Opinions Fly in Final UGBC Debate

by Jack Long

 

On February 11, Reed Piercey (MCAS ’19) and Ignacio Fletcher (MCAS ’20) debated Taraun Frontis (CSOM ’19) and Aneeb Sheikh (MCAS ’20) in Vandy Cabaret Room in anticipation of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College election. 

Fresh from the diversity debate, where Piercey and Fletcher were criticized for failing to represent portions of the student population, the final debate shifted focus towards general governmental policy. The format allowed the candidates to respond to one other’s policies, and revealed a large amount of agreement on the specific issues.

 

In the first portion of the debate, candidates took turns answering ten questions. The two sides publicly agreed on many policies, including the continuation of UGBC’s efforts to complete a Student Climate Survey, the encouragement of divestment, and the implementation of bystander intervention training to make the drinking culture safer. On the latter topic, the candidates were in such agreement that Piercey and Fletcher passed on offering a rebuttal.

 

Both Piercey and Frontis’s campaigns also expressed their plans to support DACA recipients and to effectively make Boston College a sanctuary campus. Though a Frontis believed that the administration should not officially label the college as such, so as not to risk the loss of federal funding.

 

The debate maintained its strict order of speaking even during significant disagreements between the candidates, such as the dispute over free speech. In that exchange, Frontis and Sheikh advocated for a free speech zone on campus (based on Georgetown Universtiy’s “Red Square”), which would allow students to participate in social activism and express their political views.

 

While Piercey agreed that UGBC should encourage student activism, he believed it would be difficult to maintain a free speech zone without allowing the same type of racist speech that triggered UGBC’s “Silence Is Still Violence” March. Sheikh responded that these concerns do not eliminate the need for a location where students can organize without waiting for administrative approval.

 

Sheikh again challenged Piercey on the proposal to add a senate seat for the international student community. Sheikh said, “I’m not sure what you meant by the ‘international student community.’ I’m an international student and I’m not aware of such a community. [...] How are you planning to find a so-called leader of a community that doesn’t exist?”

 

In his rebuttal, Piercey held that the lack of community was itself a problem that could be remedied by raising awareness of the resources the Office of International Student Services offers international students, and by creating “more culture-focused orientation program [...] to give international students a greater sense of home at BC.”

 

Once all ten questions had been answered by both parties, the candidates briefly convened amongst themselves before giving their closing statements. Notably, the debate concluded without a mention of the Jesuits.

 

Frontis and Sheikh spoke first and emphasized the many identities they represented, as well as their history communicating with school officials, and their many anticipated policies. Sheikh concluded the statement by adding, “The reason why we should be your next President and Vice President of UGBC is because we have the experience and the relationships to enact tangible change.”

 

Piercey and Fletcher’s closing statement addressed what they thought was the greatest challenge of any UGBC official: the growing apathy of the student body. Fletcher described how defeating this apathy could make BC a more representative and welcoming community.  Piercey connected the declining vote count in UGBC’s elections to the racist comments from the fall semester. He finished his statement by saying, “We want to be that bridge that connects those that already care to those that have the potential to care and become better allies, and that’s our mission as candidates.”

 

Four days after the debate, Piercey and Fletcher won the election by approximately 350 votes.


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