Two candidates vying to be elected president of UGBC faced off for the first time in a Thursday night debate, explaining how they plan to confront issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) on Boston College’s campus.
Standing in front of a crowd of students in the Walsh Function Room, Lubens Benjamin and Kudzai Kapurura both highlighted their experiences as AHANA+ students at BC and outlined how they intend to foster dialogue and tangible change on campus.
Benjamin—standing beside his running mate Julia Spagnola, chair of UGBC’s Academic Affairs Committee and MCAS ’23—emphasized his experience working with the administration to accomplish institutional change during his time in UGBC.
“We know how to get things done on this campus,” said Benjamin, chair of the AHANA Leadership Council (ALC) and CSOM ’23. “We know how to walk around the red tape we sometimes see here at Boston College.”
Thursday was Kapurura’s first appearance beside new running mate Caleb Wachsmuth, a member of UGBC’s Council for Students with Disabilities and MCAS ’24, after Lawrence Zhang, MCAS ’23, withdrew his candidacy for personal reasons.
Kapurura, this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship recipient and MCAS ’23, spoke on her experience entering BC as a student in the Options Through Education Transitional Summer Program, which is designed for incoming BC students who displayed excellent leadership and scholarly potential despite challenging academic or socioeconomic circumstances.
“There’s an opportunity to show others that you can still succeed and be great students and thrive in college, even if the majority does not necessarily represent you,” Kapurura said.
Kapurura and Wachsmuth placed a heavy emphasis on the importance of equity in their policies. There are currently no UGBC policies concerning the equity aspect of DEI, as the “E” was just recently added to the DEI acronym, Kupurura said.
“But equity was not even a part of the UGBC initiative, and I think that shows inherently that marginalized students on campus were not a priority to UGBC,” she said.
Both pairs of candidates then addressed bias-related incidents on campus. Benjamin highlighted the importance of educating incoming students on racial issues.
“It seems like every year it gets worse and worse, and I think the first way we start combating bias-related incidents is by changing the culture here at BC and educating our students before they even … step foot on campus,” he said.
It is crucial to find the causes of bias-related incidents on BC’s campus, Spagnola said.
“We want to get to the root of the cultural issue of bias around us,” she said. “We have to do that by being proactive and not reactive. We have to do that by getting to the root of what bias means and what it is on our campus.”
Benjamin also said that victims of bias-related incidents at BC should be offered professional support—other students and RAs should not be solely responsible for helping these victims, he said.
“It’s very important that when these incidents happen, that we take the time to really care for the victim, and I think it shouldn’t be the job of students to just care for students,” Benjamin said. “Students aren’t trained in mental health, it should be coming from a professional.”
Another prominent topic during the debate was LGBTQ+ acceptance and resources on campus. Both pairs of candidates emphasized BC’s strong need for an LGBTQ+ resource center.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Spagnola said. “I’ve watched fellow members of UGBC and [the GLBTQ+ Leadership Council] push year after year from this resource center, and they’ve even taken a mission-based approach and tried to appeal to these Jesuit ideals, and then continue to fall short.”
Benjamin said he and Spagnola also intend to advocate for an LGBTQ+ resource center on campus, but in the meantime, there are other important policies they hope to implement.
“Another part of our policy is advocating for greater learning in the classroom as well, especially in those cornerstone classes like Perspectives, Portico, and Organizational Behavior, because we go out into the world and have to deal with people from all different backgrounds and you have to be prepared for that as well,” Benjamin said.
Correction (3/25/22, 10:10 a.m.): This article previously incorrectly attributed a quote about a LGBTQ+ resource center to Kudzai Kupurura. It was corrected to attribute this quote to Julia Spagnola.
Featured Image by Leo Wang / Heights Staff