The phrase “March Madness bracket” typically evokes images of collegiate basketball teams and passionate fans. But this March, UGBC took the concept in a different direction with their 2nd annual March Madness Policy Bracket. The bracket, which began on March 20th, was comprised of 16 policy suggestions that BC students want implemented on campus. Students voted for their favorite policies in each round, in various dining halls or online, ultimately resulting in one winning policy that the UGBC Student Assembly will make a priority.
According to UGBC Senator Caroline Monnes, MCAS ‘19, “the policy bracket was an idea proposed by UGBC's new Outreach division last year as a fun way to engage with the student body as a whole, and to get student feedback to direct the Student Assembly's initiatives.”
Cynthia Gonzalez, MCAS ‘20 and a member of UGBC’s outreach team, expressed a similar sentiment. She says, “UGBC decided to do the policy bracket to find a way to bridge the gap between the senators and the general student body.”
To begin the process, members of UGBC spoke to students to create the initial group of policies. Monnes explains that “the list of initiatives was created in a Student Assembly [SA] meeting, and each senator tried to reach out to different GroupMe's they were in or text friends as an informal way of crowdsourcing the list of potential initiatives.”
While this method allowed UGBC to gather a variety of suggestions from BC students, all students were not able to make suggestions. Monnes added that “SA discussed creating a survey in the future to be sent to the entire student body to help us develop the bracket, which we didn't have enough time to do this year.”
After several rounds of voting, the options were narrowed down to two policies: printers in Mac, or healthy to-go breakfast options. In an outcome that surprised some members of UGBC, healthy to-go breakfast options won the final vote.
“Most of us were surprised when we found out that healthy to-go breakfast had won because we didn't realize there was such a high demand, ” says Gonzalez.
Monnes agrees, explaining that “there are yogurt parfaits in the to-go fridges, oatmeal, fruit, and healthy cereals, so I never thought healthy to-go breakfast would be the policy winner.”
Monnes sees this surprising result as an opportunity to better understand the needs and opinions of BC’s student body. She explains, “I think this ended up being a really cool result. When something unexpected like this wins, it helps us direct our goals toward what most students want, especially when we as individual senators hadn't thought it would be this big of an issue.”
As the UGBC senator who works with BC Dining, Monnes will be working to put this policy into action. When it comes to next steps, she plans to get in touch with BC students about the issue before bringing it to BC Dining. Says Monnes, “I'd be interested in surveying students through UGBC to understand why so many people voted for this option and what they'd like to see from BC Dining in response.”
Once she gathers a better understanding of what improvements students would like to see in the current breakfast options, Monnes is confident BC Dining will be ready to collaborate with UGBC. She says, “I've loved working with BC Dining—they are always willing to collaborate with UGBC and are so receptive to student feedback.”
Last year’s winning policy called for avocados in the dining hall, and the policy was successfully implemented. Says Monnes, “BC Dining included [avocados] with the fresh produce they sold on the meal plan in the spring.”
Hopefully, this policy initiative will be a way for BC Dining and UGBC to work towards changes that students want to see and benefit from. “They [BC Dining] struggle with reaching the student body,” explains Monnes. “And so many complaints people have would be easy to fix if they told Dining.”
Gonzalez emphasizes that “the goal of the policy bracket was to have a tangible way for students to communicate what they wanted to be done at Boston College.” Although the winning policy was an unexpected one, it brought to light a student suggestion that UGBC wasn’t aware of beforehand. As members of UGBC talk to students to determine why this policy won and collaborate with BC Dining to bring the policy to fruition, UGBC will make major progress towards achieving the fundamental goal of the policy bracket.