Opinions, Op-Ed

2021 UGBC Election: Big Titles and Empty Promises

For sophomores, juniors, and seniors, last week was just another episode in the long Undergraduate Government of Boston College presidential election show. After last Monday’s kick-off event, social media feeds were flooded with campaign follow requests and hotlines to text for more information. In the days since, phones have been bombarded with policy after policy, each of which will supposedly inaugurate a new, golden age at BC.

As former presidential candidates and two-term Student Assembly (SA) representatives, we know all too well the shiny lures of campaign platforms and leadership titles. At the same time, we also know how deceiving these platforms and titles can be to students who don’t often work with or hear directly from UGBC.

Unfortunately, all of the good work that many members of UGBC do every day with little recognition is overshadowed by the presidential election charade that invariably takes place every spring. 

When we ran for president and executive vice president last year, we made the politically unsavvy decision to present the student body with realistic goals that a cohesive UGBC could achieve, or, at a minimum, make substantial progress toward. Although this decision certainly didn’t win us any extra votes, it was a necessary step toward creating a UGBC that students can actually understand.

Despite our loss in the 2020 presidential race, we have continued to work toward our goals in the SA, putting us in frequent conversation with this year’s candidates who also serve in the SA: Jack Bracher, Gianna Russi, Kevork Atinizian, Jordan Nakash, and Urwa Hameed.

While Jack, Gianna, Kevork, Jordan, and Urwa are all true campus leaders, some of their campaigns have again begun to adore the UGBC golden calf. Indeed, only one week into campaigning, new positions have been invented, policy platforms have grown by the dozens of (superfluous) pages, and visions of UGBC’s future accomplishments have become as ambitious as ever.

Ambition and detailed policy are good, but not when meant to be deceptive.

According to many of this year’s campaigns, all of the ills that face BC students will almost completely vanish if they are elected. Informed by the past few years of UGBC presidential elections, these candidates have devised dozens of “policy areas” and have promised to advocate day and night for BC administrators to make student desires a reality. 

Contrary to what the campaigns might have you believe, however, this isn’t how UGBC works.

UGBC is a slow (and sometimes exhausting) organization. There are layers of bureaucracy and regulation which need to be followed before any formal actions are taken. Committee meetings need to be held, due diligence completed, resolutions drafted, public debates held, and presidential vetoes sometimes overridden. 

As the authors of the new UGBC Constitution and Standing Rules, we wrote (or rewrote) many of these regulations, and we were right to do so. Although not every candidate voted for the new Constitution and Standing Rules, their provisions around transparency and the policy-making process are crucial to ensuring that UGBC works cohesively and toward a single end: improving the BC student experience.

When UGBC works too fast or without any guardrails in place, speaking with BC administrators is not too unlike talking at a brick wall. Questions about who supports what policy, what other institutions are doing, how policies will impact University finances, and how policies fit within BC’s educational mission are invariably raised no matter the circumstance.

Administrators should ask these questions. It is our job as representatives of the student body to provide answers.

Without a process that ensures these questions can be answered, UGBC’s efforts are futile. Indeed, without following this process, nearly every promise made by UGBC presidential candidates this election and every election thereafter will sound attractive up until the student body realizes that the individuals they voted into office achieved little relative to their promises.   

Even when following UGBC procedures to a tee, University actions are rarely quick and decisive. Just like every other institution of higher education, most decisions have to be approved by numerous administrators and checked (and re-checked) by finance and legal teams.

As students consider which of the campaigns might best actualize the promises made in their platforms, we urge them to think closely about the proposals being offered and whether the candidates offering them have demonstrated an ability to leverage UGBC’s influence in a productive way. 

What are the candidates’ records? Is this proposal reasonable? Have the candidates done their research? How are they going to approach administrators about this? Why hasn’t this been achieved in past years? Do they have a new strategy? Have they already worked on this proposal or are they just coming up with it now for the election? 

These are all fair questions that should, and must, be asked of this year’s candidates. Nothing a candidate says they will do is as easy as they might make it sound. 

Put simply, don’t fall for the big titles and empty promises. 

Featured image by Meegan Minahan / Heights Editor

February 23, 2021