Michael Osaghae, Undergraduate Government of Boston College president and MCAS ’20, and Tiffany Brooks, UGBC vice president and MCAS ’21, attended the annual Jesuit Student Government Alliance Summit over Winter Break. The summit was a gathering of student government representatives from the 27 institutions that are members of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU). The 2020 summit was held at Loyola Marymount University from Jan. 2 to Jan. 5.
The Jesuit Student Government Alliance (JSGA) was founded in 2018 as a means to connect leaders of Jesuit universities’ and colleges’ student governments. The JSGA meets twice a year, in the summer and winter, and has phone conferences throughout the year to discuss on-campus initiatives and express the collective opinion their Jesuit student bodies, according to the AJCU website.
Osaghae said that the winter summit is an opportunity to discuss both similarities and differences between campuses, as well as to gain insight and support on the different issues colleges and universities face. Common themes throughout the summit were discussions on student apathy, sustainability efforts, campus safety, inclusion, and campus engagement.
The summit was structured around breakout sessions, which Osaghae and Brooks split between them to cover more ground, Osaghae said. The topics of the breakout sessions included campus safety and divestment. Pressure to divest from fossil fuels has been growing across colleges and universities, including at Boston College.
As a result of the summit, the JSGA will make a few changes to the JSGA Constitution that still need to be ratified, Osaghae said. The association is also working on a gender-inclusive housing statement that will be sent to all member institutions in order to foster on-campus conversations on gender identities as well as safety for nonbinary students.
Osaghae said he believes the greatest benefit of being part of the JSGA is the collaboration with other Jesuit universities.
“I think at BC we have a tendency to look at ourselves as peculiar and isolated, at least given our campus location,” he said. “And so the alliance sort of breaks that down a little bit and gets us a little closer to our Jesuit peers—universities, but also students. We realize there’s a lot of issues that we’re facing at BC that are not isolated, they’re reflective in other campuses as well. Of course, we have our own distinctions, but we also have a lot of overlap.”
The summit also served as a good checkpoint for Osaghae and Brooks to see where UGBC is doing well and find areas of improvement that can be brought to the administration.
“A big part about making larger scale change on campus is when we meet with administration, they usually ask what the other Jesuit schools are doing on this topic or initiative and being part of this alliance gives us a great opportunity to find that out and spark some inspiration for an initiative on campus,” said Brooks.
Among the initiatives the pair would like to bring to BC is a gender-centric living and learning community similar to the one at Loyola Marymount. This community would not only provide a safe living space for nonbinary students, but it would also foster more dialogue around gender intersectional identities on campus, Osaghae said.
Osaghae and Brooks additionally want to set up a food pantry of non-perishable items that students who are facing food insecurity could access anonymously, as has been done at Loyola University New Orleans. Food insecurity is an issue that often goes under the radar on campus, according to Osaghae. A food pantry would not only help alleviate the financial burden, Osaghae and Brooks said, but it would also make the campus more equitable and again start a conversation around the issue.
Other universities were inspired by some recent UGBC initiatives, such as its collaboration with the Women’s Center and RHA to distribute free menstrual products in campus bathrooms and its recent gender pronoun campaign, which aimed to normalize sharing pronouns.
“JSGA is something that is sort of a recharge for Tiffany and I and our whole student government to get working,” said Osagahae. “Like, where are we dropping the ball on issues, [and] what are we doing well?
“And [it’s] also a resource for folks on campus that want to get to know our peers at other Jesuit institutions. It was definitely a highlight. And we look forward to bringing that back in some form of impact to our campus.”
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor