Welcome to the ‘State of the Heights,’ a new Gavel column focusing on exposing the student body to the inner workings of UGBC. This week’s column focuses on Civic Engagement at Boston College. The next State of the Heights will focus on LGBTQ issues on campus. If you have any questions which you would like answered by representatives from UGBC on this topic, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with “State of the Heights” in the subject line.
Last year, you two could have run for UGBC unopposed. Why was it important to the two of you to open it up again?
Marchese: It was actually a no brainer for us. We both received the e-mail and the sentiment we shared was that students deserve a choice between visions. The thing I love about UGBC campaign season is that you really get to discuss these ideas out in the open and these issues are finally brought to the forefront whereas they usually go ignored. For one month out of the year, the student body is plugged into hearing about a wide variety of issues and I think we need that to remind ourselves what this campus needs.
Fiore-Chettiar: Opening up the election allowed for an even greater exchange of ideas among the student body. We wanted to ensure that as many voices as possible could be heard not only in the election, but also later considered by the winning campaign. *
We were also very cognizant of the fact that with an automatic win, UGBC as an institution would be undermined. UGBC aims to represent and elevate the student voice. How could anyone possibly do that without being selected by students?
Why is this important to you personally?
Marchese: I am a very civic engagement minded person. I have volunteered on campaigns in the past and I fundamentally believe that the most important aspect of society is voters getting a choice and really getting involved in politics and government. So it disheartens me to see on campus here students who are very passive, do not question the status quo or pay attention to national or local politics.
I would really like to see a more engaged student body and I think that starts by having them understand that voting is a right and it is one they need to exercise.
Fiore-Chettiar: I am a big believer in social responsibility. It is why I am going into social work, and it is why I am serving in this role in the organization. The concept that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" is what motivated me to run. It is what drove much of our platform and what inspires many of our goals as an organization. From destigmatizing mental health to addressing off-campus housing policies, from promoting health and wellness to encouraging discussions on diversity - civic engagement is there at the root of it all.
How will UGBC as an institution be promoting civic engagement?
Marchese: In order to increase civic engagement on campus, we are going to be hosting events. One of the things we are trying to do is bring out local politicians and candidates to talk about issues relevant to the student body like higher ed policy, millennial voters or women in politics.
We are working with the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs to encourage students to register to vote via the Turbovote platform. We are also working closely with the Women's Center on the application process to bring an ElectHer training workshop on campus here at BC. ElectHer is a national organization that hosts a series of summits to increase the amount of women who run for leadership roles on campus.
Fiore-Chettiar: I would also like to point out that civic engagement is not limited to local and national government. It also means getting involved here on BC's campus. From the UGBC perspective, we are hoping to increase the number of students who run for elected positions next year (we already saw an increase with freshmen senate seat elections this past week).
Why do you think BC students should make civic engagement a priority in their lives?
Marchese: If BC is going to promote this idea that you need to be men and women for others, I believe that starts in our own society and that includes civics. You should be aware of what is going around in your area, state and country. It should be a huge priority for students, especially because there is a wide array of issues that our generation is going to be called to address.
Fiore-Chettiar: By checking a ballot box (in local and national elections, as well as on campus) we are making an active decision to take a stand on the issues that matter to us. I am well aware that we all have our things going on at BC. We give our all to different involvements, whether it's sports, student organizations, service or student government. We do this because we are passionate. But civic engagement goes beyond expressing a passion for a particular issue. It is acting on an awareness that whether for good or bad, our lives are affected by issues outside of those passions - and so are the lives of many others.
And just for a bit of fun, what is your favorite politically-themed TV show? And why?
Fiore-Chettiar: If you had asked me this question six months ago, I probably would have said Scandal. That's still my answer because I don't watch many political themed TV shows, but I'm not as proud of it. It's addicting, but the storylines are getting a little out of hand. There's only one thing keeping me in it every week. #teamjake
Marchese: That’s easy. It’s House of Cards. I love the plotlines and the character development is so fascinating. Frank Underwood and his wife Claire are such a power couple. When I am watching I love the sabotage that he does and how crafty he is.
Should Nanci be worried about a coup?
Marchese: Ummmm no. I would never do that.
Just knock on the desk twice, if you actually mean yes.
Marchese: *knock knock*
Thank you so much for reading this edition of State of the Heights! Please remember to submit questions to the Gavel via email at email@example.com.
*Note: Nanci Fiore-Chettiar could not attend the interview in person and her answers were subsequently sent in via e-mail.