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Photos courtesy of Kaylee Arzu '24 (left) and Ryan Milligan '26 (right)

Get to Know Your UGBC Presidential Duos

2023’S UGBC presidential elections are well underway, and the two teams running are working hard to ensure their values and policies are known by all Boston College undergrads. As a part of this mission, both teams met with The Gavel to explain their policies and voice their passion for the chance to represent the BC community.

Jordan Nakash, MCAS ’24, and Yosan Tewelde, MCAS ’24, are basing their platform on the pillars of dedication, collaboration, and unification. The two hope to thread these principles throughout the changes they wish to enact while in office; they have crafted a ten-point plan that they believe highlights the issues BC faces and how they, as a team, are the best to face them. “We have always loved Boston College,” their plan proudly states, “and from the moment we stepped foot on campus we knew we wanted to do whatever it took to make student life better here.”

Jonah Kotzen, MCAS ’24, and Meghan Heckelman, MCAS ’25, have also been rigorously campaigning with the goal of reaching as many students as possible. The two aim to be able “to create not just our own ideas and make sure that our agenda is at the forefront, but to amplify student voices and to make sure that everyone is heard and that we are accurately representing the individuals we want to represent.” They have mobilized a plan they’re calling the 4A Approach, wherein acceptance, academics, activity, and adjustment will be their main focuses.

Both teams emphasized that their interactions with students greatly informed their platforms. “We want to be able to make sure students give their concerns directly to us,” Kotzen made clear. “Receiving feedback is a priority,” Tewelde highlighted a similar approach, saying, “general student life cannot improve unless we understand what each individual group needs.”

Also, present on each ticket is the great importance of increased rights and feelings of safety and understanding for AHANA and LGBTQ+ identifying students on campus. “Right now there is a graduate assistant in the Dean of Students office that’s responsible for and in her title is to support queer students on campus,” Heckelman explained, “but let’s make that a professional. I think that’s something we can make happen.”

“As it stands,” Kotzen added, “professors don’t have disability training. Diversity training is not mandatory for professors and that has got to change.”

Nakash and Tewelde feel just as strongly. “When something like a hate crime relating to particularly AHANA students happens,” Nakash said, “the initial reaction is to jump to ALC and say ‘OK, what are you guys going to do about it? Where is your statement?’ We’re people first. Although this person might be the head of ALC, they’re a person first. We need to use our roles to say ‘this just happened, what can we do?’”

“Having a concrete way to acknowledge when [an incident] is a hate crime or a bias-related incident and also following up on it,” as Tewelde said, is something she and Nakash want to accomplish if elected to office.

While the two teams stand united on these issues, a few pieces of the platforms set the two apart from each other and are important to note before you vote.

Nakash and Tewelde hope to expand the traditional definition of diversity in the Heights. “A student who’s an athlete is going to have a completely different experience than a student who’s an international student, and they would have a completely different experience from a transfer student. The pair are striving to “find the issues that would really pertain to them and what they would advocate for the most.”

When asked how their office would bridge the gap between UGBC and the general student population, Tewelde worked through this same lens. “There’s so much student involvement on campus already. They deserve those connections with administration to get their groups heard- it shouldn’t have to be through us first.”

Another unique aspect of Nakash and Tewelde’s campaign is the spotlight they have placed on the university’s current religious inequalities; their platform expressed their desire to staff full-time Rabbis and Imams on campus to support BC’s Jewish and Muslim population as well as the additions of more multi-faith rooms on campus. Speaking to this point, Nakash said that the two would be “trying to also organize things that are directly for those students who practice those different faiths.”

Many students are also wondering how these candidates will handle hot-button issues that undergraduates on campus have been trying to bring to the administration’s attention for a while now, such as Boston College’s lack of divestment and an LGBTQ+ resource center. When faced with those circumstances, Nakash asks, “What’s a loophole way that we can go about this in the meantime? You’re not going to completely divest- what is something you can do instead?” Two suggestions she offers are a fleet of electric buses or a more substantial investment into buses that rely on biodiesel. Before BC greenlights an LGBTQ+ resource center, the two note that other steps may have to come first, such as, Tewelde said, “better advertising the queer resources we have on campus because a lot of students don’t know. Getting more staff that are specifically trained for LGBTQ students and queer students…once we start normalizing queerness on campus and having these resources that will open up having a queer resources center in the future.

Kotzen and Heckelman also have plans for these two subjects. Heckelman notes that, on both of these issues, Boston College is “very far behind.” She went on to say that “all of these other schools, all of these peer institutions do it, why aren’t we doing it? Advocating for these smaller steps, I think, are key.”

The smaller steps the two hope to implement include expanding queer social hours, welcoming more transgender speakers to campus, and hiring full-time staff members to support queer students.

As for divestment, Kotzen said that he wants to amplify the voices of those already fighting for it. “What we need to be doing,” he stated, “is more collaboration with groups like Climate Justice Boston College” He referenced the group’s recent probationary period, arguing that the group should not have been punished for speaking up for what they believed in.

Topics very close to these two’s hearts are mental health and accessibility advocacy; these points inform much of their policy and the change they hope to see on campus. The two hope to “make this campus more inclusive,” Kotzen explained, “and represent and amplify the students’ voices that need representing.” Heckelman echoed this statement, noting, “general student wellness will be at the forefront for us, for sure. I think that those issues are especially prevalent for students in marginalized communities.” The pair hope to expand counseling services and make the process of connecting with the Center for Student Wellness much more streamlined. “What you’ll see,” Kotzen added, “if you’re looking at our policy doc, we have four pages of accessibility points. I’ve collaborated with Rory Stein this year, who’s the head of the disability services office, to further push for these issues and initiatives to be accomplished.”

Another aspect of the Boston College system Kotzen and Heckelman hope to make more efficient and transparent is how the university responds to bias-motivated incidents. This transparency can only occur, Heckelman said, if Boston College “starts telling students what happens. Highlighting the steps of the conduct process and what happens for different violations of policy are really important.” Bringing this point home, Kotzen added, “the burden isn’t on students from marginalized communities to make sure that these attacks aren’t carried out. It’s on all students. It’s a community issue and it’s something that we need to advocate for more awareness around.”

As the campaign trail heats up and both of these teams express their passions for improving and uplifting the Boston College community, the decision for students to vote becomes more challenging. Given a chance to state what makes their platforms unique, both teams had important thoughts.

“The policies that we have here, the policies that we’ve vocalized, are just the natural extension of the work that we’re already doing,” Kotzen emphasized. “These policies are not just things we have pulled out of thin air. They’re things that we’ve talked to administrators and students alike about to make sure that we are representing them and advocating for them to the best of our abilities.

“We’re not learning how UGBC works,” Heckelman made sure to note. “We’re not learning what the priorities of each division have been this year and where they’re at on initiatives. This is something that we’re entirely ready for and something that we feel very prepared for.”

“We know people in each one of our ten points. We have interacted with them not just this year but in the last few years- they’re some of our closest friends.” As for some of the things brought up in the DEI debate, Nakash said, “those are the conversations we’re having every single day in the BAIC or just in our dorms. I think it’s those lived experiences and also wanting to see that representation in ourselves.”

“I think representation matters so much,” Tewelde agreed, adding, “Being on the receiving end of a lot of these policies or decisions I would hear from the UGBC side…it gives us a unique perspective as to how UGBC’s relationship is with students.”

The last debate between these two teams is on Thursday, March 30th, in 245 Beacon Street, Room 107, at 8 PM. 

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Lover of brunch and the O.C. Cannot spell the word defeiently to save my life.

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