Thomas & Olivia Advocate for Student Voice as Presidential and VP Hopefuls

Campaign week for this year's UGBC elections is in full swing, despite the snow, presenting BC students with three unique pairs of candidates to consider for the next president and vice president of the undergraduate student body. Our third and final pair of presidential candidates, Thomas Napoli, A&S '16, and Olivia Hussey, A&S '17, sat down with the Gavel to talk about their platform and their vision for UGBC during their administration.

Tell me about yourselves! Year, major, hometown, what you're involved in at BC?

Thomas: As for academics, I’m a junior, an international studies major, economics concentration, and I’m also a political science major, which always confuses people. I grew up in northern New Jersey, and went to Delbarton School. In UGBC, I am the Institutional Policy Review Committee chairman, and also I’m on the Student Rights Commission, which I started. The other club I’m involved with is FACES, in which I’m the co-facilitator of Hall Talks which is their large-scale programming.

Olivia: I have sort of the complete opposite life story (laughs). I’m from Kennebunk, Maine, a very small town on the coast of Maine, and went to public school my whole life. I’m a sophomore majoring in history with a minor in Gender and Ethics in the International Studies department. I live on CoRo in Roncalli, where all the cool kids live. For UGBC, I am a senator for my class, it’s my second year doing that, and I’m chair of Campus Climate in the Senate, which deals with issues like race, mental health, women and gender issues, and community life. I’m also a greeter with SAP, I volunteer at the Women’s Center with events like Love Your Body week and CARE week, and last year I was in 4Boston. I’m also in Ascend, the sophomore mentorship group. UGBC has definitely been my main thing this year though.

Within your platform, what are your top three priorities for how to improve student life at Boston College?

T: Our slogan is “Back to Basics,” and it’s this idea that there are basic things that UGBC should be here for and if UGBC can get on board with that, we can have a more powerful student government. I’d say the overarching goal that most of the platform fits under is really helping students feel like they have the potential to make change on this campus, so I’ve been doing a lot of work with student rights and freedom of expression, and I was able to do a survey that was really gaging students’ perspectives. One of the things that came up was that over 60 percent of students don’t think that they have the ability to make change. And so for us, who are in the business of improving campus, that really hit close to home. So the first thing for us is really looking at student rights and the ability to express themselves on campus and really taking all that passionate that already exists here, and finding a way to unleash it, and having every student feel like they can make a change.

O: Because of that, one of our other big things is that we really want to address the issues people are passionate about, and make it not about UGBC, make it about BC, and the students who go here. So we really want to start conversations about mental health, sexual assault and race relations on campus. It’s really important to us because we feel that we want to change the things that other people are passionate about and have them be active with those things. We want to create an open, authentic environment on campus, to really just have a place where people feel like they can be themselves.

T: I think the third thing that we’re trying to accomplish with going back to basics is to look for the simple things that students want, and that’s more a tangibility part of our platform. Like, the backdoor to Lower, why is that still not an entrance?

O: And other things too, like having the dining halls open a little later, and getting a map of the Mods.

In the wake of last semester’s events, how do you view the current relationship between UGBC and the BC administration? How do you plan on addressing this during your presidency?

T: The first thing that’s important for both Olivia and I to stress is that we can’t take a one-perspective approach to the administration. We have both worked with some incredible administrators who have really guided us through this process. I think that’s something that students on campus latch on to--students vs. administration--when the truth is UGBC can’t be productive if it can’t have really meaningful and honest relationships with administrators.

O: I think that being said, really how we want to accomplish these different things is we want to bridge the gap between the administrators and the students. We want to get them talking and the way to do that is to say, “We want a seat at the table.” A lot of administrators that I’ve met with have said “Oh, you want to talk about this? Students are interested in this?” They are so willing to work with us and we’ve said we want to be part of this conversation.

T: For us to be able to work well with the administration, the basic thing is that we do need to be at the table. And right now we still don’t have a student on the Board of Trustees. Earlier in the semester, I was told that a seat at the table is not a right, but a privilege. And that kind of strikes me as like, we have to be ready to be there. And to do that, we’re looking at transparency in our platform in a whole new way.

O: We want to take transparency one step farther. We want to be transparent with the administration and the administration be transparent with the student body so that the things going on at the upper level, the student body knows about.

