University News

Young Alumni Trustee selection to include students

Pilot student committee to comprise three undergrads, med student and grad student

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A student committee will contribute to the Corporation’s Young Alumni Trustee selection process for the first time since the position was created in 2008.

The group of students will critique and augment a list of candidates already considered by the Corporation, said Alex Drechsler ’15, who has served on the Undergraduate Council of Students and the Undergraduate Finance Board in previous years.

The Graduate Student Council and the Alpert Medical School Student Council will each nominate one student from their respective schools to join three undergraduates on the committee, which is scheduled to convene after spring break and deliver its recommendations by the Corporation’s May meeting.

UCS interviewed undergraduate applicants Sunday following an “extensive” application, said UCS President Maahika Srinivasan ’15. “One of the most determining factors for this particular selection committee is a good understanding of what the Corporation actually does and what role a Young Alumni Trustee would serve on the Corporation, and that takes a little bit of nuance.”

“The misperception seems to be that the Corporation is the end all — they make all of the decisions and (they are) implemented by the administration — but that’s not true at all,” Srinivasan said. “The administration creates the policy and the Corporation is a little bit of a sounding board.”

President Christina Paxson P’19 confirmed the inclusion of one young alum on the Corporation March 6 and said that the position would reflect student input, Drechsler said. He and Srinivasan presented proposals for increasing student engagement with the Corporation at its February meeting, when Paxson approved a proposed student input process to test run this year.

“We are thinking of (this committee) as transitional, and we’re very open to thinking of other ways, and maybe more involved ways, for students to engage in the selection of the Young Alumni Trustee,” Paxson said.

Paxson and Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, in conjunction with the Governance and Nominations Committee, will review the student committee’s role after Commencement, Srinivasan said. Srinivasan will debrief with the student committee’s undergraduates at the end of the process to determine next steps towards permanence and “making sure that they felt valued in the process,” she added.

In response to student perception that the process of nominating Corporation members is secretive, Carey said that it is an internal process common to many governing boards. With the student committee, “the idea is to bring more (student) input into the process,” he said, calling it “a step in a direction that is engaging and inclusive.”

Young alums are selected like any other trustee, Carey said. “It is a full Corporation decision, but they rely heavily on the Trustee Vacancies Committee,” which develops candidate pools, he added.

Selection does not rely on applications or open nominations, Carey said.

“The whole idea to have a young alumni position in the first place is to have a perspective that’s more closely grounded in the student experience,” he said.

“The Young Alumni Trustee is just like any other trustee. … The only difference is that the Young Alumni Trustee typically picks up the role of being an interface with students,” Paxson said.

A UCS proposal prompted the creation of the position following a 2008-09 public paper reviewing the Corporation, Carey said. In 2008, both the chancellor and members of UCS were concerned about “the diversity of the Corporation in regards to proximity to the student experience — so, in other words, younger alumni serving on the Corporation.”

The Young Alumni Trustee will serve a three-year term any time from July 1 to seven years following graduation from the College, graduate or medical schools. Current Young Alumni Trustee Alison Cohen ’09 will conclude her term at the end of the semester. The position is “fairly open-ended and flexible,” Carey said. “There have been times when there have been two at the same time. … It’s not fixed.”

“In the original structure of the Corporation …  back to 1764, the terms were for life,” Carey said.“This really didn’t change until the early 1980s.”

“This is not an issue that’s going to end if we codify the process or if (Srinivasan) and I graduate,” Dreschler said. While “UCS has proven that they’re really committed to this … having an outsider’s perspective is also important,” he added. He and Srinivasan are currently looking for a student “who’s going to help champion this cause” after they graduate, he said.


-With additional reporting by Baylor Knobloch

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  • Alum

    UCS is not capable of choosing a candidate representative of the student body. The vast majority of UCS is not elected and therefore does not represent the will of campus. The goal of many members of UCS is to develop relationships with the Corporation, which is why UCS so often does not stand up to the Corporation in any meaningful way. UCS now picking and choosing the young alumni trustee position further cements the arrangement between UCS and the Corporation at the cost of the student body interest.

    To claim UCS represents the student will is the longest running joke at
    Brown. It’s record numbers if 25% of campus even votes in elections. Students haven’t cared about UCS because UCS does not represent them. Allowing this selection committee to choose the young alumni trustee will serve to further the disconnect between students and their supposed government, their advocate in dealings with the administration and the Corporation.

    Students, if you want to fix this, demand that all members of your student body government must be elected positions, not appointments.

    • UCS Member ’16

      Hi Alum,

      Unfortunately, you seem very misinformed about UCS, or at least your knowledge is hilariously out of date and out of touch. Your opinion that UCS does not represent the will of campus is a subject we could debate for some time, but I feel the need to correct your comment’s factual errors for your own information and for anyone else that stumbles upon this.

      1) 2,991 undergraduate students voted in UCS elections last spring, which is close to 50% of campus, not 25%. Between 50-60% of Americans generally vote in U.S. presidential elections, so a turnout of 50% is about as representative as can be, comparatively. (http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/04/11/srinivasan-15-wins-ucs-presidency/)

      2) UCS has no formal relationship with the Corporation, other than the fact that the UCS President serves as a non-voting member on the Corporation’s Campus Life committee. UCS has been working all year to “stand up to the Corporation” by insisting that students’ voices be heard in their meetings and attempting to increase student interaction with Corporation members when they are on campus.

      See BDH articles here:
      http://www.browndailyherald.com/2015/02/05/undergrads-participate-corporation-meeting/
      http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/11/10/undergrads-back-student-rep-corporation/
      http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/10/23/ucs-members-voice-concerns-forum-corporation/
      http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/10/16/corporation-members-discuss-obstacles-adding-student-representative-2/
      http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/04/10/ucs-expresses-support-student-corporation/

      3) UCS members who are not campus-wide elected each spring are not appointed. Any undergraduate who submits a petition of 150 signatures and attends two meetings automatically becomes a member of the council. Any undergraduate who wishes to be a part of the council is welcome to join, and we encourage them to do so.

      I appreciate that you care enough about this issue to comment on this article, and I respect your opinion that UCS may not be representative of the student body or may not be the best choice to select a committee of students to *help* select the next Young Alumni Trustee (the Corporation still gets to make the final choice), but please don’t just make up voting numbers or make completely false assertions about a student organization (that it sounds like you were never a part of) when you have not been on campus and active in campus politics for quite some time.

      • Alum

        UCS ’16,
        In the interest of full factual disclosure here for all
        others to see as they stumble upon this, I’ve used BDH reported quotes
        and numbers easily found via a search on the BDH website for articles;
        UCS’s own page; and publicly available quotes from former UCS members. I
        also served at a time and could see the dysfunction first hand. Perhaps
        next time, you’d engage with less condescension before asserting a
        critic is “hilariously out of date and out of touch” lest you find the
        proverbial egg on your face.

        1) The actual percentage breakdown of voter participation from 2010 to 2014 (2015 has not happened yet):
        26%, 28%, 32%*, 47.7%*

        – Mean: 33.4% ; Median: 30% ; Variance: 72.6
        – The 50% you disingenuously intimate as the norm is rather a sample size and trend of one.

        The mean and mode are a lot closer to 25% as I initially stated off the
        top of my head from the last time I read about these numbers, than your
        50%
        – Still the lowest turnout in the Ivy League.
        – I hope the upswing in voting continues to increase, because it will only help things.

        Campus elections use easily accessible and convenient electronic
        in-browser voting which is infinitely better than the arduous ballot
        casting process US citizens must endure to vote. If anything, our
        numbers should be nearing 100%, but by all means keep your goals low.

        *calculated via enrollment and reported percentages found below

        http://www.brown.edu/about/facts/enrollment
        6,264

        http://www.browndailyherald.com/2013/04/15/ucs-encounters-low-engagement-in-elections/
        Monday, April 15, 2013

        “Just
        28 percent of Brown students hit the polls last year [2012, for 2013
        academic year]. Yale boasted the highest turnout with 56 percent of
        students casting votes, followed by Harvard with 54 percent, Dartmouth
        with 53 percent and Penn with 50 percent.
        Though Brown’s turnout
        falls short relative to peer institutions, it has seen incremental
        improvement in recent years, said UCS President Anthony White ’13.
        Participation increased from 26 percent in 2010 and 2011 to 28 percent
        in 2012, he said.”

        http://www.browndailyherald.com/2013/04/15/qa-ucs-presidential-candidates-respond-to-student-questions/
        BDH:
        “Brown has the lowest voter turnout for student elections in the Ivy
        League. Why do you think there is such a low voter turnout for UCS
        elections? Is there anything you as president could do to improve
        turnout?”

        http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/04/11/srinivasan-15-wins-ucs-presidency/
        “Undergraduates
        cast 2,991 votes in the election — a slight increase from last year’s
        runoff UCS presidential election, and a roughly 49 percent rise from
        last year’s initial voting period, when 2,008 votes were cast.”

        2)
        RE: “UCS has no formal relationship with the Corporation, other than
        the fact that the UCS President serves as a non-voting member on the
        Corporation’s Campus Life committee. “
        -So Kevin Garcia’18 is an
        imaginary person? There is no UCS Corporation Liaison after all? I mean
        that’s good, because in what world do you want someone so junior
        handling that relationship?

        http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/09/18/ucs-fills-positions-internal-elections/
        “Kevin
        Garcia ’18 was voted UCS Corporation liaison, which involves
        facilitating interaction between the council and the Corporation, the
        University’s highest governing body.”

        -Anecdotally, my time
        served was often filled listening (nauseated) to other members bragging
        about their exposure to Corporation members like Chancellor Tom Tisch
        and Vice Chancellor Jerome Vascellaro. They were enthralled by the power
        and thus least capable to organize a student body counter the
        Corporations wishes. The fact that you conveniently *forgot* about a
        position you filled earlier this year to liaise with the Corporation and
        mischaracterize UCS’s relationship with the Corporation further
        solidifies that bringing this to light threatens the UCS collective
        personal desire for networking as outlined by Walker Mills’15 , Campus
        Life Chair.

        http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/04/18/mills-15-care-ucs/
        “But
        a few weeks in, I was disappointed. It became clear to me that many UCS
        members joined because they wanted to be part of the UCS community or
        make friends. I thought maybe other students felt this way about our
        motive too and held it against UCS. I welcome any and all involvement in
        UCS and all other facets of student government — but this was a low
        point for me. Imagine if that’s what our senators and representatives
        said in Washington — “I ran for office so I could make friends in D.C.,”
        or “because it sounded like fun,” or “because I wanted to pad my
        resume.” I would be pretty embarrassed too. “

        3) We have
        pseudo “representatives” voting to fill in seats of other
        “representatives.” This year, UCS general body composed of “Any
        undergraduate who submits a petition of 150 signatures and attends two
        meetings automatically becomes a member of the council” voted to fill 8
        council leadership positions. In an *internal* vote. These general body
        members get to serve in UCS by sitting at the Ratty and hassling other
        students for 2 minutes of their peers’ time every year for 150
        disinterested signatures, one at a time. The students that sign are not
        making a voting decision; they’re being kind to their eager-beaver
        peers.

        http://www.browndailyherald.com/2014/09/18/ucs-fills-positions-internal-elections/
        “First-year students win six of eight open council leadership positions at Wednesday’s meeting”
        (Just curious here, to whom am I speaking to —and eviscerating— Sazzy, Andrea, Alana, or someone else?)

        -You’re kidding about no appointments right?

        From UCS’s own page:
        http://www.brownucs.org/appointments/
        “UCS
        is responsible for appointing student representatives to over twenty
        university committees on campus. These committees range from setting the
        university budget to approving new concentrations to weighing in on
        alcohol and drug use on campus. Traditionally UCS has a large
        appointments process every spring, and a smaller round of appointments
        in the fall.
        The application process involves a written application and an interview with an Appointments Committee.”

        -And
        this is the problem with UCS as an entity and structure. The general
        body is installing people into positions to be representative when the
        general body is not elected by the campus. It’s just turtles all the way
        down of this pseudo-representative scheme, and that engenders a culture
        of wanting to network and self-serve, not continuously represent, as
        Walker Mills’14 writes and that many others have felt and lamented.

        http://www.browndailyherald.com/2013/04/15/qa-ucs-presidential-candidates-respond-to-student-questions/
        “It’s
        horribly self-serving and unacceptable for UCS members and people who
        want to be on student government to walk around and engage student
        opinion only one time a year, when they’re running for student
        government. I love walking through Keeney (Quadrangle) and knocking on
        students’ doors. It’s when you have those types of relationships. And
        then I can actually invite you to the UCS meeting, and you can come to
        Petteruti Lounge. That’s how you make the relationships happen. We have
        done that on UFB. We have made an effort to get out of our board room.
        And I want to bring that to UCS.”
        -Daniel Pipkin ’14, UCS, UFB

        -On
        the What to Fix Brown online forum, a step in the right direction, only
        5 requests have been fixed, included the bowls at the Ratty as being a
        major highlight.
        http://www.wtfbrown.com/forums/246558-student-feedback-for-brown-university/status/682541

        -But what of representing your students? Let’s look:

        “Allow down voting on wtfbrown.com
        I want to be able to show my disapproval of some of the proposed ideas.
        255 votes
        UCS responded:
        Unfortunately,
        the platform that powers wtf*brown using does not allow downvoting as
        an option. We’ll let you know if they ever implement it.”

        Oh I
        see, blame the technology you chose and contracted to use for why you
        don’t want to get a better idea of what students really want, because as
        a governing body that likes to taut its powers of advocacy for
        students, it can’t fix its own problems. Got it.

        -People feel so misrepresented that someone wrote this:

        “create a council/group where students can directly defend their rights AS students against the administration

        UCS (The Undergraduate Council of Students, Brown) responded
        The
        Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) works directly with
        administrators almost every day to promote the best interests of
        students! We meet every Wednesday at 7:30pm in Petteruti lounge (Faunce
        201) if you ever want to join us-all are welcome!”

        Am I
        misinformed and is this knowledge woefully out of date? Or are you
        deluded and self-serving? Can you do the math or is it required someone
        else do the scratch work for you too? I am advocating that student
        government be composed of elected people as they then vote on
        appointments and selections for influential university committees.
        Elected people that follow through in actions for their enthusiasm of
        serving their fellow peers. What is so ludicrous about that?

        It is my hope now that anyone that stumbles upon this will be more informed, so thank you for the opportunity and inspiration.

        • Alum ’04

          Thank you for the meticulous research that probably took you some time to compile. Fascinating to see that it demonstrates that certain UCS undergraduates are woefully incompetent in running any form of government. Poor use of statistics, unsupported claims, and rude commentary [“Unfortunately, you seem very misinformed about UCS, or at least your knowledge is hilariously out of date and out of touch.”]. One would expect a higher standard of character from an individual who represents an Ivy League institution’s student body. A mighty poor showing from a UCS ’16 member who is likely one of those extreme liberals in favor of student positions on the Corporation. Manners maketh man.

        • MK

          FATALITY

      • Alum #2

        Rekt m8

        • Solare

          Praise the Sun!