News, On Campus

UGBC Asks BC to Cancel Classes on Election Day, Overriding Presidential Veto

The Undergraduate Government of Boston College Student Assembly passed a resolution calling for the University to institute a voting holiday on Nov. 3, overriding a veto from Christian Guma, UGBC president and CSOM ’21.

“I vetoed the resolution because there is a process, when you do a resolution in the Student Assembly, that should be followed,” Guma told The Heights. “It involves rigorous due diligence. … That was not followed, at all, on this resolution.”

The resolution called for the University to cancel classes to allow students and faculty greater flexibility in their voting plans and to foster greater civic engagement. The resolution cited limited in-person polling locations and a complex array of statutes regarding mail-in and dropbox voting as barriers for students to vote.

Senior Associate Director of University Communications Ed Hayward did not respond to multiple inquiries from The Heights about BC’s response to the resolution.

The resolution was introduced at the UGBC meeting on Oct. 20 by Rep. Dennis Wieboldt, MCAS ’22, and co-sponsored by Rep. Jonah Kotzen, MCAS ’24, and James Freirich, CSOM ’21.

“The purpose of the resolution was a statement of policy interest on behalf of UGBC [and] the student body to say, you know what, this is something that our school administration should support because we understand the importance of civic engagement,” Wieboldt told The Heights.

Several representatives opposed the resolutions at the Oct. 20 meeting, arguing that the proposal was too rushed and not likely to have an effect this year. Proponents said they hoped passing this resolution would demonstrate the importance of the issue. 

“This isn’t the last year we’re going to vote,” said Sasha Wong, MCAS ’24, at the Oct. 20 meeting. “I want to make sure that it’s something that is established, and can be continued for every voting year. I feel that it would be almost negligent to rush it just so we can meet it this year when we’re not even sure if it can be realized this year.”

“Unlike years past, I’m not going just let resolution be passed without rigorous due diligence and a process,” Guma told The Heights. “… I have to look out to make sure that things are followed, and make sure that it’s in the best interest of the organization and the students.”

Guma joined the SA’s meeting this week to defend his veto, criticizing both the resolution and the process through which the SA passed it.

“How do you know the students want this?” Guma asked. “Do you have data on what the students want?”

Guma continued with his criticism of the resolution, labeling this and previous resolutions as statements rather than policy. 

“As somebody who’s most of his time here has been a regular student, it makes UBGC look like a joke,” Guma said. “I’m in a position now that I have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The SA does not have any authority over University policy, and its non-binding resolutions on policy at BC can only urge the administration to take particular courses of action. 

When Urwa Hameed, MCAS ’22, asked Guma for more information on his decision to veto the resolution, Guma said that the SA did not conduct due diligence prior to voting on the resolution. 

“Prior research was not done,” Guma said. “There was no due diligence. And realistically, there is no clear path forward.”

Wieboldt responded to Guma’s concerns by mentioning the 15 documents of research he and the resolution’s co-sponsors put together, which included the number of potential in-state voters among BC students and faculty members. His report found that the University employs 4,216 people, all possible voters who may need allotted time to get to the polls.

Wieboldt’s research also found that nearly 2,400 undergraduate students were from Massachusetts as of 2019. Guma responded, though, that with high levels of mail-in voting, there would be no need for a voting holiday.

“Everybody’s voting by mail. You know that everyone’s voting by mail,” he said. “That’s the truth.” 

Jack Bracher, a Class of 2022 representative and MCAS ’22, argued against Guma’s assertion.

“I’m a Massachusetts resident who will be voting in person and also canvassing for Biden outside of my polling location in between my 9 and 1:30, so I would really appreciate having the day off to exercise my civic duty,” Bracher said.

Wieboldt said the resolution would benefit out-of-state students who are learning virtually this semester as well.

“I spoke to a student who lives in Alabama, who is learning virtually, who doesn’t know if she will be able to vote in person because she has class,” he said. 

Justin Smith, a Class of 2024 representative and MCAS ’24, condemned Guma as insensitive to the issue of voting, reminding the SA of the centuries-long fight for the right to vote.

“We don’t need research to know that the people want to vote,” Smith said. 

This article originally reported that the resolution was proposed by representatives from the class of 2023, and has been corrected to properly reflect the sponsors. 

Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor

November 1, 2020

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