T: We want to address this idea of being able to be transparent given the restrictions that UGBC faces as well. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it exists, so transparency for us isn’t just about being open about what UGBC does, but being open about the struggles we’re all facing, and engaging students in that.

You’ve spoken out a lot on the topic of freedom of expression for students and the limitations non-RSOs face in getting their voices heard on campus. How are you addressing this issue in your campaign?

T: I met with Dean Mogan on Thursday, Feb. 5, and he’s gonna play a big role in this process. There’s this huge student guide revision process going on. . . and Mogan committed to break up the student guide into superficial changes and then the freedom of expression policy, which was kind of a big deal for us because it’s the first time we’re making a commitment to this. We’re going to try to have it done by the 2015-2016 school year.

O: In terms of student organizations that aren’t recognized on campus, we definitely want to work with them to help facilitate a process where they can get recognized or get more access.

T: In general, we don’t think that BC should be forced to recognize any student group, but just because you aren’t recognized doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to put up flyers or have meetings and events.

The issue of racial tension and division has been a hot topic the past couple of months, both at BC and across the country. How do you plan on fostering a more open dialogue about race on campus in order to bridge racial divides?

T: The first thing I would say about those protests [the die-in], is that before you criticize them for protesting you have to look at what led them to do this in the first place. And obviously, there are racial issues on this campus. We do see separation of groups on campus. Even at UGBC events, certain ones attract certain audiences. With my experience in FACES, I saw that the most likely people to come to a FACES event are already interested in talking about race.

O: To address that, we really go back to the theme of collaboration, and getting different student groups involved. We want student groups to be able to come to us and say “We have this idea, how do we expand it?” So one idea we have is working with the Asian Caucus and UGBC on mental health, and saying “What does that mean?” It’s really about starting those conversations outside of places where they already happen. Like Thomas was saying, if the same people are coming to the same events, you’re not really doing anything to foster an authentic environment.

T: We also think that the Jesuit mission is one that is really on par with gender and racial equality, and that’s something that we want to tap into. So one of our ideas is to partner with the Jesuit Institute at least once a semester to talk about issues that are really affecting the BC community. We would love to see Jesuits more involved in this conversation.

Why should students care about this election and vote?

O: I think this year especially it’s really pivotal that students vote because they should decide what they want UGBC to be, and I think they have a choice in what vision they want to see going forward. Thomas and I really want to collaborate and reach out to students, really enhance their four-year experience and empower them to take part and to create a memorable four years.

T: It’s really a pivotal moment. You’ve seen this year that students want to be active on campus and want to take ownership of their own education. I think we’re the administration that is willing to do that. We want students to have a voice and we’re gonna come down to the level of students. We’re change-makers. We’re willing to advocate for you. And if you take having this choice seriously and see that as a necessary part of your education and being ready to enter into adulthood, then you should vote.

How would you describe your relationship with your running mate?

O: I think we have a really good relationship. I think we complement each other very well, we have different issues that we’re passionate about—I’m super into mental health and women’s issues, whereas Thomas deals with free speech and race—so I think we really bring something unique to the conversation and balance each other out.

T: We’ve become friends, but our friendship was born in UGBC, so we already have a working relationship. We also really challenge each other, in a good way.

O: We have worked together in the past, so we already know what the other one’s strengths and weaknesses are, and that’s really great because we’ve been able to be so open and really honest with each other, and yet keep each other accountable and on track.

What Netflix show are you currently binge watching?

O: We all know that Friends went on Netflix January 1, so I’ve seen all of them in the past and of course I have to watch all of them again. Who doesn’t want to see what will happen with Ross and Rachel? Will they get together at the end? I just don’t know.

T: I don’t watch Netflix… does that make me not a BC student? Games of Thrones is the last show I watched. I love Game of Thrones.

Check out James and Jose's interview here. Cassidy and Mike's platform can be found here.

Stay up to date on election-related news with The Gavel, or follow us on Twitter @BCGavelNews and #BCStayInformed.

School, major and year: A&S, English 2016
An overactive maker of Spotify playlists, but reads her books with a pencil. Drunken eater of too much cereal. Drinks her coffee black. Prefers Bean Boots over sandals and owns six pairs of the same running shoe. An avid woods wanderer. Does not like reading the news.

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