University News

UCS confronts student gov. identity

Council discusses whether it should reach out to student groups, takes stands on political issues

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Undergraduate Council of Students discussed its identity, role and responsibilities within the Brown community at its general body meeting Wednesday.

Council members split up into five small groups for an open conversation dedicated to answering questions about the duties facing student government.

The questions included “Why did you join UCS?”, “Should UCS be more politically active? If so, how?” and “What are our responsibilities to the student body?” Other questions touched on the scope of the Council’s influence and whether UCS members are more similar to “delegates” or “trustees.”

In the group dedicated to discussing the Council’s responsibilities, UCS General Body Member John Brewer ’17 said he wondered if there is a disconnect between UCS and student groups. “Have they (sought) out UCS, and we haven’t helped them? Have they not looked into UCS?” he asked, adding that it is important for UCS to take an active interest in student groups.

Cameron Johnson ’17, a UCS general body member, urged fellow members to “be proactive” and schedule meetings with student group leaders to foster important connections.

Asia Nelson ’15, a UCS general body member, also suggested engaging student leaders through polls or conversations.

Though the Council may face “limited engagement,” there is “not much limit to what (it) can do” in terms of “mobilizing the student body,” said Abigail Braiman ’15, UCS Student Athlete Advisory Committee liaison.

Many saw ties between this potential and the self-nomination process to be a member. “The open join policy is absolutely perfect,” said Ian Cossentino ’17, a UCS general body member. “You only go to something … if you’re really interested in it. It draws the people that are interested.”

In the small group devoted to discussing the Council’s responsibilities to the student body, general body member Victoria Kidd ’16 said, “Of course we want to hear everyone’s voice, but how much time do we spend trying to hear those voices?”

Kevin Carty ’15 said he saw UCS members’ roles as comparable to those of delegates and trustees, as well as other jobs, though he noted, “No representation system is perfect.”

“I don’t think we necessarily represent student opinions or student voices,” said Maahika Srinivasan ’15, chair of the UCS Academics and Administrative Affairs Committee.

After UCS members reconvened from the small groups, the idea of UCS being more politically active drove much discussion.

“UCS does a great job of doing the little things,” but it has not been as successful at addressing larger issues, such as the controversy surrounding coal divestment, said Justice Gaines ’16, who plans on joining the Council.

Kiera Peltz ’16, chair of the UCS Communications Committee, responded that the Council has the intention of helping “as many folks as possible, but at the end of the day, it’s on a case by case basis” which items the Council ultimately pursues.

Before the Council takes a political stance on an issue, it needs to “reach out to the student body and figure out how (it) can be more political for them,” Gaines said.

Some Council members worried the body contains a limited range of voices, given its self-selecting nature. In response to this concern, Peltz said she saw an opportunity for less outspoken but equally capable members to get involved and share their ideas.

UCS Vice President Sam Gilman ’15 said he saw the Council’s purpose as representing “student voices.”

“This is the most active Council I’ve ever seen,” he added. “Keep it living and breathing.”