The President and I
[I got the opportunity to sit down and talk with Luke Howe, our newly-elected UGBC President. Here’s what we talked about.]
Me: First and foremost, are you familiar with The Patriot? Did you read the last issue? Any comments?
Luke: Yes, I am. And I did read the last issue. It was really good. I just wish there was some more stuff about BC. [The Patriot] really plays an important role, though, showing a point of view opposing The Observer. It would be nice if it could get promoted more and, in the future, maybe go head-to-head on some issues with The Observer.
Now let’s get to business. When did you realize you wanted to be President of UGBC?
I got the chance to work on a couple different campaigns throughout the years. But it was while I was working on Grace and Burnell’s campaign that I realized that there are things I really want to fight for and that UGBC is a great vehicle for change.
Why did you pick Ben [Nauman] as a running-mate?
Well, Ben and I met last year—he’s a transfer student from GWU—and I got to know him as a person. He had a passion to really change things. I realized that we both had a similar idea for what UGBC should become. Plus, he’s a Democrat, so he brought a difference of opinion to the ticket.
What is your top priority when you assume your role as President later this year?
Oh man, it’s hard to list just one top goal. I really want to bring legal representation for students to the school as soon as possible, and hopefully a 24-hour study space can get opened soon. We will focus a lot of attention to the referendum, money and finances of UGBC, etc.…Really just putting students first—making UGBC more present as an advocate of students.
As you mentioned, a hot topic is the non-discrimination clause—the referendum which was supported by 84% of the students that voted. What’s your plan? Have you attended any of the meetings?
I wasn’t able to attend the first meeting, but Ben and I both are attending the one tonight [Monday, 3/21] to find out where the referendum stands. I want to be the mediator—if we’re going to get this done, we have to work with the administration, and I want to mediate that. Grace and Nick [Salter] and a bunch of other students have really done a great job. I want to continue the conversation with the administration to reconcile the student body’s belief with any concerns about Jesuit traditions and beliefs that the administration has. They’re in a tricky spot, but it’s really important that everyone feels welcome and accepted at this school.
How do you intend to encourage and inspire greater political activity and concern at BC and give our student body a strong voice in the community?
It all begins when you first step on campus; we need to get students more involved. This should start at orientation. The orientation process should focus on activity and involvement: make them excited, make them think this is an involved campus. You know, this institution really is smaller than people think, and one person can do a lot for the school.
How do you plan to do this at orientation?
Well, I want to make a point of personally speaking—either Ben or I—to every group of students that comes through orientation. Although I won’t be an OL this summer, I will be here and I want to make sure students feel the presence of UGBC right away. [UGBC] needs to advertise better, become more open. Although we plan on keeping MLP, which really is a good thing, we want to make the government more open to freshmen with a Freshmen Assembly—originally an idea from Tina and Prab—and really be able to talk with the class of ’09 and see what they want to do.
Fall concert: Will it happen?
I hope so; it’s a good, unifying event for the whole school. Yeah, you know, there will be. There’ll be a fall concert if I have to sit there on stage and play the guitar myself.
I’m sure the whole school will show up for that . . . What are your interests as far as the new property is concerned?
There’s already a student committee formed, but students have to have a voice in the development. A student center is a must; guaranteed four years of housing is a must. These are the two main things we’re going to push for.
A lot of people have criticized your platform as unrealistic, citing, for example, your initiatives to abolish the language requirement and open a pub on campus—not that the two are related by any means. How do you respond to that?
We will attempt everything in our platform. We hope to at least start a conversation about the pub to see our options. As for the language requirement, we don’t necessarily want to abolish it, but we want to reform it to give students an option to possibly take other classes—cultural classes—without mandating language courses. We got this idea from—it was talked about by the A&S deans, and Ben sat in on a meeting where it was brought up. I mean, we at least want to carry out a conversation with the administration to assess our options on behalf of students.
How was this campaign different from the ones you experienced in the past?
A lot of people voted. And the vote was a vote based on students’ beliefs about the direction UGBC should go in—I mean, this was really the first time that the platforms were very distinct and someone could choose just on that basis.
Do you plan on working with your opponents or adopting any of their ideas?
I really hope we can work with them because some of their ideas were very important—social justice, women’s rights, gay rights….For instance, there’s a vote coming up in the student Senate to create a council on gay and lesbian issues—the GLC—and I hope to see it pass and get to work with the council. Plus, I hope that we can get everyone who ran to work with the Elections Committee to come up with a way to make running a campaign and communicating with the students easier, but still look out for the students.
Speaking of communication, during the campaign there was an incident with frosh Ben Higgins; do you have anything to say about that?
I was very disappointed when things became personal and got off the issues. I’ve talked to him since, and we’ve come to an understanding. But the issues were really what was important.
Any final comments?
We really want to take politics out of UGBC and unite the school; student life issues are more important. We’re excited about getting new people involved in UGBC, getting rid of the “country club” image we have, and just working for the students.
What’s your favorite newspaper on campus?
Front Page (March 31, 2005)
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