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Meg Loughman / Gavel Media

Students Speak Up as UGBC Senator Resigns Over Facebook Post

Following the circulation of a Facebook post by former Undergraduate Government of Boston College senator Steve DiPietro, MCAS '19, on Thursday evening, fellow senator Aneeb Sheikh, MCAS '20, called for an emergency meeting of the Student Assembly to argue for DiPietro’s impeachment on Saturday afternoon.

Before the meeting could take place, however, DiPietro resigned, along with senator Matt Batsinelas, MCAS '19, who was a candidate for Executive Vice President in last year’s UGBC elections.

DiPietro’s post was a share of a The Heightsarticle announcing the UGBC election victory of Reed Piercey, MCAS '19, and Ignacio Fletcher, MCAS '20. The post reads: “Good thing those blm freaks aren’t anywhere near ugbc leadership. #staywoke”. The statement clearly intends to attack the opposing team of UGBC presidential candidates—Taraun Frontis, CSOM '19, and Aneeb Sheikh—as well as their involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement.

The post was received with considerable backlash from the student body. Both Piercey and Fletcher, as well as UGBC, issued statements on Friday condemning DiPietro’s post, but countless other individuals have spoken up about the post’s harmful and attacking nature, especially on the basis of race.

The Gavel was able to sit down in conversation with a few student activists, including Piercey and Frontis, who were particularly engaged in the aftermath of the post to discuss how the BC community can learn together and move forward following this incident.

“Ignacio and I knew that if we won, our first priority would be working with our opponents on the many areas in which our values and plans for UGBC aligned,” UGBC President-elect Piercey said to The Gavel. “The comment, however, mistakenly framed us as somehow opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement and its supporters. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“There has been some suggestion that other UGBC Senators moved to impeach him because of his conservative views,” Piercey continued. “I think that's missing the point. It's not conservative viewpoints themselves that are the problem—we intend to make every effort to include the full spectrum of political views in our administration—it's the fact that Steve chose to express them in an intentionally divisive and racially charged way at a time when what our community needs most is healing. He belittled some of BC's most passionate and active students and attacked the central tenet of BLM.”

Olivia Sutton, MCAS '19, expressed similar sentiments in her conversation with The Gavel, especially regarding the boundaries of free speech at BC.

“It’s okay for you to have an opinion, and I respect the fact that you have the right to have that opinion, but when your opinion starts to target and degrade another group of people because of their opinions and what they believe in, that’s when lines are starting to get crossed,” she pointed out.

Nicole Diaz, MCAS '19, spoke about how this kind of speech does not contribute to a healthy dialogue on campus.

“Hate speech is that line where your words empower one of your identities at the expense and exploitation of an already socially powerless or less powerful group,” said Diaz.

From Sutton’s and Diaz’s experiences, this incident reflects tensions that have already been present on campus. In order for the BC community to move forward, they believe that both students and the administration need to take actions to condemn similar incidents and create a campus culture that is more accepting of identities and experiences outside the realm of an individual’s own.

“It definitely needs to come from top down and bottom up simultaneously,” said Diaz.  

Diaz emphasized that all students have an ongoing responsibility to hold each other accountable on an interpersonal level, saying: “It shouldn’t be on marginalized communities to be telling other people what to do. I think it’s definitely on people of other communities, specifically the Latinx community, API [Asian-Pacific Islander] community, [and] the white community, to be telling other people that [they hear making racist remarks] that this is not okay, you can’t do this.”

Additionally, Sutton believes that more diverse representation within UGBC itself can help to promote a more inclusive student culture.

“If we have a lot more people [in UGBC] that can offer different kinds of input because they have different kinds of experiences, they can contribute to the conversation of trying to make this campus a more inclusive campus for everybody, regardless of race, orientation, [or] religious beliefs,” she said.

In the wake of this post targeted directly at he and his campaign team, Taraun Frontis, whose UGBC presidential candidacy The Gavel endorsed, has made it clear that his role in student advocacy and activism is nowhere near finished.

“As I told my campaign team, the results of this election have not discouraged me, but rather inspired me,” said Frontis. “Our presence on this campus speaks volumes, whether consciously or unconsciously, and this entire process—including interacting with a multitude of complex identities—has taught me to be unapologetically myself. I hope we are all able to use this inspiration to continue to push for changes and inclusivity in all spaces here at BC.”

He continued, “These issues are something I have actively decided to be involved in since the start of my BC career, in addition to the complexities of my own identity conflicting with the current range of spaces that are welcome to all bodies on this campus. As I have told many during the stretch of the presidential campaign, the fight will never end as long as people like us continue to exist on this campus.”

With both candidate teams from UGBC’s recent election set on continuing to work together, Piercey echoes these sentiments as he looks forward to his upcoming year as President.

“I hope that the BC community can move past racist statements like these [and] towards a more conscientious space of healing and education,” said Piercey.

Meg Loughman (Editor-in-Chief), Jill Cusick (Managing Editor), and Maura Donnelly (News Editor) contributed to this report.

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