by Chris Canniff
Elections for next year’s president and vice president of UGBC will be held February 18 and 19. Last week, the candidates sat down for a wide-ranging interview with The Torch to discuss several important issues facing the student body.
Nanci Fiore-Chettiar and Chris Marchese, running for president and vice president respectively, are campaigning against Lucas Levine and Vance Vergara. Each one of the candidates is a member of the College of Arts & Sciences Class of 2015.
Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese each have prior experience within UGBC. Fiore-Chettiar has been involved since her freshman year and is currently in Student Assembly as well as the Board for Student Organizations, which is a division within the executive department. Marchese ran for senate at the end of his freshman year. Having won that election, he served as a chair of the Alcohol Policy Reform Committee. He currently serves as the President Pro Tempore of the Student Assembly.
In addition to these commitments, they are involved with numerous other student groups. Fiore-Chettiar serves as co-director of FACES Council and works on social entrepreneurship events as a member of the executive board of the Boston College Venture Competition. Marchese is a Junior Representative of the Bellarmine Law Society.
Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese were originally running unopposed, but they advocated for an extension of the deadline for students to submit candidacy paperwork because they did not want BC students to be deprived of the opportunity to choose leaders for themselves.
“Election season is the time when you connect with the student body on a different level – really getting your message out there, getting your vision out there, letting people know who you are. Right now there are so many people who don’t know who the president and vice president are, and I think that would be even worse without an election season. Also, having that excitement on campus and getting people engaged, which is something that we really believe in, is really important for the organization,” said Fiore-Chettiar.
Addressing the apathy that the initial lack of interest displays, Marchese stated that the notification about and timing of the sign-up process was to blame rather than student disinterest. Moreover, the shift of UGBC toward an exclusive focus on policy work as opposed to programming may have led certain students not to run.
Levine and Vergara, who got involved in the election upon the re-opening of the application process, are UGBC outsiders who hope to bring the expertise learned through their experiences with various student groups to bear on the newly structured government.
Levine, who is just back from a semester abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, has served as a Junior Fellow at BC’s Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy since his freshman year. As someone who has long been interested in politics, he sees this election as an opportunity for him to step outside of himself and serve the wider campus community. His running mate, Vergara, is a co-president of the Consulting Club and has also worked for auxiliary services with BC Dining.
Levine cites his lack of past involvement with UGBC as a strength because it would afford him the opportunity to truly take things in a new direction, especially given the new structure of UGBC next year. An integral component of their platform is to focus on making tangible student life improvements within their first 100 days such as improving the coffee served in the dining halls, increasing the accessibility of staplers all over campus, and introducing water filters to each residence hall. With this focus, they hope to set for the student body a new example of how UGBC can address the things that matter in their daily lives, thereby recapturing student attention and hopefully stimulating student interest in larger policy matters.
Both campaigns addressed issues regarding the UGBC budget which was the source of some controversy earlier this year when an editorial in The Heights expressed the shared sentiments of a large portion of the student population, criticizing UGBC executives for receiving stipends, the money for which is drawn from the student activities fee that is paid annually by all students. Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese defended the stipends and said that they do plan to take stipends for their work, while at the same time stating that they want to be more judicious overall in regard to the allocation of funds. Levine and Vergara have made no final determination about the stipends, but they too want to curb some of the wasteful spending that has been done in the past.
“We are committed to increasing funds for RSOs, and if we can’t find room to trim from other programs in the budget, we will definitely consider taking money from the stipends to go toward RSOs,” said Levine.
The candidates also shared their personal thoughts on faith and the Catholic identity of BC. Both campaigns want to continue, by various means, working toward the goal articulated by current UGBC executive vice president Matt Alonoszana, A&S ’14, of building BC into a leading global Catholic university.
“I would love to see BC continue with its efforts of promoting Jesuit ideals, especially reflection. I think that that is the most important one because everyday we make mistakes and everyday we do good things. It’s really, really important to take the time to reflect on that,” said Marchese when speaking about the impact that retreats such as 48 Hours and Kairos have had on him.
Fiore-Chettiar, who has been involved with both Appa and Arrupe, says that she came in with little understanding of what it meant to be Jesuit. It was her involvement with the two aforementioned service programs that has since informed her understanding of what Catholicism means.
“The focus on reflection and intentionality are so important, and it’s become central to who I am without me even realizing it. They are things that we hope to bring forth next year in our administration,” said Fiore-Chettiar.
Both Fiore-Chettiar and Marchese highlighted BC Ignites as one program that could be utilized to increase campus dialogue around matters of faith. Last spring’s topic was GLBTQ issues, and they said that it was perhaps the most direct engagement they had seen on the part of UGBC in regard to religious affairs. They also underscored the work currently being done by Ryan Shannon, A&S ’15, in the area of Catholicism and GLBTQ issues.
Levine sees UGBC as having an important role as mediator between the University and the student body when religious values of the institution are at variance with student beliefs.
“I think UGBC has to play a role in communicating what the student body feels, and if the administration is unwavering on certain things for religious reasons that cannot be compromised, then UGBC needs to message that back to the student body,” said Levine.
The Levine-Vergara platform includes a particular goal of expanding the availability of weekday Mass in the evenings on Lower Campus. Currently, a 10pm Mass is offered Monday-Thursday in St. Joseph’s Chapel in the basement of Gonzaga Hall on Upper Campus, and they would like to work with Campus Ministry to provide a similar option for the students who live on Lower Campus.
To learn more about the candidates and their platforms, check out their websites at the following links.