News, Administration

SA Discusses Bringing More Inclusive Housing and Wellness Days to Campus

The Student Assembly (SA) met for its usual weekly meeting on Tuesday night but with one unique twist: Each member was tasked with bringing a Valentine’s Day date.

“Part of this idea was to bring in other voices who aren’t just interested in government, who might have an interest in shaping and speaking about issues important on our campus,” Julia Spagnola, UGBC vice president and MCAS ’23, said.

Before the SA proceeded with the meeting, it passed a motion to temporarily forgo following Robert’s Rules of Order—a formal manual used by representative bodies to help facilitate meetings—opting instead for a more informal discussion that would allow guest attendees to participate if they chose to. 

Throughout its meeting, the SA discussed potentially creating more inclusive housing options and mental health absence days for students.

Jessica Orrell, SA representative and MCAS ’26, said she and other SA representatives are working to make on-campus housing more inclusive for students of all gender identities.

“If we can get data from other Jesuit universities that are doing this and talk about how—from a Jesuit standpoint—it’s possible, then I think that that might be something that admin would maybe be willing to listen to,” Orrell said.

Orrell then explained that current Boston College procedures place all students in housing assignments based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Orrell said the University only considers exceptions to this policy on a case-by-case basis.

“I think [it] is very invalidating for people who don’t identify in that binary or who are trans,” Orrell said.

Buck Popolo, policy coordinator of the GLBTQ+ Leadership Council (GLC) and CSOM ’23, said GLC has discussed plans to propose creating more gender-inclusive housing to the University.

“We talked about actually writing out what the protocol could or possibly would look like and then bringing it up to ResLife,” Popolo said.

Later, Thompson Penn, chair of the Student Life Committee and CSOM ’25, spoke about potentially introducing wellness days at BC. 

Penn said he was recently in communication with a member of Boston University’s student government as part of UGBC’s work with the Boston Intercollegiate Government—a coalition of student governments in the greater Boston area—on a mental health day initiative they have been working on since 2021. 

“[We worked] to propose a system of wellness dates to our local school administration, which basically has a system implemented in place saying, ‘If you need a day for your mental health, if you’re really struggling, it’s okay to take that day,’” Penn said.

According to Penn, wellness days are successful at Northeastern University, BU, and other higher education institutions in the greater Boston area.

Vice President for Student Affairs Shawna Cooper Whitehead also attended this week’s SA meeting, and she addressed the SA representatives as it wrapped up.

“One of the things that I pay a lot attention to is The Heights, and one of the articles a couple of weeks ago referenced the Student Assembly and building trust between administration—and sometimes that’s literally just showing up,” Cooper Whitehead said.

Cooper Whitehead said she was grateful to sit and listen to the meeting and that she hoped SA representatives would come visit her during her office hours. She said she believes she can help facilitate a better relationship between UGBC and the administration.

“It’s not going to be ‘I always win, and you always win,’” Cooper Whitehead said. “It’s going to be some level of compromise and understanding.”

February 15, 2023