University News

Three declare candidacy for UCS presidency

Sexual assault policy reform emerges as priority for all candidates for UCS leadership

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Justice Gaines ’16, Sazzy Gourley ’16 and Zachary Nelkin ’17 will vie for the presidency of the Undergraduate Council of Students, while Alana Bhatla ’16 and Ryan Lessing ’17 will face off for the UCS vice presidency.

Candidates submitted their official applications at a UCS Elections Board meeting Tuesday night.

All UCS presidential and vice presidential candidates told The Herald that, if elected, they would prioritize sexual assault policy reform. Some candidates focused on the student movement Act4RJ’s demands, while others highlighted the Task Force on Sexual Assault’s scheduled release of official recommendations at the end of the semester.

Gaines, a UCS general body member and member of the Task Force on Sexual Assault, stressed the importance of ensuring that the task force’s recommendations are implemented. Gaines’ platform centers on “oversight, access and accountability.” As president, Gaines would hope to reevaluate financial aid based on student input and to standardize academic advising across all departments, in addition to pursuing sexual assault policy reform and additional mental health resources.

To improve mental health resources on campus, Gaines pledged to increase access to Student and Employee Accessibility Services and develop more specific resources for students suffering from mental health concerns such as anxiety and eating disorders.

“I’ve developed a lot of the work I’ve done outside of UCS, and I’ve developed a respect and trust, but also the ability to hold the administration accountable and be able to communicate with other students very openly,” Gaines said.

Gourley, UCS vice president and chair of the UCS Outreach and Advocacy Committee, said his platform focuses on student wellness, faculty diversity and transparent University governance. He also aims to advocate diversity support services and student representation at Corporation meetings. For campus life issues, he would prioritize pre-professional advising, performing arts space renovations and extended dining hours, he added.

Gourley is the only UCS presidential candidate with UCS Executive Board experience, “which is critical in understanding the means to achieve institutional change,” he said, adding that developing working relationships with students and administrators in his current position would allow him to jump “headfirst into next year.”

Nelkin, a former but not current member of UCS, said “it is crucial to implement Act4RJ’s demands and Imagine Rape Zero’s demands from last year.” If elected, he would aim to reconstitute the council to a fully elected body with periodic votes of approval as a check system. The council “should have to justify its existence,” Nelkin said. His platform also stresses campus safety, “pedestrian-friendly” streets and energy-efficient renovations, he added.

Bhatla, UCS media director and former UCS treasurer, said she would prioritize student representation on the Corporation, mental health resource expansion and sexual assault policy reform. In addition to possessing two years of UCS Executive Board experience, Bhatla is actively involved in student groups such as Women in Science and Engineering, the Matched Advising Program, Meiklejohn peer advising and community service clubs, which she said give her “a good sense of campus climate.”

Lessing, chair of the UCS Admissions and Student Services committee, said that in relation to sexual assault policy reform, “the administration has said a lot of great things about wanting to do right by the victims, and UCS needs to make sure we follow through.”

He said he would focus on student feedback for the administration, administrative transparency, mental health resources and council restructuring. The council’s low retention rate, especially between first-year and sophomore members, contributes to a “lack of institutional knowledge,” Lessing said, adding that the council needs to foster a more “rewarding experience for general body members … to be a more effective body and serve our mission.”

Lessing spearheaded the council’s new online feedback forum, What to Fix Brown, which has “already been a really useful way” to identify student concerns, generate ideas and provide the administration with student perspectives, he added.

Dakotah Rice ’16 and Faith Moses ’18 will run unopposed for chair and vice chair of the Undergraduate Finance Board, respectively. Neither was able to attend the meeting Tuesday.

Rice wrote in an email to The Herald that he plans to increase UFB efficiency, funding for service groups and “most importantly” transparency.

Moses wrote in an email to The Herald that she would also strive to boost the board’s transparency, especially with Category 3 groups. She hopes “to help student groups understand the processes, procedures and precedents of UFB,” she wrote.

Candidates for UCS and UFB leadership positions will square off in a debate Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Solomon 001. Students can cast their votes online April 7 – 9.