Column, Opinions

Trump. Brexit. Christian and Kevork.

The populist tides have washed ashore Chestnut Hill, delivering to the cronies of Carney Hall a historical renunciation of the hysterical, reactionary policies that have become endemic to the Undergraduate Student Government of Boston College—Trump, Brexit, Christian and Kevork, the textbooks will read.

On Tuesday, the student body voted to reject the old guard of UGBC in favor of an outsider. The establishment ticket, run by John Gehman, offered the student body nothing more than opportunities to atone for the systemic transgressions of American life. 

Gehman told The Heights that he oriented his campaign to prioritize condemning systems of oppression. And students rejected his strategy by a margin of more than 2-1, opting instead for Czar Sepe or Guma. 

To be fair, Sepe told The Heights that his main policy platform was “respect,” and said that it extended to respecting marginalized voices, the environment, and the fact that they have to work with the administration. His platform was full of bureaucratic fluff too, but just not quite as fluffy as Gehman.  

Sepe won the popular vote by 15 votes. But the populist powers that be led to the deduction of enough votes from Sepe’s campaign to give Guma the edge. 

The Elections Committee, for some reason, punishes campaign violations by taking votes away from the candidates, which, in effect, punishes the voters. It’s especially foolish considering the actions that were punished—unsolicited GroupMe messages, a podcast endorsement, and negative campaigning. 

If I supported Sepe or Gehman, I might be upset. But I don’t really care because I like the outcome of the election. I may have argued for the freshmen last week in hopes of disrupting the tired status quo of UGBC, but this is the second-best option. And besides, I’m not principled enough to believe in bipartisan procedures for UGBC to ensure fairness. I think sovereign countries should have legitimate, fair procedures for elections. But this is UGBC we’re talking about.

The vote wasn’t a landslide in Guma’s favor. But that an outsider with such little experience could galvanize enough voters to compete with the mainstays demonstrates how willing BC students are for a change.

Tuesday forced UGBC to reckon with a sizable portion of the populous and hear their commands: Start bringing some tangible change to the student body, stop lecturing us, and if you can’t manage to run a campaign without doing these things, we’ll vote for someone else. 

The vote also served as a referendum on whether the president and vice president should receive stipends of thousands of dollars for serving their roles. Hopefully, this humbles the organization and highlights the reality that UGBC is just another club, funded by the Office of Student Involvement.

This past week, UGBC members have spoken out on social media, denouncing Guma’s initiative. They insist that without the stipend, low-income students wouldn’t be able to dedicate their time to leadership roles because they’d have to do work-study. 

But the stipend grants UGBC an undue status that projects its works to be superior to other student organizations. UGBC members do not deserve special treatment simply because their club has the word “government” in it. And their work is no more valuable for the participants or the beneficiaries than the work done by scores of other organizations and clubs on this campus whose members do not receive stipends. At the end of the day, UGBC is a student club that passes resolutions that have zero consequences when disobeyed. 

Students who organize APPA send hundreds of kids to 32 cities to provide aid and shelter to countless families. They don’t get stipends.

Students who volunteer with the Innocence Project aid some of Boston’s most vulnerable in their legal battles. They don’t get stipends.

Students who edit The Heights are in Mac 113 until the wee hours of Monday morning to fulfill their role as the paper of record for the University. They don’t get stipends.

Just because UGBC has managed to create an aura of self-importance doesn’t mean we have to be guilted into affirming it.

Students struggle to make ends meet every day at BC. Sacrifice is an unfortunate reality of life. There are all kinds of impactful extracurriculars students can’t partake in because they have to work. If work-study students are struggling to find a job that works with the UGBC schedule, then perhaps Monserrat or the administration can step in to ensure job opportunities with flexible schedules. 

But there’s no way to rectify socioeconomic inequality at BC with a UGBC stipend and no reason to believe that the work done by UGBC is any more important or irreplaceable than the many other organizations on this working toward a just world. 

Tuesday was an affirmation that UGBC just ain’t that special. 

February 23, 2020