University News

UCS proposes constitutional change

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Undergraduate Council of Students passed a proposal at its general body meeting Wednesday night recommending an amendment to its constitution that would give the council the power to control its own funding. Under the current system, the Undergraduate Finance Board must approve the council’s budget. The proposal will now go to a referendum on MyCourses and the student body will have until this Sunday to vote either in favor or against the change. 

“We give you the power to fund, but you don’t really fund us that well,” said UCS-UFB liaison Daniel Pipkin ’14 to UFB

Pipkin said the amendment would help clarify the relationship between the council and UFB, which was created in 1984 to help oversee the distribution of funds to student groups. UFB later became a subsidiary of the council. 

The proposed change will help “eliminate this power struggle that seems to occur when UCS and UFB don’t agree on something or don’t get along,” Pipkin said. The council’s budget would need to be approved by the general body as well as by a member of the Student Activities Office under the proposed change, he said.  

UCS President Ralanda Nelson ’12 said “contentions” between the council and UFB have previously affected the council’s funding, impacting the council’s effectiveness and discouraging the group from tackling more projects. 

“We don’t even dream big anymore, because we know we are not going to get funded for things,” she said. 

Pipkin said the council receives significantly less funding than do student governing bodies at Penn, Cornell and Dartmouth and has only received an average of 37 percent of requested funds over the past five years. 

In response, Raaj Parekh ’13, a UFB-at-large representative, said the student governments at these institutions have many more responsibilities than does UCS and noted that nearly all student groups at the University are underfunded. 

Last year, UFB was only able to meet two-thirds of the budget requests, UFB Vice Chair Michael Perchonok ’12 told The Herald. 

“The proposal that they are putting forth prioritizes UCS needs over the needs of every other student group because they’d be first in line, perpetually, to the student activity fee,” Parekh said. 

While Nelson contends UCS will not be irresponsible with the funds, Perchonok noted that UCS does not have the “intimate knowledge” of student groups afforded to UFB, who review the budget of over 200 groups around campus. 

“In essence, it will mean even less money for student groups that are already chronically underfunded,” Perchonok said. 

Perchonok said he thinks students deserve more time to consider the proposed amendment, which would be the first UCS constitutional change since 2003. He said the change seemed sudden, though Nelson said in the meeting that she has unsuccessfully been attempting to begin a conversation with UFB for the past four months.

Nelson also said in the meeting that she values student opinion on the issue, explaining that she decided to propose a constitutional amendment rather than a code change as the former requires student approval whereas the latter does not. 

“It is trying to make a statement about valuing the work that is done here,” Nelson said in the meeting. 

After a lengthy discussion on the topic, the proposal passed with only a few general body members voting against it. 

“Our projects reach the greatest number of students, but we can’t get our own funding for that,” UCS Communications Chair Sam Gilman ’15 told The Herald. “We have to go use outside sources of funding for that which is both inefficient and, especially with the state of Brown’s finances, very difficult, to find discretionary funding for those projects.” 

At the meeting, the council also passed a statement encouraging the University to incorporate student input when deciding on tenure promotions and announced next week’s discussion with Marisa Quinn, vice president of public affairs and University relations, on the University’s contribution to the city of Providence.