University News

UCS endorses Divest Coal resolution

The council also discussed online education and approved new student groups

By
Senior Staff Writer

The Undergraduate Council of Students voted to support the Brown Divest Coal campaign’s resolution calling for the University to divest from the 15 “filthiest” coal technology companies at its general body meeting Wednesday.

Council members said they supported the resolution because of its ideological, not economic, implications.

Divesting from the 15 companies would have a great “moral and ethical impact” but little economic significance, said UCS President Anthony White ’13, noting that the University’s investments in these companies only account for 0.1 percent of the endowment.

The council’s support of the resolution marked an attempt to “represent students’ moral opinion, rather than … an economically calculated decision,” said Giuliano Marostica ’15, UCS general body member.

Kyra Mungia ’13, UCS communications chair, said she voted to support the resolution because it follows a historical precedent of the University divesting from causes it does not morally support.

In 1986, the University divested from companies conducting business in South Africa in order to oppose the South African apartheid, and in 2003, it divested from tobacco manufacturing companies to show disapproval of the industry. In 2006, the University divested from companies doing business in Darfur, and in 2011, it divested from HEI Hotels and Resorts because of allegedly questionable labor practices.

The council’s support of the resolution could induce student governments at other universities to show similar support, Mungia added. “It’s happening on campuses across the country. I think if a bunch of schools divest from coal, it’s going to make a statement.”

The council also discussed online course options with members of the strategic planning Committee on Online Teaching and Learning.

The committee is seeking student feedback before it presents its recommendations to the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, said Dietrich Neumann, co-chair of the committee and professor of architecture.

“Most of you use text messaging, Skype and Facebook. My question for you is, how can that same kind of technology be used effectively in teaching?” Harriette Hemmasi, chair of the committee and University librarian, asked council members.

Tsvetomira Dumbalska ’16, UCS general body member, said developers of online courses should seek to offer the same “personal connection” between students and professors as are found in normal courses. Skyping a professor may not provide as intimate an experience as talking in person, she said.

Kimberly Wachtler ’13, UCS general body member, expressed concern that students in online courses may be less motivated to watch lectures assigned for homework. The University should use monitoring technology to “hold students in online courses accountable” for watching assigned lecture videos, she said.

The council also approved the categorization of the Brown Fantasy Sports Organization, Quidditch Appreciation Club, Quest Scholars, Wubapella, MathWISE, Face AIDS and Bloco de Brown, as Category 1 student groups. It voted to recategorize Pakistani Students at Brown from a Category 2 to Category 3 group.

After much debate, the council did not approve making A Better World by Design a Category 3 group. Currently, the group functions as a subsidiary of Engineers Without Borders.

Allowing the group to bypass the typical categorization process and immediately become a Category 3 group would set a “dangerous precedent,” said Jon Vu ’15, UCS alumni relations liaison, because other groups might want to take the same approach.