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April 29, 2005

Simmons and Holland have Built a Better BC

Anthony Coppola

      The end of school year is the perfect time for reflection. I was lucky enough to have the privilege of sitting down with the current President and Vice President of UGBC, Grace Simmons and Burnell Holland. In an hour-long interview, they reflected on the past, present, and future of BC providing thoughtful responses to my questions. Last year, they pledged to "build community" at BC. After sitting down with them, it is clear to me that they have not only have they fulfilled their campaign promise to "build community" but that their vision and dedication have truly made BC a better place. I can only hope that after reading their responses that you will feel the same way.

Simmons and Holland have Built a Better BC

Q: What are your proudest accomplishments as UGBC President and Vice President?

Burnell: We've tried to program events and work toward policy issues that realign the student body toward the Jesuit philosophy of social justice.

Grace: We have taken a different approach by trying to inform students in different ways. Having a poet laureate like Maya Angelou, using professors to give lectures and take part in debates, bringing Eric Reeves, and having a spring concert to benefit a children's hospital are all example of ways in which we tried to work toward the Jesuit mission that Burnell just mentioned. It was fitting that the year culminated with the non-discrimination movement and the rally, as it shows the way we've tried to work with students to fight for the marginalized and impoverished.

Burnell: We would not have wanted the year to end in any other way than with the non-discrimination movement, it speaks so much about this campus.

Q: If you had it to do over again, would you do anything differently?

Burnell: I don't regret anything because the mistakes we've made have made us grow, and people who witnessed those mistakes hopefully will not make the same mistakes we've made.

Grace: I wish I had time to do more things…meet more freshman, go to more ALC meetings, go to different events that aren't UGBC related, have more time to be a normal student.

Burnell: Can I go to sleep on May 24th and be proud of my time in UGBC? I can say I'm proud to have worked with Grace.

Grace: Burnell and I became great friends and what we did was close to our hearts.

Q: If there was one thing you could change about BC right now what would it be?

Grace: I dislike the in or out feeling at BC, students want to do things but didn't talk to the right people freshman year; we need more mixing between AHANA students and white students, the dating scene or lack thereof, and the feeling at BC that students have to meet a certain standard or fit a certain profile.

Burnell: I want BC to never be satisfied with diversity issues or student life issues or whatever it may be. I hate it when the university says "we just finished working on that." We need to always be attempting to better BC; we have the potential to be the best university in the country, but sometimes we just become comfortable.

Q: If you could stay at the helm of UGBC for one more year, what projects would you like to see to their conclusions?

Grace: I would really like to insure that the notice of non-discrimination is changed, the student center built, the Perch renovated, and the ethnic studies major happen. In addition, something we talked about at the beginning of the year was the international immersion trips; we want them to get more institutional support, and we want all students to go on them not just the most active.

Burnell: I agree with what Grace said. I want to stress the importance of the ethnic studies' pilot program that will take place year, and I hope it will get the institutional support it deserves and become a real major. Really, I just would love to continue to build community here at BC and foster dialogue; many students here disagree with one another and that is alright; we just need to all love and respect one another. All of these things that Grace and I just touched upon, we trust and hope the Howe-Nauman Administration will continue working on these things.

Q: If you could give Luke and Ben one piece of advice what would it be?

Burnell: Keep partisanship out of the student government. We have enough of those issues in our local, state, and federal governments. Please, focus on the issues that make everyone feel that BC is the place for them and transcend the partisan divide. UGBC is responsible for articulating the BC & Jesuit mission to the greater BC community.

Grace: Come to know the mission and values of a BC and Jesuit education and incorporate them into your administration and into the BC community. Grace and Burnell: Just remember, it's about the people…It's not about you.

Q: If you were to come back to BC in ten years, what would like to see has changed? What would you like to see has stayed the same?

Burnell: I feel that BC is not a place where too many AHANA alums come back. I want this place to continue to grow and become more inclusive so when I come back I am part of the community of average students and not an exception.

Grace: I would want to see more Jesuits here when I come back because they are so vital to this school. I would hope to see more women in positions of power on this campus all across the board. I would want to see a student center, a new gym, new dorms; it would contribute to the wellness factor and quality of life on this campus and would help bring people together. I like the fact that BC is academically challenging enough and provides students with opportunities to develop themselves as a whole, and I hope BC continues to provide these diverse opportunities for this type of personal development.

Burnell: I would like to see that the call to serve is still prominent; I'd like to see students continuing to challenge the status quo and that people here still have a good time and meet people from all walks of life.

Q: Why do you think the BC equality movement has been so successful at mobilizing students?

Grace: Because nobody owns it, and the fact it is very broad-based because all types of students feel it is near and dear to their hearts. This movement has made students recognize the responsibilities of this university.

Burnell: Because it is an issue you can't ignore; it affects all of us and is one of the most contentious issues in the country. In moving from tolerance towards acceptance of the GLBT community, people have recognized that as a problem of injustice. I don't see how people can sit by when students who they interact with everyday are feeling hurt and unwelcome by policy decisions that have been made without doing something.

Q: What are your Plans for next year?

Burnell: I'll be in San Francisco taking part in the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs. It is a nine-month fellowship from September through May in which I'll work in various job placements and individual projects geared towards public affairs.

Grace: I am not sure yet. Possibly I'll be a high school English teacher for Teach for America in New Orleans. Also, I am waiting to hear back about jobs in DC and New York City. What will you miss most about BC?

Grace: Definitely the people and the walks around campus late at night when nobody is around.

Burnell: The opportunity to do a wide variety of things that I would never otherwise have the opportunity to do like club sports or Saturday mornings heading over to Alumni and the Mods during football season or just having a good time with my roommates on Saturday mornings, recounting stories of the nights gone by… And, of course, the people.

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