The Heights endorses candidates Lubens Benjamin, CSOM ’23, and Julia Spagnola, MCAS ʼ23, for 2022–23 Undergraduate Government of Boston College president and vice president.
After examining the teams’ policy platforms and holding hour-long meetings with each team, The Heights Editorial Board found that Benjamin and Spagnola are best equipped to effectively lead UGBC and bring policy proposals to the University administration.
Firstly, Benjamin and Spagnola have the best team dynamic—they are able to play off of each other’s strengths and build off of one another’s ideas.
It was also Benjamin and Spagnola’s in-depth understanding of the most pressing issues facing BC students and how to best approach them that set them apart, each demonstrating a strong understanding of their platform’s priorities. The team was able to answer questions from the editorial board with a depth of knowledge that reflected thorough research and practical experience.
Benjamin and Spagnola, current chairs of UGBC’s AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC) and Academic Affairs Committee, respectively, also have more experience in UGBC than their opponents. They were significantly more familiar with the inner workings of the organization and how to most effectively navigate and unify the Student Assembly (SA). This advantage will allow Benjamin and Spagnola to hit the ground running. Kudzai Kapurura, MCAS ’23, and Caleb Wachsmuth, MCAS ’24, have fewer established relationships both within UGBC and with administrators, which will take time and experience to develop.
Although the other candidates expressed a strong passion for a student-based approach, Benjamin and Spagnola’s demonstrated connections as UGBC chairs and student representatives to the University administration is a significant advantage.
Benjamin and Spagnola’s experience informs a policy platform that is centered around four pillars: inclusive culture, academic experience, student life, and “institutional UGBC,” or streamlining UGBC’s procedural structure. Kapurura and Wachsmuth recognized the limitations of the one-year presidential and vice presidential terms, but their policies were vague and did not address certain prominent concerns of the student body, like the establishment of an LGBTQ+ resource center.
Benjamin and Spagnola’s policy platform is much more specific and identifies individual steps to completing goals. For example, their proposal to broaden the agency of the AHANA Caucus is supported by allocating more funds from within the UGBC budget and streamlining the ALC budget to broaden its reach. Their shared experience within UGBC has informed a realistic approach to their policies within the restrictions of their term limits, creating foundations for lasting progress.
Benjamin and Spagnola explicitly list the establishment of an LGBTQ+ resource center as a key goal, but are also pragmatic about the steps they will need to take to get there. Many UGBC campaigns have promised the creation of a resource center, but few have recognized the obstacles that have prevented past UGBC administrations from making good on this promise. Their policy emphasizes the importance of increasing other resources for LGBTQ+ students, such as raising funding for the Bowman AHANA Intercultural Center to hire a full-time staff member dedicated to LGBTQ+ students. They argue that the addition of a resource center is not the only way LGBTQ+ students can receive support on campus. As they work toward this larger goal, they offer a more specific plan to gain smaller successes that can be met along the way.
Their policy also provides detailed plans to clarify bias-related incident reporting for the student body, outlining a two-pronged approach. The first prong includes a restorative justice model, a process in which remorseful perpetrators are provided opportunities to be better educated, in conjunction with a zero tolerance policy for bias-related incidents. The second highlights the importance of being proactive, not reactive, and ensuring that the procedures for reporting such incidents are more clearly understood and available to students. Additionally, Benjamin and Spagnola intend to incorporate and elevate the voices of student groups such as Allies, Bowman Advocates, and FACES that work to create a more inclusive campus culture. The team has a strong understanding of the resources and student work that is currently being done on campus and have incorporated this knowledge into their platform.
This understanding of available resources extends to their policies concerning student mental health. Benjamin and Spagnola plan to streamline students’ accessibility to care, especially from University Counseling Services. They aptly recognize that the greatest barrier between students and the mental health services they need is communication and clear steps to getting help. They propose a mental health app to help connect students to available information about health care providers and available resources. Benjamin told The Heights this push for student mental health will be one of his top priorities if he and Spagnola are elected.
UGBC, or more specifically the SA, has recently garnered a reputation as an organization fraught with internal disagreement and fruitless policies. The next president and vice president must ensure that the needs of the student body are represented by an undergraduate government that can function effectively. Benjamin and Spagnola expressed not only a concern about this issue but a specific plan to reintroduce the annual UGBC off-campus retreat and reestablish servant leadership values. This reflects an important recognition of the need for collaboration and dedication to fostering community.
Additionally, in order to increase the accessibility of UGBC, Benjamin and Spagnola are advocating for the reintroduction of stipends for committee chairs. This move can allow more financially underprivileged students to run for UGBC, who may otherwise need to work on campus.
The Heights is confident that Benjamin and Spagnola are the most capable UGBC presidential and vice-presidential candidates to represent the student body.