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Photo courtesy of Undergraduate Government of Boston College / Facebook

UGBC Presidential Candidates Debate Diversity and Inclusion

The Elections Committee hosted the Undergraduate Government of Boston College Presidential Debate on Tuesday night in Vanderslice Hall, where all three teams gathered for a town-hall discussion on diversity and inclusion at Boston College.

The three teams are Akosua Achampong and Christina "Tt" King, both MCAS ‘18, Dan Wu and Jack Kelly, also MCAS ‘18, and Raymond Mancini and Matt Batsinelas, both CSOM ‘19.

Davis Pollino, CSOM ‘19, and Sebastian Biber, MCAS ‘19, were originally running as well, but decided to exit the race.

The debate was moderated by current UGBC Executive Vice President Meredith McCaffrey, MCAS ‘17.

The Elections Committee created a series of questions to find out the candidates' stances on issues of diversity and inclusion. Each team had two minutes to answer these questions, as well as audience questions at the end.

Here are some of the highlights.

Q: What initiatives would you support to help students with high financial need?

Wu and Kelly expressed support for acquiring more resources for students with financial need to supplement financial aid packages, and proposed for a new UGBC council to specifically address this issue.

Mancini and Batsinelas mentioned that they have spoken with Montserrat students, who are students that demonstrate high financial need. Many students in the Montserrat Coalition worry about being able to afford to attend school each semester.

Batsinelas cited his experience as a financial planner and stressed the importance of creating opportunities for financial literacy education.

Achampong and King referenced the policies they have outlined in their published platform.

Achampong, who is a Montserrat student herself, cited the many successful programs that were already in place through the hardworking members of the Montserrat Office, such as existing financial literacy programs.

She listed existing programs, such as the book fund and Learning to Learn program that could benefit from the support of UGBC. The team also suggested advocating for students who are Pell Grant eligible to receive laundry money through the school.

Q: Do you believe that institutional racism exists at BC, and if so, does BC uphold structures of abuse?

Achampong and King stressed that while an institution can be founded on a racist system, there are still “amazing people in the administration," including Dean of Students Tom Mogan, that they have worked with to improve existing problems of racism at the university.

Also, they specifically talked about the importance of increasing resources for the AHANA intercultural center as well as more forms of diversity education.

Mancini and Batsinelas agreed that institutional racism exists and that it is important that UGBC make sure that the voices of those who are affected by it have their voices heard.

Batsinelas said that they would support a “student advocacy center," where victims of institutional racism could seek pro bono legal assistance should they need representation. There would be zero tolerance of various forms of oppression.

Wu and Kelly also agreed that institutional racism was present. Although Wu referenced that BC was founded as a school for Irish immigrants, he suggested it may have lost touch with its original values and that creating awareness for these problems and deviations from our core values is essential.

Q: Do you think that organized protests have a place changing systems of inequality at BC? If so, how?

This question addresses a recent point of tension between students and the Boston College administration, largely due to clubs like Eradicate Boston College Racism organizing unregistered events resulting in disciplinary action.

Wu and Kelly made it clear that these protests are very important, and more of them and awareness of them would be beneficial to the university. They also believed that all forms of peaceful protest should be allowed.

Mancini and Batsinelas suggested that students have the right to protest as long as they are not obstructing property.

In a bit of a deviation, Mancini cited the importance of athletic events for the Boston College community and said that UGBC holding events during important games was “appalling,” specifically citing the recent basketball game against Louisville on February 4th.

He did not specify the event he was talking about, but it was likely the election kick-off he was required to attend that occurred at the same time as the game.

When Achampong acquired the microphone, she pointed out that his response did not seem relevant to the question.

Achampong and King then proceeded to discuss aspects of their platform regarding making sure students had less restrictions on protests and signs they could put up around campus.

Later on in a question about accessibility, Mancini brought the discussion back to the athletic events issue and called not representing athletics in their inclusion discussion “disgraceful.”

Achampong responded saying that she simply thought his response was “not within the scope of the question.”

She also said that their platform actually called for specific proposals to give athletes more priority with choosing classes, so they could have an easier time working around their athletic schedule.

A number of other important points were made throughout the discussion.

Wu and Kelly suggested advocating for more Eagle Escorts on campus, streamlining communication efforts between UGBC and students, making more efforts to give international students a more authentic American experience.

Achampong and King had similar thoughts on Eagle Escort and supported adding braille to all signs at Boston College, gender neutral housing and bathrooms, and the option to select preferred names and gender pronouns on Agora.

They also expressed support for more intercultural events, like the ALC Boat Cruise, that bring together students of different races and ethnicities.

Mancini and Batsinelas advocated for more financial oversight of UGBC, suggesting disapproval with several aspects of the budget, which Mancini has tried to regulate unsuccessfully in the Student Assembly.

Achampong pointed out that financial oversight already exists within UGBC.

Batsinelas suggested increasing regulations on Eagle Escort so existing vans could focus their support on students who are in need.

A second UGBC Presidential Debate take place on Sunday, Feb. 12 in the Vanderslice Cabaret Room at 8 p.m. The election will be next Wednesday, Feb. 15.

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