like you’re just repeating the same cycle of asking for change and not receiving it,” Piercey said.
He cited the difficulties of standing with students in demanding immediate change while also needing to play the long game: Meeting with and forging connections with administrators without demanding things of them is the way to lay the groundwork for change. Balancing both responsibilities wasn’t an easy task for Piercey or Fletcher.
“That ends up being really stressful because there are just such wildly different expectations [between the two perspectives],” Piercey said.
Fletcher noted that a lot of what got the duo through the tougher months was the kindness and engagement they saw from students and administrators—Piercey specifically pointed to the reaction to December’s racist vandalism incident as a moment where an outpouring of passion for student issues was notable.
The end result was the student-administrator forums that have been occurring every few weeks, which have created a more transparent administration for students to directly consider rather than speculate about, Fletcher said.
“As a result of the hate crime incident, we were able to have these forums where students will be able to talk about financial aid, about counseling services, about academic affairs,” Fletcher said. “So there will be a better understanding between administrators and students in terms of what is the big picture right now and how can we move forward.
“Honestly, I feel like the questions that students ask are very engaging and informed, which helps administrators kind of have an idea of what students want to see for follow-up conversations.”
Piercey said UGBC did wish that the forums could’ve taken place on a larger scale, but the combative nature of the first forum that took place in the wake of the vandalism incident initially “spooked” administrators into being more comfortable with the idea of a smaller meeting. Ultimately, though, the idea worked out because, consistently, about 30 students turn out for those forums, and students have yet to be turned away for capacity reasons.
It’s situations, such as that one that Piercey mentioned, make it vital for student leaders to persevere through some of the bureaucratic grind inherent to being a part of UGBC.
“And having a lot of your biggest initiatives depend on the people above you is really frustrating,” he said. “So you have to be able to somehow preserve that passion and that optimism throughout a very frustrating year, and you really have to pick your battles for a handful of things that you will be able to point to at the end of the year as tangibly contributed to it.”
Piercey did say that he made a conscious effort in the wake of the vandalism incident to help guide the response process while ensuring that he was not the face of the resulting resolution and forum in Robsham Theater. Instead, Piercey said he did what he could to get the resolution’s writers into the limelight, so students knew exactly who was constructing UGBC’s response.
“In the moment, honestly, one of the biggest priorities for us was making sure that black students were centered throughout,” Piercey said. “It might have seemed like I didn’t do as much, but I was there helping set things up, but I tried to be very conscious about not taking the spotlight for myself.
“I think the moderators we had at the gathering, I think the students who wrote the resolution, I think they were the people who needed to be heard, so I thought we did that well.”
Piercey also said he hoped that, although the administration was resistant to what was included in the resolution that was produced in response to the vandalism incident, student leaders can now look to the document to find potential goals for UGBC to keep in mind, as it tries to create and encourage a more inclusive campus atmosphere in the future.
Both Piercey and Fletcher were effusive in their praise of GLBTQ+ Leadership Council (GLC) Co-Chairs Chris Ramirez, MCAS ’19, and Symone Varnado, MCAS ’19, for their advocacy and work ethic, as they worked to shine a light on the issues most important to the queer community. Piercey praised Prom 2.0, the first edition of which took place this week, as one of their most notable triumphs.
Piercey also said that one of GLC’s primary concerns—the creation of an LGBTQ+ center on campus—is moving in a positive direction as the semester comes to a close.
Ramirez and Varnado prepared and submitted a 12-page proposal laying out a vision for what a potential center could look like to Dean of Students Tom Mogan, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Joy Moore, and Kelli Armstrong, vice president of institutional research, planning, and assessment.
“[Ramirez and Varnado] did a ton of research … they got quotes from other students on what it would mean to them to have [a center],” Piercey said. “I don’t exactly know what the timeline is. … I do know that some administrators have shown a commitment to at least trying to push it forward.
“They’ve made it clear it’s not going to happen before the end of the semester … but there are going to be meetings over the summer and in the next year that hopefully will eventually produce something.”
Piercey pointed to the launch of Lean on Me as an example of UGBC’s success. A long-term project that finally came to fruition this spring, Piercey reported that in the 10 weeks since Lean on Me was announced as live, 70 conversations have taken place, with experiences averaging a 4.5 out of 5 approval rating.
He also said that the creation of the Jesuit Student Government Alliance (JSGA) and the release of an anti-hate crime statement were the beginning of an association between different student leaders from across the country that he believes will serve as a change agent long after he and Fletcher have departed UGBC and the University itself. Being a part of a larger network gave the duo increased perspectives on the trials and tribulations their colleagues at other schools encounter, which are often the same issues plaguing BC students. Collaboration beyond Chestnut Hill could give UGBC a chance to effect greater change than what was possible before the alliance’s foundation, according to th duo.
Fletcher said the creation of the UGBC Senator Handbook served as an opportunity to preserve institutional knowledge within UGBC for future senators, while providing a blueprint for how senators can talk with students and administrators in order to prepare better, more effective resolutions on the BC community’s behalf.
Piercey also complimented the AHANA+ Leadership Council for its work on Showdown 2019, as well as the Council for Students with Disabilities’ work in continuing to establish its presence on campus. One of Piercey’s regrets is that UGBC was not able to get student workers cleared to become drivers for Eagle Escort this academic year.
Piercey and Fletcher cited Moore, Mogan, Armstrong, and Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley, Chief Investment Officer and Associate Treasurer John Zona, and Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead as figures who took a lot of time to help steer UGBC in the right direction on various matters—specifically pointing to Moore’s guidance as vital to UGBC’s success.
Fletcher emphasized that, more than anything, working on UGBC issues is like having a second job, and to do that job correctly student leaders have to work with administrators as a team—teamwork is how he said he believed he and Piercey’s administration were able to continue the legacies of previous presidents and executive vice presidents.
Internally, that meant concentrating on making UGBC more efficient and effective, which led to the restructuring initiative that cut 36 percent of UGBC’s unelected membership. The result Piercey and Fletcher are hoping for is that the slimmed-down version of UGBC subverts the tendency for officers to be insular and too much bureaucracy.
Piercey touched on the fact that his own Executive Council was not as close knit as it could’ve been, and that even though each member of the council was independently productive, Piercey felt he could’ve done a better job developing a team atmosphere where each council member could rely more on each other.
“Part of the consequence of me not doing as much to bring our Executive Council closer was that, at the end of the day … I didn’t feel like I had a lot of people that I could vent to about UGBC stuff … from the perspective of a UGBC insider,” he said. “That’s something I wish I had done.”
Yet both felt that they will not leave office with any huge regrets. Piercey lamented that there was only so much time in the day not only for the different cogs of UGBC to work on resolutions, events, and other tasks, leaving some of Piercey and Fletcher’s original campaign promises unfulfilled. But the positive side is that both Piercey and Fletcher feel their successors—Michael Osaghae, MCAS ’20, and Tiffany Brooks, MCAS ’21—are set up to take advantage of the relationships forged and background work the current administration engaged in with students and administrators to create more tangible change on campus in 2019-20.
“I think at this point … I really do think a lot of people in UGBC this year, us included, did our best but definitely did not accomplish as much as we wanted to,” Piercey said. “But in a way I don’t think you can ever accomplish as much as you want to because of the nature of the role, right?
“The way that you campaign, you have to develop a platform promising pretty much everything you can think of in terms of worthwhile change to any aspect of life at BC. That’s what gets people excited, that’s what gets people to vote for you, that shows you have vision and whatnot, but that’s also a lot of the stuff you have to accept you can’t make happen on your own when you get into the role.”
Featured Image by Katie Genirs / Heights Senior Staff