UGBC Denies Petition to Invalidate Division of Environmental Sustainability

The Parliamentary Board of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College denied a petition on Friday seeking to invalidate the Student Assembly’s (SA) approval of a Division of Environmental Sustainability.

The petition for relief, submitted by SA representative Jordan Nakash, MCAS ’24, said that interruptions from attendees of Tuesday’s SA meeting, when the division passed, most notably interjections from members of Climate Justice at BC (CJBC), impaired representatives’ ability to oppose the proposed resolution. 

The number of attendees at Tuesday’s meeting reached a high of 56, the petition said, doubling the meetings’ usual attendance.

Pursuant to the constitution, all students should be given the right to freely express their opinions without threat of censorship or punishment,” Nakash said in an email to The Heights. “And unfortunately, we were not granted this right.”

The amendment to the UGBC Constitution—which passed with 19 votes—called for the removal of environment and sustainability from under the Student Initiatives (SI) branch of UGBC and for the creation of a separate Division of Environmental Sustainability. The petition for relief requested that the Parliamentary Board invalidate the amendment. 

Julia Spagnola, sponsor of the Tuesday resolution and MCAS ’23, said that although she didn’t approve of the interruptions from the public, she does not believe they affected the representatives’ votes.

“I felt that it was a good atmosphere where everyone was able to share their opinions and to disagree,” Spagnola said in an interview with The Heights. “And those moments of interjection that were not appropriate were called out, and then the public was able to comment afterwards in an appropriate way.”

While the resolution was being debated in Tuesday’s meeting, Nakash responded to a point made about the number of students who had sent emails to their representatives advocating for the passage of the resolution.

“They don’t understand,” Nakash said at the meeting. “I mean maybe some of them do, but they want more advocacy, they’re not saying, ‘I want a division.’ They want us to get the work done, and there’s ways to do that without completely changing the structure of UGBC.”

Some representatives who disagreed with the proposal shared concerns at the meeting about budget allocation, and advocated for fixing fundamental issues within SI rather than removing certain aspects of it. 

“It’s not a structural issue,” Laura Perrault, SA representative and MCAS ’21, said. “[SI has] had success with environment and sustainability in the past.” 

Two and a half hours into Tuesday’s meeting, the SA opened the floor to the public. Two members of CJBC—Kyle Rosenthal, CSOM ’21, and Teddy Bobroske, MCAS ’23—voiced their support for the amendment. 

Bobroske said that he was “appalled” by some of the comments made earlier in the debate.

“You saw firsthand how strongly we feel about this,” Bobroske said. “… And to dismiss that as not being educated on a relatively opaque part of the student government, I’m frankly deeply, deeply disappointed.” 

Rosenthal also added to the debate, saying that there was a disconnect between people advocating for climate justice and UGBC.

“I think that the incoming administration believes [the resolution] is one solution to that,” Rosenthal said. “I hope that everyone who voted against it but said they still want to see stuff get done actually goes and gets those things done.”

The petition for relief says that Bobroske demanded an apology from Nakash and Perrault, and called for their resignations if they did not apologize.

“Additionally, [Bobroske] highlighted the fact that he and all of the other students on the call who were passionate about environmental sustainability are a very influential group of people that know a lot of students on campus,” the petition reads. “He then instructed us to keep this fact in mind as we voted.”

Parliamentarian Dennis Wieboldt, MCAS ’22, asked Rosenthal and Bobroske to refrain from commenting during periods of debate that were not open to the public. Bobroske disregarded Wieboldt’s request, the petition said.

“As much as I understood [their frustration], it’s definitely not okay to be not respectful towards representatives. …” Spagnola told The Heights. “The reason Jordan Nakash filed the petition … she says, is because the interjections that took place swayed the vote and peer pressured people into voting, which I disagree with.”

Nakash said in the petition that Bobroske violated the rights of SA representatives to freely express their opinions without “threat of censorship or punishment pursuant to Boston College institutional guidelines.”

The Parliamentary Board—composed of Wieboldt, Associate Director for Student Programming Paul Murphy, and Graduate Assistant for Student Organizations Isabella Esposito—denied the petition for relief, citing that it could not conclude that the violations affected the outcome of the vote. Wieboldt, chair of the Parliamentary Board, dissented. 

“There is, in my view, clear and convincing evidence that the violations of procedure were more likely than not to have affected the ultimate outcome of the legislation,” Wieboldt wrote in his dissent.

Nakash said that although the board denied her petition, she is committed to working toward the success of the new division.

I understand the board’s decision to dismiss my proposal, but disagree with the majority’s decision,” Nakash said in an email to The Heights. “ … Although my petition was dismissed, I will, to the best of ability, work to ensure the success of the new Division.

Spagnola said that she’s excited to see how the new division will build upon BC students’ advocacy for sustainability.

“I’m mostly just happy that the integrity of our student leadership was maintained and that at the end of the day this division is something that students want,” Spagnola said. “I’m glad that the Student Assembly and UGBC in general was able to deliver, and I’m really really hopeful for what this division is able to accomplish for sustainability on this campus and beyond.”

Featured Image by Stephen Mooney / For The Heights

March 21, 2021