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UGBC Candidates Tackle Academic Advising, Transparency, and Sustainability in Final Debate

The two teams running for UGBC president and vice president faced off on Sunday night one last time before Tuesday’s election, debating how they plan to tackle issues including academic advising, transparency within student government, and environmental sustainability.

The Elections Committee hosted the final UGBC presidential and vice presidential debate, opening the event with statements from each team.

Lubens Benjamin, presidential candidate, chair of the AHANA Leadership Council (ALC), and CSOM ’23, said it is important to promote a community of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Boston College.

“When I first arrived here at BC, I was a student on the margins,” he said. “I didn’t know who to turn to when I needed help. I didn’t know what office did what. I didn’t know who I was. I had the biggest case of imposter syndrome and I didn’t know what to do, but I’m someone who likes to make change in communities I’m a part of, and UGBC was a vehicle for me to do that.”

Julia Spagnola, Benjamin’s running mate, chair of UGBC’s Academic Affairs Committee, and MCAS ’23, said her friendship with Benjamin—along with their extensive UGBC experience—qualifies them for office.

“I know we have policies to build an inclusive culture and academic experience institutionally with UGBC that is more for every student,” she said. “I know that BC is a formative place, but those opportunities and experiences we want to make accessible to all students, and we promise to give you all we have.”

Kudzai Kapurura, presidential candidate, this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship recipient, and MCAS ’23, highlighted her willingness to confront BC’s weaknesses.

“If you love something deeply, you will confront the downfalls with integrity and through love, challenge it to reach its greatest potential,” she said. “That is why I’m running for president.

Caleb Wachsmuth, Kapurura’s running mate, a member of UGBC’s Council for Students with Disabilities, and MCAS ’24, said that if elected, he and Kapurura will lead with full transparency.

“Over the campaign I’ve asked over 400 students to name one thing that UGBC has done this year,” he said. “I’ve only gotten four answers. That’s less than one percent. It is clear that in the eyes of our student body, UGBC has not been working.”

Both teams then laid out their respective strategies to address key issues on campus if elected.

Benjamin and Spagnola discussed their plan to improve academic advising at BC by fostering increased mentorship within the advising system.

“We recognize that it’s not okay that a nursing student might be getting the advice they need for their profession in the future, but then an MCAS student who’s studying economics or history doesn’t even know who their adviser is,” Spagnola said.

Kapurura and Wachsmuth then stressed the importance of increased transparency within both UGBC and the University.

“The opportunity to have ‘Eagle Chat’ or a form or application which increases the transparency between [the student body and UGBC] is the opportunity for students to know what exactly is going on,” Kapurura said.

Both teams also addressed environmental justice on campus, with Benjamin and Spagnola first emphasizing short-term changes.

“We propose some short term, meaningful changes that we think will have long term impacts, like the ultimate goal of divesting from fossil fuels, which is something that has been worked on continuously over the last couple years,” Spagnola said.

Kapurura and Wachsmuth advocated for broad policy change, stating that UGBC needs to take increased action to effectively address environmental justice on campus.

“I know there are students from [Climate Justice at Boston College], for example, that are arguing, very heavily right now, for divestment from fossil fuels,” Wachsmuth said. “So far, UGBC has condemned it multiple times, yet there has been no change.”

After the debate, Kapurura praised both teams for being “incredibly well-spoken.”

“I left the debate knowing I spoke my truth to the best that I could,” she said. “That’s the one thing I wanted. I wanted to come here and tell my story.”

Kapurura said she is not intimidated by her opponents’ UGBC experience, but rather sees her own commitment and passion as the most important qualifications.

“Anyone can be a leader,” she said. “You do not need to have a certain title. It comes from an eagerness, from a deep integrity within somebody, to say ‘I can’t stand to see this any longer and I want to change it and I want to fight not for myself, but for the greater good.’”

Benjamin and Spagnola both expressed excitement and confidence in their performance during the debate.

“I firmly believe we’re in [the election] for the right reasons,” Spagnola said. “We believe in one another, we believe in what we know, and what we want to bring to BC.”

As campaigning season comes to an end, Benjamin said he and Spagnola are eager to receive the election results.

“I think the debate went awesome,” Benjamin said. “I love coming and demonstrating how much we love BC and how much we want to advocate for our students. Campaigning is great, but doing the actual work is even better. So, I can’t wait to get started.”

Correction (4/4/22, 12:44 p.m.): This article previously incorrectly quoted Julia Spagnola regarding why she believes she is qualified for the vice presidency. It was corrected to properly quote Julia Spagnola.

Featured Image by Steve Mooney / Heights Editor

April 4, 2022
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