Meg Loughman / Gavel Media

Candidates Talk Diversity and Inclusion at UGBC Debate

The Undergraduate Government of Boston College Elections Committee hosted an annual presidential debate on Tuesday night in the Vanderslice Cabaret Room. Both candidate pairs were in attendance to discuss the Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP) at Boston College.

The two teams in the running are as follows: Taraun Frontis, CSOM '19, and Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS '20; Reed Piercey, MCAS '19, and Ignacio Fletcher, MCAS ‘20.

The debate was moderated by current UGBC President Akosua Achampong, Executive Vice President Tt King, and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Araba Mantey, all MCAS '18. 

The event began with both teams presenting a general overview of their ideas on diversity and inclusion reform, followed by a timed quiz on both teams’ knowledge of UGBC’s DIP divisions and racial, gender, and sexual identities. The moderators asked each team a series of questions on their specific plans for reform and improvement, allowing each team to give a rebuttal against the opposing team’s response. The debate concluded with both teams opening the floor to questions.

Below are some highlights of the debate:

Q: What are the divisions of Diversity and Inclusion under UGBC? Next, expand on each of the acronyms.  For ALC specifically, what identities are represented in the AHANA+ acronym?

Both teams answered the AHANA+ question correctly, with the answer being, “African, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American,” indicating that the plus stands for those who do not explicitly identify. Frontis and Sheikh correctly responded to the Diversity and Inclusion question, naming "ALC (AHANA+ Leadership Council), GLC (GLBTQ+ Leadership Council), CSD (Council for Students with Disabilities), and DIP (Diversity and Inclusion Programming Board)." Piercey and Fletcher neglected to include DIP in their answer, although they correctly stated each of the other divisions. 

Q: What does GLBTQIAP+ stand for?

Frontis and Sheikh answered correctly, with the response, “Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and those who do not explicitly identify.” Piercey and Fletcher gave the same answer, with the exception of using the term“transsexual"—as opposed to “transgender.” At the end of the question, Achampong addressed their answer to emphasize that the “preferred term is transgender.”

Q: How far should UGBC go in advocating for LGBTQ rights within the university's Jesuit, Catholic context?

Sheikh stated that while a goal for the far future is to have a student resource center built for LGBTQ+ students, in the coming year, he plans to focus on changing the on-campus public bathroom signage to encapsulate gender identities outside the binary. Additionally, Sheikh said his team would advocate for the Agora Portal to include an accessible space for students to enter their preferred pronouns. 

Q: Which DI division does not have a DIP sponsored event, and what would you pitch for that council?

Piercey stated that as someone who has worked in DIP previously, he “knows from experience that CSD does not yet have an event sponsored by Diversity and Inclusion Programming.” Noting the popularity and turnout of ALC Showdown, Piercey suggested a similar competition among a capella groups. Ultimately, Piercey believes that any event run by CSD should be “represented by [students in CSD].”

Q: What is the biggest problem within race at Boston College? What specifically would you do about it?

“One of the issues, one of the main issues regarding race is that there are many students that are racist on this campus,” said Sheikh. Going on to address the administration specifically, he posed a rhetorical question: “When our peer institutions, Brown University and Yale University, put in millions of dollars towards faculty and curriculum of diversity, why is BC not doing the same?”

In response, Piercey used his rebuttal time to address the complicity inherent in campus race culture. More specifically, Piercey asserted that those administrators and students who may not commit any serious microaggressions opt to sit silently as racial inequality simmers.

Q: How will you reach the students who don't want to engage in this dialogue [about diversity and inclusion]?

Fletcher responded to this question by saying that the dialogue sparked by the racial incidents on campus last semester needs to be kept alive. He continued, "We need to keep mentioning it every single time, every single semester, every single day, and raise those conversations in, for example, class." Piercey added that their campaign platform includes events intended to break the "complacency" of students who can afford not to care about diversity and inclusion at BC.

Sheikh stated that dialogues about diversity and inclusion need to be institutionalized through initiatives such as a cultural competency learning module for incoming freshmen, which UGBC is currently working to implement. Both Sheikh and Frontis stressed the importance of using and expanding resources already in place, including the Campus of Difference certificate, the Africa and African Diaspora Studies program, and the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC). Additionally, Frontis proposed the establishment of a "red square" on campus, which he said is currently in place at Georgetown University. "It's basically a space where people have the right to freedom of speech and protest," explained Frontis. "It used to be implemented before Stokes was here–it was called the Dust Bowl–and we need to find a space to bring it back."

The Elections Committee will hold a final debate between the two groups on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Vanderslice Cabaret Room, and the election is scheduled for Feb. 15.

Follow me on Instagram to check out my mediocrity.