University News

Viet Nguyen ’17 elected UCS president

UCS newcomer Nguyen ’17 carries nearly 60 percent of vote, defeating Garcia ’18, Nelkin ’17

By
Staff Writer
Monday, April 18, 2016

Viet Nguyen ’17 won the UCS presidency Thursday night with nearly 60 percent of the vote, beating Kevin Garcia ’18 and Zachary Nelkin ’17.

After a week of campaigning, an engaging and competitive debate, and a two-day voting process, the candidates for president of the Undergraduate Council of Students stood at the steps of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center Thursday night, eagerly awaiting the announcement of the winner. For President-elect Viet Nguyen ’17, it was the culmination of a whirlwind journey.

“The whole night blurred together,” he said. “There was so much buildup. … Excitement was really the main emotion.”

Nguyen won a landslide victory over Kevin Garcia ’18 and Zachary Nelkin ’17, garnering nearly 60 percent of the 1,892 presidential ballots cast. The margin is even more remarkable given that Nguyen is not currently a member of UCS, breaking a trend that dates back eight years.

Though he is a newcomer, Nguyen made it clear that he has a comprehensive understanding of the issues facing UCS in the upcoming year and a specific plan to deal with them. In his first speech to the general body in September, he will articulate his vision for the council, he said. “I want to emphasize that this is a team effort,” he said. “UCS is only as strong as the people who participate.”

Nguyen reiterated the goals from his platform, pledging to remedy shortcomings in Brown’s support systems with a specific focus on the intersectionality of student identities. He will work to make sure that historically underrepresented communities command the attention of the administration, he said.

As far as adjusting to the UCS business model goes, Nguyen is devoted to learning from his fellow members, including his erstwhile adversaries in the campaign. “I like to listen — I know what my weaknesses are, and I know the areas I know a lot about,” he said. Referring to Garcia and Nelkin, he said, “They have a wealth of knowledge. I’m excited to work together with them.”

Garcia, currently serving as chair of the campus life committee, took nearly 32 percent of the vote, good for a solid second place. “Both candidates ran excellent campaigns, and we touched on a lot of really good issues,” he said.

Garcia has presided over a number of notable initiatives as campus life chair, including the creation of a housing guide for students to access information on residential options more easily. Going forward, the committee will “have to be on top of what’s happening in dining,” he said, specifically noting upcoming renovations to the Sharpe Refectory.

Looking toward the future, Garcia is unsure of his next steps. He has not definitively stated whether or not he will return to UCS, and if so, what role he might take.

Meanwhile, Nelkin will continue to serve as a general body member. “I’ll continue to be that annoying person that says, ‘Maybe we should be worried about how representative we are,’” he said.

Despite garnering a mere 6 percent of the vote, Nelkin was upbeat about the campaign and its results. “I’m really happy with how things played out,” he said. Though he had only met Nguyen for the first time at the debate, “he’s a very impressive person,” Nelkin said.“I wouldn’t be surprised if Viet had a unique view, coming from the outside.”

Nguyen will work with Vice President-elect Tim Ittner ’18, who was unopposed on the ballot, to direct UCS next year. “My role as VP is building a solid UCS from within,” Ittner said. He will work on recruiting new members, retaining those already on the council and ensuring that all committees have the resources they need, he said.

Among the other leadership board positions determined by the election, Kudrat Wadhwa ’19 will chair the Campus Life committee, Naveen Srinivasan ’19 will chair the Student Activities committee, Britt Edelen ’19 will chair the Student Wellness committee and Yuzuka Akasaka ’18 will serve as treasurer — all elected uncontested. Charlotte Merzbacher ’19 won UCS Academic Affairs Chair with 60.5 percent of the vote, beating Austin Lessin ’19, who received 36.0 percent.

All Undergraduate Finance Board positions were filled through uncontested elections. Jordan Ferguson ’17 will serve as chair, Adwa Habtu ’17 will serve as vice chair and Aryan Chhabria ’18, Caleb Hersh ’17 and Drew To ’19 will serve as at-large representatives.