On-Campus Profiles

Hameed and Henao: Intersectionality, Activism, Institutional Change

Urwa Hameed, MCAS ’22, is no stranger to the world of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College. Having been a Student Assembly (SA) representative since her sophomore year, Hameed is well-versed in the intricacies of UGBC and recognizes the large responsibility that representatives have to their constituents. 

Hameed was born and raised in Pakistan, where she attended school until immigrating to Vernon, Conn. in middle school. With a father from India and a mother from Pakistan, Hameed’s intercultural background played an important role in forming her identity, she said. Growing up, Hameed learned to speak Punjabi, Hindi, Arabic, Urdu, and English because of her diverse background, she said. 

When she started at BC, Hameed knew she was going to be in the minority as a woman of color at a predominantly white institution (PWI), but that did not stop her from wanting to make her mark on BC, she said. 

Hameed has been a member of UGBC for two years. As a sophomore, she was elected as one of four senators representing the student body at large. As a junior, she was elected as a SA representative of the Class of 2022, and she is the chair of the student assembly intersectionality committee.  

Having spearheaded many initiatives, including co-sponsoring the Upper Campus Accessibility Resolution, Hameed said she understands the immense amount of work it takes to actually get resolutions passed. 

Sarah Henao, MCAS ’22, on the other hand, has never served in UGBC. As a student involved with various service groups including For Boston; Strong Women, Strong Girls; and the BC branch of the You Can Too program, Henao has spent her three years on the Heights connecting with the BC community through service. Despite not serving in UGBC, she was always interested in pushing BC to enact institutional changes to be a more inclusive and intersectional campus, she said. 

Henao, who grew up in Long Island, N.Y., also grew up with immigrant parents, with her parents hailing from Colombia. 

I learned how to speak Spanish before I learned how to speak English,” Henao said. “I was also pretty much raised by my grandmother … that was a big part of growing up for me, just living in both worlds like in a Colombian household but also like growing up in America.” 

Like Hameed, Henao had to navigate being a woman of color at a PWI.

“As a woman of color like coming to PWI you’re like, ‘How do I fit in here? Like what is my place? Will I have a voice, and will it matter?’” Henao said. “I decided, like, regardless of all of those things, that is exactly why my voice does matter. I deserve to take up space. I deserve to have that place in higher education.” 

Hameed’s and Henao’s worlds collided when they were introduced by mutual friend Lucas Carroll, the team’s campaign manager and MCAS ’22.

“Urwa and Sarah really just complement each other extremely well,” Carroll said. “They’ve both been really passionate about making BC a better place since they arrived.”

Hameed and Henao hope to bring their shared experiences as AHANA+ identifying women to transform UGBC into an assembly of activism by running for president and executive vice president, respectively. 

Hameed decided to run for UGBC president after struggling to push forward various legislation as a representative. She recalled feeling frustrated while advocating for divestment and received internal backlash from other representatives for pushing it.

Henao was drawn to the position of executive vice president after realizing it would give her the chance to create institutional change and long-lasting policies that would protect future BC communities, she said. 

“I’m ready to serve at an institutional level with an executive position within UGBC because of the intersectional activism that I’ve already done at that personal level. I’ve seen it. I have fought for it, but most importantly I’ve lived it,” Henao said. 

The combination of Hameed’s experience working with UGBC and Henao’s background in service work, along with both of their experiences as AHANA+ students, makes their platform unique, Hameed said. 

“Sarah … she’s like this North Star I have. She brings a sense of direction and passion and ambition,” Hameed said. “Then I just have this experience … I know how the administration works … I know how to get these changes done at [an] institutional level.” 

Consisting of 14 points, their 12-page campaign platform aims to aid and support minority groups at BC as well as implement other policies such as an environmental and sustainability policy and an AHANA+ policy. 

In the wake of the racially motivated incidents that took place on the Xavier Hall Multicultural Learning Experience floor, Hameed and Henao want to implement a zero-tolerance policy to condemn hate crimes on campus, the platform reads. 

Hameed and Henao also hope to introduce the Black Excellence Program under the Student Initiative division of UGBC. This program would provide opportunities for Black freshmen to have a voice in student government and with administration. 

“Long-term solutions [like] the Black Excellence Program part of UGBC is part of that because that will spark like the cultural shift because you’re giving more people a seat at a table where their voice[s] can be heard,” Henao said. 

They also plan on working toward making BC a more inclusive place for LGBTQ+ students. They aim to implement an LGBTQ+ Living Learning Community, an idea Hameed has already been working on while currently serving on UGBC. They also want to create more gender-neutral bathrooms on campus and provide LGBTQ+ students with the opportunity to choose a name that reflects their gender identity on BC ID cards and the Agora Portal. 

Because of her background as a Muslim student attending a Jesuit, Catholic university, Hameed included three religion-specific policies in the platform. The first is to have a permanent chaplain for minority religions such as Islam and Judaism. She understands the need for spiritual guidance during students’ four years at BC.

The platform also calls for dietary accommodations for religious observations, as well as for academic accommodations for religious observations, written into each course’s syllabus. 

In their environmental and sustainability policy, Hameed and Henao focus on divestment from fossil fuels. Hameed and Henao’s first act in office will be regarding divestment, Hameed said. They plan on advocating to have an elected student representative on the Board of Trustees every year who can voice the opinions of the student body. 

Their platform also addresses policies regarding mental health, international students, women and gender inclusivity, first-generation students, transfer students, students with disabilities, student-athletes, financial aid, and academics. 

Drawing from their experiences being women of color, working on UGBC, and performing service, Hameed and Henao feel prepared to become the next leaders of UGBC. 

Their combination of institutional experience and personal experience with advocacy work will get people inspired and motivated to make change happen, Henao said. 

“We’re an extremely dynamic duo where we can make all happen,” Henao said. “It doesn’t just stop at inspiration. It’s not just an idea or a dream that stops. We have not only the passion, but we have obviously extensive research and data and concrete plans to make all of those things happen and that’s exactly why we want to be vice president and president of UGBC.”

Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor

February 22, 2021