Salvador Norton de Matos, the new chair of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s Institutional Innovations committee and MCAS ’21, is occupying the position under unconventional circumstances. This is de Matos’ first time holding a seat in UGBC, and he is sharing the seat with Czar Sepe, MCAS ’21.
De Matos and Sepe ran for the seat as a team: De Matos will be occupying the position during the fall semester while Sepe studies abroad, and Sepe will take over the position when he returns to campus in the spring.
The Institutional Innovations committee was formed during the recent restructuring of the UGBC senate. Along with the Intersectional Experience committee, it is one of the two main umbrellas under which senators are organized.
The Institutional Innovations committee focuses on student rights and safety, arts, athletics, academic affairs, environment and sustainability, and student organizations. It works to “increase and enhance the efficiency” of BC where ecological policies, transparency, and the school’s overall governance concerned.
De Matos’ decision to run was based largely on his belief that many of the issues at BC that need to be addressed end up getting swept under the rug.
As a biology major, de Matos approaches his position through the lens of a STEM student. De Matos said that one of his goals is to give a voice to STEM students, who have been historically underrepresented by UGBC. The lack of STEM students might have something to do with the rigorous workload of their courses, de Matos said.
“BC has very strong STEM departments, but our students are very quiet,” he said.
Another of de Matos’ goals is to increase the accountability of BC’s STEM departments. For example, he said that many STEM students have expressed concerns about expensive lab fees, which students are financially responsible for, in addition to the University’s other tuition and fees. De Matos explained that he does not take issue with the costs themselves, but rather the question of where this money ends up.
“Understandably, we need lab fees because these things are expensive, but we would like greater transparency [in] exactly where these specific funds go to because a lot of us don’t really see it in the department itself,” he said.
De Matos said he also ran for the position because he likes a challenge. He explained that progress in terms of innovation at BC can be difficult because it involves balancing the need for change, along with the long-standing culture and identity of the school.
“I understand the necessity of innovation in colleges,” he said. “Yet I still bring a traditional adherence to tried and tested procedures and tradition for the school.”
De Matos said he recognizes that the Jesuit identity is a core component of the University’s “DNA” that must be preserved.
He identified the “innovation” component of his committee as encompassing a variety of factors, including working to increase transparency in regard to how BC allocates its funds and what it does as far as ecological conservation is concerned. De Matos cited Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si’, where he addressed the importance of conserving the environment, and said that this focus is one he aims to adopt while in office. He said that he would support the use of solar panels as an example of a potential innovation that would allow BC to adhere to its tradition.
“It would be good to see how the college follows [the encyclical] and starts adopting solar panels to help reduce its carbon footprint,” he said. “That way, you can have both the innovation and progression towards the future while maintaining the tradition of Jesuit identity.”
Since taking office, de Matos has already overseen several projects that members of his committee are pursuing. One of these senators, Dennis Wieboldt, MCAS ’23, is drafting legislation regarding increasing transparency in BC Dining, especially concerning discrepancies in food pricing and what appears to be the overpricing of food, de Matos said.
The committee is also drafting a proposal for the development of a mental health course similar to the Stand Up BC course that is required for incoming freshmen, which de Matos said should be a high priority.
De Matos explained that his committee is a sort of umbrella term for broad academic affairs that do not fall under any of the other committees.
Another goal de Matos hopes to achieve is helping students establish stronger connections with the deans and other faculty at BC, a process he said will have to start with the senators in his committee. He also wants to make a push toward making UGBC more visible on campus, which he plans to accomplish by increasing outreach to constituents and tabling more around campus throughout the semester.
De Matos said he plans to adopt a “quality over quantity” approach to legislation. Rather than pass continuous legislation that does not effect much change, he wants his committee to pass purposeful legislation that has a real impact. De Matos said that the committee’s goal is to bridge and build rapport with the administration in order to get this effective legislation passed.
Some steps de Matos plans on taking to achieve this goal include becoming more involved and in contact with faculty himself. He said he plans to attend BC’s student-administrator forums and remain in regular contact with various deans via email.
De Matos said he doesn’t imagine that there will be any clashes between the changes his committee will try to make at BC and the school’s Catholic tradition, unless they directly oppose church doctrine.
“Catholic tradition is very open and loving, so I do not really see any major conflicts,” he said.
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff