University News

UCS collaborates with local colleges

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Undergraduate Council of Students is working to strengthen relationships between Brown’s student government and similar bodies at nearby institutions through increased collaboration. 

UCS has previously signed on in support of joint initiatives with other universities, but UCS’ current outreach efforts are intended to forge stronger ties between students, said UCS President Anthony White ’13.

UCS members met last month with the Rhode Island School of Design Student Alliance to discuss further efforts to work together on issues concerning both schools.

Brown and RISD students have teamed up since 2002 to participate in the Solar Decathlon, a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored event that challenges college teams to create solar-powered homes. But it has been difficult to convince Brown students outside of the engineering department that they have a role to play in the competition, said RISD Student Alliance President Alexander Dale, adding that UCS seemed interested in raising the decathlon’s profile at both schools.

“Both schools bring so much to the table,” Dale said. For that reason, he has also discussed UCS and the Student Alliance jointly hosting an event for students. One proposed event was a lawn party on Benefit Street, Student Activities Chair Alexander Kaplan ’14 wrote in an email to The Herald.

Dale said Crossroads, an event last year that brought Brown and RISD students together for music and improv performances, was not conducive to conversation and forming relationships.

Club sports have also been a point of discussion. Some RISD students play on club teams at Brown, though this is not officially allowed, Dale said. UCS and the Student Alliance are both looking into the rationale behind this rule and aim to open up discussion on it.

UCS will also continue to develop its relationship with Providence College and the University of Rhode Island, White said.

Justin Gomes, Providence College’s Student Congress president, said his predecessor received an email from White urging student governments to co-sign a letter in opposition to proposed federal legislation to increase student loans interest rates. URI also supported the statement.

The letter stressed to Congress that loans were an essential issue for students in Rhode Island. Students in Florida and California also voiced their opinions, so the response “enhanced the chorus of voices” in opposition, White said.

The council also has a history of reaching out to other Providence schools in consultation with University administrators. In 2009, UCS and nearby student governments came together to discuss proposed city legislation to levy a $150 tax per semester on Providence students and to tax large non-profit institutions like colleges and universities at a rate of 25 percent of what they would pay if they were not tax-exempt. Then-mayor David Cicilline ’83 invited student leaders to his home to discuss the tax as an “enhanced contribution to the city’s fiscal condition,” said Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations. 

Diane Mokoro ’11, UCS vice president-elect at the time, said the rising executive board of UCS reached out to RISD, Johnson and Wales and Providence College to discuss the implications of the tax. Ultimately, the student governments decided they “didn’t feel that (they) should make statements against what (their) university was doing,” Mokoro said.

“It’s an issue that’s stretched beyond what our actual role is,” she said.

UCS worked with the University to gauge student perspectives and identify students who could testify about how they have given back to the community.

The University decided the legislation would be counterproductive and act as a “barrier to accessibility to college education,” Quinn said.

The eight schools that comprise the consortium of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island took the same stance on the issue, said Dan Egan, AICURI president.

“Students can reap the benefits of all eight campuses,” Egan said. He added that he has considered the potential for a student-led group with representatives from each of the AICURI institutions.

Neither piece of legislation was passed, demonstrating the “tremendous value” of combining diverse perspectives through collaboration, Quinn added.