Though he’s been involved in the Undergraduate Government of Boston College since his second year on the Heights, led initiatives calling on the University to act, headed student organizations on campus, and is now seeking the position of UGBC president, Czar Sepe, MCAS ’21, still hasn’t faced a bigger crowd than he did in his sophomore year of high school.
Sepe was running for treasurer of the New Jersey Association of Student Councils. The Parsippany, N.J. native gave his final campaign address in front of more than 1,000 delegates from high schools around the state with a creative slogan playing on his middle name: “Pepsi-Alexei.” The parallels he drew between himself and the soda—an appeal to his energy, consistency, and humor—ultimately won him the position, he said.
But now, with fellow UGBC senator Jack Bracher, MCAS ’22, as his running mate, Sepe is seeking the highest student-held office on campus—and he knows the campaign will need to touch on far more important issues than his affinity for Pepsi.
The campaign’s primary slogan, “Ascend to Greater Heights,” touches on a need to make BC a more inclusive and respectful environment, areas in which Sepe and Bracher say it has been lacking.
“BC is a good place, but it could be brought up to another level,” Sepe said. “It can be a place where people look up to. Because at times, it doesn’t feel like that—at times, people feel unwelcome, people feel disappointed, betrayed … because there are frustrations institutionally and culturally within our student body.”
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And “frustration” was the exact word that Bracher used when he described what led him to run for the UGBC Senate in the first place. Disheartened by a lack of action within the greater student body following the racist incident in Welch Hall in 2018, Bracher said he won his seat with the intention of furthering dialogues of inclusion on campus.
One tangible step he and Sepe’s administration would take toward achieving this, Bracher said, would be integrating aspects of the Bowman Advocates program into the training for resident assistants in freshman dorms. The program, run through the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center, trains students to facilitate workshops for first-year students to discuss topics of diversity and inclusion. Bracher was trained last semester and continues to help host workshops.
“I think that Bowman Advocates is a different kind of diversity training because it really focuses on who you are as a person,” Bracher said. “You analyze and look at your past and learn what made you the person you are today, and [it helps] you learn to be someone who listens, who respects others.”
Short-term, tangible goals are an important aspect to the campaign, he continued. When laying out their platform before announcing their campaign, it was imperative to the two that they only list goals they felt could be addressed within their year-long term, Bracher said. They have maintained this approach with their position on the University creating an LGBTQ+ Resource Center, to some blowback. Bracher said in Wednesday’s debate on diversity and inclusion that he does not feel that the proposal would be something that the administration would support “right now.” Another candidate, Christian Guma, CSOM ’21, asked how the team could say they are fighting for students who support creating the center while at the same time not supporting the creation of the resource center themselves.
Bracher said in an interview with The Heights that due to time constraints on debate answers, he could not continue his response to include the fact that the campaign advocates for the immediate founding of a physical LGBTQ+ Community Center in Carney.
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Sepe and Bracher’s platform further advocates for maps that lay out gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, a library collection with media pertinent to the LGBTQ+ experience, and the creation of a workshop for all students, similar to Bowman Advocates, “dedicated to the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ students on campus,” according to the campaign platform.
“[We are] trying to work within UGBC to create more tangible results, while we wait for a resource center in the future,” Sepe said. “Because, again, that could happen when we’re gone—when all of these candidates are gone—but we are trying to make something more tangible, more meaningful for the LGBTQ+ community right now.”
The campaign holds similar position on BC’s divestment from fossil fuels, an idea the University has rejected in the past. While they hope that they can work toward divestment, Sepe said, it is as important for the team to expand sustainability initiatives in dining halls and residence halls to start to shift overall student opinion on climate-related initiatives.
“Keeping those issues visible and present in the minds of students and the greater student body is something that is key if we want to work and fight toward divestment,” he said. “Because if we could keep these students informed in these issues, we could create a cultural shift on campus—we get an inch closer to getting to that goal.”
The two said they put many hours into researching and developing their platform—something made easier, they said, by the ease they have in working with one another. This chemistry the pair described was echoed by Alejandro Perez, UGBC senator and MCAS ’21, who was among the group of people who encouraged Sepe to seek the position of president. Perez, having enjoyed being Bracher’s resident assistant in Duchesne last year, suggested to Sepe that Bracher should be his running mate, despite the two not knowing each other well. But the instant connection the two made, Perez said, was palpable.
“We got the two of them talking, and the next thing you know, they’re running together,” said Perez, who ran for the position of vice president last year. “It was actually incredible. … Once they met when Czar was back [from studying abroad], the chemistry was just amazing.”
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Perez, now the campaign’s director of outreach, knew Sepe from early on in freshman year through mutual friends, he said. But it was Sepe’s leadership in drafting a 2018 resolution calling for the University’s condemnation of the clergy sexual abuse scandal in Philadelphia that earned him Perez’s high regard. He then made it a point to work with Sepe in the then-Student Assembly whenever he could.
Beneath the pair’s names on the campaign Facebook page reads the three characteristics of the campaign that Sepe and Bracher feel are most important to their mission: “Respectful,” “Responsible,” and “Ready.” The second and third words refer to the pair’s experience in UGBC, the connections they have on campus, and the effort put into developing their platform, Bracher said. But cultivating a culture of that first characteristic on campus, Sepe said, is a key tenet that inspired their campaign.
“We need to have a culture of respect because sometimes people, especially people who are in the margins, do not feel as though they are respected here,” Sepe said. “You know, there’s a great song about it. ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T.’ These things ring true throughout history, and we need to bring it here at Boston College.”
Coming from a devout Catholic Filipino family, Sepe said respect for others is a value he grew up with, and it is further reflected in the Jesuit values that BC espouses. Sepe serves as president of the BC chapter of Knights of Columbus, a national Catholic service organization. But as he said before, he thinks there is more that BC and its students need to do if it is going to continue to live up to its Jesuit mission.
Bracher also sees BC through this hopeful lens. Raised in Newton as the son of two BC faculty members, he said he spent a lot of his childhood hoping to one day go to BC. His babysitters were often BC students, and he grew up wanting to be like Matt Ryan, Nathan Gerbe, and Luke Kuechly—all former BC athletes. He’d spend his summers at BC with his brothers with a wiffleball bat or a frisbee and play till the sun went down with the orientation leaders and new students.
“BC has always been a home to me,” Bracher said. “But Czar and I recognize that, and this is what really motivated our campaign, the fact that it’s not a home for everyone. So to have that chance to be the BC student I’ve always wanted to be by contributing to make BC a home for others is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up on.”
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor