The executive members of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) recently decided that the UGBC Leadership Academy (ULA) will no longer be a program supported by the student government. Students feel that this decision greatly threatens the integrity of UGBC as a whole. ULA was created in 2013 with the purpose of training young minds for the situations of leadership that will confront them later in life. As previously described by UGBC, “The UGBC Leadership Academy (ULA) is a program for first-year students that serves to assist with the transition into the BC community, as well as provide an introduction to UGBC.”
The goals of ULA are to foster the minds of future leaders through a combination of discussion, experience, and friendship. The program pairs freshmen with a UGBC mentor to guide them through their first year and beyond. The members of ULA are also placed into a UGBC division where they contribute to policy-making and events on campus. ULA is the single greatest asset to students looking to get involved with UGBC. Across campus, ULA is known for being a highly coveted organization comprised of hardworking and well-deserving first-year students.
Leonardo Escobar, MCAS ‘22, has been a senator for UGBC for two years. A strong voice on campus, Escobar decided to speak out against the decision of removing ULA. He is the face of the current petition that is circulating, which aims to show the UGBC executives just how much ULA means to the Boston College community. He says he created this petition “to express frustration and uplift the voices of those in ULA.”
“The manner in which the decision was made threatens the integrity of UGBC," says Escobar. "UGBC failed to notify members of the ULA family that their community was going to be taken away.”
Currently, Escobar is sifting through the pages of the UGBC constitution to see if the president and vice president are allowed to make the decision of removing an entire division. In terms of integrity, the lack of transparency involved in this decision threatens the very basis of what UGBC stands for: student voices. Following this unprecedented decision, Escobar is communicating with student leaders to resolve this crucial and now missing piece of the community. ULA cultivates effective and necessary contributors to UGBC, and without it, those voices may fail to be heard.
The ULA program is unique to Boston College. The group not only provides opportunities for freshmen, but it helps spark interest among students that may not otherwise take part in student government. Escobar feels that “as a voice for the student body, UGBC is responsible for representing all students, including freshmen.” Many fear that with the elimination of ULA, freshmen voices—which often bring objective perspectives to UGBC and their decision making—will not be heard as strongly as they should be.
Escobar is searching for a way to make this decision matter to students outside of the ULA community. “The impact of ULA spreads far beyond the 20 to 30 students selected for the program,” he says.
As these students progress throughout their college years and involvement in UGBC, they are able to create real change for the student body. ULA has a ripple effect beyond the friendships made within the group.
Avery Olsen, Lynch ‘22, speaks on her experience in ULA, saying that it “introduced [her] to life long friends who continuously make life better.”
“ULA gives freshmen a voice on campus and a chance to build leadership skills while learning the ropes of college-level government, and college itself,” says Olsen.
Olsen is incredibly saddened by the news of ULA being removed from UGBC. Like Escobar, she stresses the importance of having an organization like ULA exist somewhere on campus. She sees this “as an opportunity to rebuild [the program] into something greater while maintaining its core values.”
It’s safe to say that the entire ULA family grieves the loss of their strong community. Iria Gutierrez, MCAS ‘22, speaks passionately about her ULA experience, saying, “It was one of the most important parts of my college experience. Truly, it was my whole life and changed the entire trajectory of my college experience.”
The ULA program is important to freshmen because, according to Gutierrez, it “provides a safe space and a voice to speak about issues on campus.” She says that the group made her feel as though her voice genuinely mattered. The unique nature of ULA provides a space that “could not be manifested anywhere else on campus.” ULA brings together people that are different from one another for intellectual and personal discussions surrounding the freshmen experience, and Boston College as a whole.
As a ULA member for her first year of college and a leader during her second year, Gutierrez says that she would not be the person she is today without ULA. The academy forms unbreakable bonds between people that otherwise would never have been united. It teaches students the core of what it means to be a leader. Gutierrez expresses that leading ULA provided her with a sense of fulfillment, as she watched the freshmen develop into advocates and activists on campus.
The family-like structure of ULA allows freshmen to feel much more comfortable contributing in UGBC meetings and helps them feel heard. Touching on similar points to Escobar and Olsen, Gutierrez mentions, “ULA is the most crucial feeder into UGBC, where the majority of sophomores that join UGBC the following year are freshmen in ULA.” The removal of ULA has been devastating to the majority of the student government, even those not directly involved.
Under the leadership of UGBC’s highest executives, ULA was removed for being “too exclusive.” Boston College students know that almost every club on campus has an application process and is exclusive. The exclusivity of ULA is, in part, because it is a huge time commitment. The dedication required to participate in ULA is not taken lightly by members. Over 200 people have signed the petition created by Escobar, but the president and vice president of UGBC have not yet responded.
“To deprive this opportunity for first-year students during one of history’s hardest freshman years to find a sense of community online is such a shame and makes everything that UGBC once worked for disappear,” says Gutierrez.
This decision has outraged many, as it makes them feel as if the executive board is “throwing away" the hard work of the ULA leaders.
Transitioning to Boston College can be incredibly difficult. For many, freshman year is filled with thoughts of transferring and confusion. Gutierrez explains that “ULA was the reason most of my ULA class didn't transfer from Boston College, and this has been voiced so many times.” The Boston College community changes with every transfer, and without ULA, the students involved might have left our community.
The decision to remove ULA, by neglecting the input of those involved, goes against what UGBC stands for. Members of the student government feel blindsided and confused in the wake of this decision. Students are left hoping that this removal can be reversed, or that out of it, a new form of ULA may be established.