This year’s Undergraduate Government of Boston College’s (UGBC) elections feature two strong tickets. Lubens Benjamin and Julia Spagnola will face up against Kudzai Kapurura and Caleb Wachsmuth on April 5. As election day is quickly approaching, both teams sat down with The Gavel to discuss their ongoing campaigns and goals for the year if elected.
Both candidate pairs rely on strong foundations of key tenets that they wish to emphasize and embody during their administration. Benjamin’s team has four policy pillars that feature “inclusive culture,” “academic experience,” “student life,” and “institutional UGBC”. Kapurura’s three platform pillars highlight the importance of “equity,” “transparency,” and “accountability.”
“We’re really hoping to give agency back to students,” Benjamin stated, “so they’re more informed on what happens in their student government.”
Spagnola agreed, adding “we’re also emphasizing our experience in UGBC, both in the relationship shifts [between the administration and UGBC]…and the opportunities that we see and the crossroads that we’re at as a campus…and that’s kind of why we went with the slogan ‘Be More For Every Eagle.’” Both Benjamin and Spagnola have been members of UGBC for at least two years. Kapurura, on the other hand, has never served in UGBC.
They see this lack of experience as a strength, however. “We’re coming with an outsider perspective, really willing to challenge the status quo,” they said. “That is not being done with the other campaign.”
Kapurura then expanded upon her team’s own three pillars, focusing on the importance of equity. “Equity can be bringing everyone up to the table, the same level,” she said, “whether that’s our students who are facing disabilities, that’s our students of color… any student on the margin.”
Wachsmuth shared similar sentiments of transparency with the opposing team. “No one here knows what their student government is doing for them,” he said. “We’re supposed to serve them, and they don’t have any clue what is going on.” Their pillar of transparency is a top priority for them, as they feel that this aspect of their administration is crucial to fostering a more favorable opinion of UGBC that will engage students more in their work.
Directly leading into their final pillar of accountability, Wachsmuth remarked, “The expenditures… what [UGBC] spend[s its] budget on, has not been updated since November of last year.”
Kapurura claims that of UGBC’s approximate $300,000 budget, a lot of it is unaccounted for. Because of this, she said, “people end up having to kind of guesstimate what was spent or what was used, which is a huge opportunity for people to be misusing money.”
If elected, both teams have one major priority in mind: the expansion of BC’s mental health services.
Wachsmuth acknowledged the necessity for mental health reform but also believed in being open about UGBC’s steps in doing so. “How can we serve marginalized students or students with mental health crises if they don’t even know how to address the student government that’s controlling a major part of their lives?”
Kapurura reiterated his point and added potential policies that would improve the student body’s understanding of UGBC. “One thing [we] want to do is create a monthly newsletter that we send out to the entire student body… to say what we are working on, how far we are on it, just so students know what’s happening.”
For Benjamin and Spagnola, mental health is just as much a priority. “I really want to expand mental health resources for students here,” Benjamin said, “… so that means partnering with University Health Services and putting together a platform where kids can see all the available options… giving students their agency in what they can do.”
“I think we’ve done a great job building those relationships,” Spagnola added, “… and I think we can do it by partnering with Student Affairs and other university-wide initiatives to bolster that.”
While creating the necessary connections with the BC administration is crucial, representatives of the student body face the difficult task of toeing the line between appeasing authority and honoring the demands of their constituencies.
Responding to this dilemma, Benjamin stated, “it’s easy to be the ones to appease the administrators, and by doing that, you forget the students that you’re representing…but it’s important to get those opinions across as effectively as we can, and if that means that administrators are upset from time to time, that’s okay.”
Spagnola supported this claim, reemphasizing the crucial relationships that she and Benjamin have formed within UGBC. “That relationship-building piece is so key because it allows us to disagree with administrators and them to be open to that disagreement… because there’s that foundation of trust. That’s really truly UGBC being the bridge between students and admin.”
Kapurura and Wachsmuth believe that it is through small steps and attention to all aspects of the governmental process that fosters legitimate change.
“When the school is doing things like not allowing an LGBTQ resource center, to me, that’s just against Christian ethics… and our opponents will say ‘we’ve tried everything, we’ve tried,’ but have you really?” Wachsmuth questioned.
“I want to reiterate,” Kapurura said, “our job, again, is not to be the leader. Our job is to be servant leaders… that means listening to what is needed on the ground and being that liaison in between to communicate with administrators.”
A seemingly difficult task at BC has been creating a more equitable and inclusive community for all kinds of students.
One thing that Kapurura and Wachsmuth wish to achieve is a simple reconfiguring of the signs outside of single-occupancy restrooms. “If you go to a bathroom that says male or female, but you don’t conform to that binary, it’s basically saying there’s no place for you here,” Kapurura asserted. “It sounds simple in context and it very much is, but in reality, that can make a student feel seen and heard on campus.”
For Wachsmuth, inclusivity means more opportunity and accessibility. “What’s crazy is how blue lights are inaccessible during winter when there’s heavy snow, or for students in wheelchairs there’s the one near Walsh that, I believe, is in the dirt… that’s easy enough for us… but that’s not as easy for students that are disabled,” Wachsmuth remarked.
Spagnola agreed and further supplemented the need for accessibility. “I think there are some really easy things you can do, like having lecture capture at football games, having Panopto recordings with clear captions, and EagleApps saying which classrooms have lecture capture,” she stated, naming just a few, simple measures that could be taken to improve accessibility at BC.
With this year’s elections heating up, these two tickets both offer unique perspectives as well as common viewpoints as to which direction BC should take in the following year. The teams of Lubens Benjamin and Julia Spagnola and Kudzai Kapurura and Caleb Wachsmuth are campaigning to the last minute, hoping to secure the next spot in UGBC’s presidential administration.