Due to the inclement weather, elections for next year’s president and vice president of UGBC will be held February 19 and 20. Last week, two of the candidates sat down for a wide-ranging interview with The Torch to discuss several important issues facing the student body.
Cassidy Gallegos, LSOE ’16, and Mike Keefe, A&S ’16, are running for president and vice president respectively.
Over the past year, Gallegos has gotten increasingly involved in UGBC. Appointed last school year as a senator for the Class of 2016, Gallegos was tasked with focusing on mental health issues on campus. She then applied into the Student Initiatives division, also heading up mental health issues. She was again appointed to the Student Assembly this year, working on the policy and development committee.
Keefe’s prior experience in UGBC includes serving as last year’s Chief of Staff of the Student Assembly. He was also a member of UGBC’s Executive Council.
In addition to these commitments, they are involved with numerous other student groups. Gallegos is the founder and co-president of the BC chapter of the national organization To Write Love on Her Harms. She also was previously involved as a mentor with the Big and Little Sisters program through the Women’s Center. Keefe is president of BC Model UN and its conference Eagle MUNC, which he and some friends founded to bring high school students from around the world to BC to engage in debate over international issues.
Addressing the sentiments of apathy and lack of awareness that many students have toward UGBC, Gallegos said that there needs to be more direct engagement of students, allowing their opinions to be heard. If elected, they plan to position comment boxes around campus so that student input is more likely.
“We want to take the excitement and energy of campaign season and transfer that to how we would run UGBC,” said Keefe. “I think we’re running an exciting campaign out there. We’ve been giving out cookies in the quad. We had Throwback Thursday where we were playing throwback music and had our Instagram photo frame. We painted all the snow on Newton with food coloring in Cass and Mike blue. It’s those types of innovative ideas of getting to talk to students about their daily life on campus that UGBC needs to be doing more of.”
Their campaign platform centers around mental health, the freshman year experience, and tangible student life improvements. Examples of each of these include: reducing the wait time to make an appointment with a counselor, implementing a mentorship program with no application requirement, and scheduling a student activities period during the academic day when classes would not be held so that club meetings or events could take place. 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.
Gallegos wants to further that focus on policy by encouraging senators to engage more directly with students about policy questions that matter to them.
“There are 50 senators. There is such a huge opportunity to reach a greater segment of the student body by having those senators go to club meetings and to the students they are representing to ask, ‘What do you want to see? How can we help you?’ This is the kind of UGBC we want to build,” said Gallegos.
There are also particular long-term initiatives that have been set in motion, which they plan to continue, as well as some new ones that they plan to institute. To guarantee that these goals can ultimately be met and will not fade away in future years as administrations change, they plan to draft a 10-year plan to guide the future work of UGBC.
The restructuring of UGBC that has taken place this year, separating programming into its own body known as the Campus Activities Board, with the government’s focus being directed toward student issues, student initiatives, and policy advocacy, has gone well according to the candidates. Gallegos notes, however, “There are still programming parts of UGBC, and that’s really important because there are certain initiatives and policies that need a programming aspect. But, the fact that campus entertainment has been separated out allows the government to better advocate for students.”
Gallegos and Keefe also addressed issues regarding the UGBC budget which was the source of some controversy last school year when an editorial in The Heights expressed the shared opinions 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. Unlike any of their predecessors, Gallegos and Keefe are considering reallocating their own stipends toward engagement and advertising initiatives; however, the other paid members of UGBC would be allowed to utilize their stipends in whatever manner they please.
The candidates also shared their personal thoughts on faith and the Catholic identity of BC.
Gallegos 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, saying, “We have a unique ability to work both with the administration and with the students, and we are supposed to be that bridge between.”
Keefe, a graduate of Boston College High School, is currently in his seventh year of Jesuit education. Of his decision to move on to BC after high school, he said, “I knew I wanted to go to a university that cared about more than just my GPA, one that looks to educate and is concerned about the whole person.”
He continued, “I came to BC hoping to find a similar experience to what I had in high school, taking part in retreats and having a close-knit conversation-based community.”
Gallegos, who was not raised with any religion but who was baptized at a Christian church since coming to college, says that she has learned the positive value of Christian service from the time she first arrived on campus.
“The mission of BC is what really drew me here specifically. I’ve always been academically driven, but I love the service component. My Pulse placement last year is what turned my BC experience around. I speak so highly of it still and want to go back all the time. I like that it’s not just about me, but also about the community at my school and the community beyond. I can’t say enough about how much I love the Jesuit ideals.”