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Heckelman, Garrigan Highlight Experience and Intersectionality at Town Hall

At the UGBC presidential town hall Thursday night, Meghan Heckelman and Katie Garrigan, the lone candidates in the 2024 UGBC presidential and vice presidential elections, said they hope to meet students where they are and make their platform accessible to all Boston College students. 

“I think that in the president role that I envision for myself—by the nature of it, it’s different from year to year—I really want to go to those places, put myself there, and listen,” Heckelman, LSEHD ’25, said. “I think we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”

In front of an audience of two spectators, Heckelman and Garrigan, MCAS ’25, outlined a seven-point platform that they said encompasses the entire student experience—from improving academic advising to promoting safety amid a slew of off-campus break-ins

“It encapsulates, hopefully, we think, every area of student life here at BC, starting with formative education as BC is seeking to become the national leader in formative education,” Heckelman said. “It’s the academic experience, but it’s also outside of the classroom.”

Thursday’s event, sponsored and moderated by the Elections Committee, has traditionally taken the form of a debate in years past, providing presidential hopefuls with a forum to lay out their visions and make a final pitch to student voters. 

But with the result of the election a foregone conclusion—this year marks the first time in Heights archival history that a UGBC presidential ticket has run unopposed—the format was changed to a town hall-style event, a decision that the Elections Committee made in conjunction with Heckelman and Garrigan. 

Without the added workload of managing a campaign, Heckelman and Garrigan said they are in a good position to begin laying the groundwork for next year.

“Kind of a funny year this year with no opponent, but we see it as a great opportunity to kind of smoothly transition and work with our outgoing leadership team, get some new people in, and really take it by storm over the summer,” Heckelman said.

Originally planned for last Thursday, this year’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) debate was canceled, but the topic of DEI nonetheless permeated the moderator’s questions during the town hall. 

Garrigan, current UGBC Senate intersectionality committee chair, said her role has taught her that students’ identities are not monolithic. Both UGBC and University policies should reflect that, Heckelman added.

“No one is just one identity,” Heckelman said. “Everyone has kind of a constellation of different things and different things that make them special.”

Above all, Heckelman said that she aims to work collaboratively with established campus groups that advocate for underrepresented students—such as the AHANA Caucus and culture clubs—to listen to student needs before making decisions.

“Let’s go to culture club meetings,” Heckelman said. “Let’s bring some food with us. Let’s be there. Let’s expand AHANA Caucus. To have these initiatives that we’re really going to students and asking, ‘Well, what do you need?’” 

When asked what they thought was the biggest challenge that students with disabilities face, both Heckelman and Garrigan acknowledged the lack of accessibility on Upper Campus, but said progress has been slow since plans for a pavilion were abandoned by administrators. 

“I know there was a proposal a few years ago to build a pavilion [on Upper Campus],” Garrigan said. “However, obviously, we’ve seen that those plans are not gonna be happening in the short term.”

A more practical solution, Garrigan said, lies in working collaboratively with transportation services officials to add a bus stop on Upper Campus to serve students with disabilities as well as those grappling with short-term injuries.

Heckelman also said she plans to prioritize student experiences and resources at the Connors Family Learning Center.

“When it comes to finals season, and those rooms where people can take tests fill up, it becomes fairly challenging for those students who are entitled to the resource,” Heckelman said.

Without the efforts of the Queer Leadership Council (QLC), there would be almost nothing in the way of programming or support for LGBTQ+ students on campus, Heckelman said.

“[QLC Chair Aidan Seguin] said to me a couple of times in our conversations before student affairs and DEI meetings that if it weren’t for QLC, a lot of the queer resources on this campus would just vanish,” Heckelman said. 

To ease the burden on QLC and better serve LGBTQ+ students, the ticket said they would try to work directly with individual administrators and offices to institutionalize support. 

“While there isn’t a lot of institutional support … I think there’s a lot of administrators and faculty and staff and people at the University who are supportive and who lead with love to people from all identity backgrounds, and I think that we can really leverage that as we work to make BC more inclusive and welcoming,” Heckelman said. 

Nevertheless, Heckelman abstained from promises made by previous candidates, acknowledging that past efforts to garner LGBTQ+ support on a University-wide scale—such as calls for a standalone LGBTQ+ resource center—have fallen on deaf ears with administrators. 

Garrigan, who served as Montserrat student representative last year, said that while the University offers generous financial aid, there are still many hidden costs that can accumulate—especially for the 2,000-plus Montserrat students.

“Socioeconomic concerns are honestly one of the largest barriers to education, whether it be getting your textbooks, getting laundry detergent to get your laundry done, getting food on the table,” Garrigan said.

Garrigan said she hopes to find new ways to reduce financial barriers for students while also continuing ongoing UGBC initiatives, such as the Montserrat laundry subsidy that the Senate expanded earlier this year.

“We’re working with our Montserrat representative as well as the Montserrat office to understand how we scale that program to support students,” Garrigan said. “All the student feedback that came was ‘this was immensely helpful.’”

April 5, 2024