On Friday, April 25, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., candidate for Governor Sonia Chang-Diaz graced the Gubernatorial Candidate Forum at the Howard Thurman Centre for Common Ground. Chang-Diaz is a former public school teacher who was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate for the first time as the first Latina and Asian American woman. The event was hosted by the Boston University Student Government and was moderated by Nyah Jordan, President of the Boston University Student Government, and Izzy Watson, Events Director.

The forum started with an introduction from leading student organizations at Boston University that are working across the student body to educate and engage folks with local and national politics. Student representatives from Boston University College Democrats, BU Politica and Boston Intercollegiate Government talked briefly about their organizations and spread the word among attendees to get involved with them in several ways.

Followed by a brief introduction from student organizations, the gubernatorial candidate was welcomed by the moderators. The forum revolved around the questions posed by the students from Boston University and non-BU students who attended the forum in the capacity of press members. Numerous topics like rent stabilization, vaccine and mask policies, sustainable transportation and improvements in the education system at the grassroots were the highlight of the forum.

“I am running for very simple reasons for governor,” said Chang-Diaz in her introductory remarks. “I look around and it is easy to see that in our state, every year, it is getting harder and harder for families to live in our state. We have got a housing crisis, some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation and the fastest growing student-debt load in the country, healthcare costs, childcare costs and hanging over all of that, we have the consequences of climate change that are just barreling down on us.” 

Alongside Chang-Diaz, Josh Caldwell, Maura Healey and Orlando Silva are running in the Democratic primary for Governor of Massachusetts on Sept. 6, 2022. Shiva Ayyadurai, Geoff Diehl and Chris Doughty are running in the Republican primary for Governor of Massachusetts.

Chang-Diaz’s platform is centered toward addressing various issues ranging from housing and healthcare to transportation and economic justice and development. She highlighted her action course while answering the questions posed by the students.

Upon being asked about the policies revolving around COVID-19 measures and mask mandates, Chang-Diaz responded that it will be the number one duty of the next governor. 

“The job of handling the pandemic is not all about protecting our healthcare system from collapse, but to measure the risks and dangers to avoid the next upsurge,” said Chang-Diaz. Should Chang-Diaz be elected, equity will be the cornerstone of everything she will be doing, including healthcare.

Dhruv Kapadia, a sophomore at Boston University, asked Chang-Diaz about her plans to address and combat systemic school segregation in Massachusetts. 

In response, Chang-Diaz said that her “single proudest legislative accomplishment in [her] thirteen years in office” is the Student Opportunity Act which tackles this problem. Once the bill is fully into the execution phase, which will happen within a few years, it will pump 1.5 billion dollars into high school level education. It will heavily be focused on highest-need communities. “We will double the state investments in the lowest-income students in the state. It is going to be a total game changer for closing opportunity gaps in our state,” added Chang-Diaz.

In her closing remarks, Chang-Diaz encouraged students to seek a career in public service and work at the local level. “We are a grassroots campaign, a scrappy insurgent campaign running against the establishment,” she said. “You guys can be difference-makers in this race.”

Lauren Nessralla, a student who attended the forum, expressed her thoughts about the event. 

“The forum was highly informative as to who Senator Chang-Diaz is,” said Nessralla, a first-year student studying Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy and Political Science at UMass Boston. “We should be making informed votes when we cast our ballots.  It’s great to get to see our candidates up close and ask them the questions. I am happy and grateful for the BU Student Government putting the event on.”

The Mass Media asked Zoie Roberson, a junior studying Political Science at UMass Boston, about the importance of such student forums and why they should be encouraged by UMass Boston, too. 

“Forums like these are incredibly important as they cultivate leadership,” said Roberson.  “Political forums are an excellent way for students to boost their professional development by networking with other students and participants and getting to know their elected officials. This is where our future leaders in their communities can gain insights into current ongoing issues, what local officials plan to do as a resolution, and what they can do to impact their community positively. Our university and student body should organize similar events to enable future leaders to further learn, network, engage and make an impact.”

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