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UCS, UFB candidates debate campus issues

Candidates discuss UCS, UFB relationship, increased transparency, value of student support

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 20, 2017

Candidates running for executive positions for the Undergraduate Student Council and the Undergraduate Finance Board discussed a range of issues, including a possible raise in the student activities fee, staffing at the Title IX office and increased recruitment for both bodies, at a debate Sunday night.

Chelse-Amoy Steele ’18 runs unopposed for UCS president and Naveen Srinivasan ’19 and Alex Volpicello ’18 contend for UCS vice president. Yuzuka Akasaka ’18 and Aryan Chhabria ’18 vie for UFB chair and Julian DeGeorgia ’20 and Drew To ’19 compete for UFB vice chair.

Steele laid out her platform, which would prioritize supporting the Title IX Office and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, whose recent understaffing has caused gaps in student support, she said.

Recent changes around the Title IX office provided much for discussion among the candidates. Volpicello repeatedly referenced his work with a variety of student groups that work with sexual assault prevention and awareness. Volpicello said that his involvement with many clubs — including mental health advocacy — prepares him to assume the chair of outreach and engagement as part of the role as vice president, he said.

Srinivasan — whose platform does not explicitly outline his goals for the Title IX office or implementation of the DIAP — was asked during the question and answer period about the lack of new initiatives in his platform. He responded that he had indeed been in discussion about several Title IX initiatives in recent months, such as the UCS proposed implementation of the Callisto mobile application. He also said that, as a member of teams working on UCS initiatives like No Apologies, he is in a good position to ensure their future success.

Candidates also highlighted the importance of support for low-income students. Steele reiterated her platform position concerning eliminating the summer earnings expectations for students — a fee she said places an undue burden on low-income students.

Candidate’s various experiences were brought up by the UCS debate’s moderators — Eric Estes, vice president for campus life and student services, UCS President Viet Nguyen ’17,  Arely Diaz-Loza ’17, a member of the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition and Alli Gordon ’19, a managing editor of the Blognonian.

Steele conceded the value of contested elections for executive UCS positions and recognizes the limitations an uncontested election places on her, she said. But she stated that despite an uncontested election, she remains determined to listen actively and work hard for Brown. “This isn’t something I take lightly,” she said. “I am prepared and continue to be prepared … to make sure I am constantly looking for new ways to support this community.”

At one point Srinivasan referenced the relationship between Nguyen and Timothy Ittner ’18, UCS vice president. Because the process of working with the administration as an executive member of UCS can be confusing and difficult to navigate, Nguyen — having no prior UCS experience before his presidency — benefited from Ittner’s extensive experience with UCS, Srinivasan said. He said that Steele, who also has no prior experience with UCS, would benefit from his own UCS experience if he wins the vice presidential election.

When asked about the low numbers of candidates in this year’s UCS election, Steele responded that “a little more work in recruiting” might be necessary.

The UFB debate — scheduled ahead of the UCS debate —  was moderated by Jordan Ferguson ’17, chair of UFB, Benjamin Miller-Gootnick ’17.5, a board member on the University Resources Committee and Kasturi Pananjady ’19, a Herald news editor.

UFB candidates debated the student activities fee ­— the total amount of which is granted to the UFB to finance student clubs and organizations — and whether it should increase in the 2017-18 academic year, though it did not increase this academic year. For the current academic year, the activities fee was $137 per semester per student.

DeGeorgia and To said that with the probable increase in student groups, the UFB would most likely recommend an increase in the fee if the group wants to maintain the current level of funding for each student group. DeGeorgia added that he thought that students would most likely be comfortable with the increase given the reasoning behind it.

As UCS and UFB veterans, Akasaka and Chhabria both gave more concrete answers regarding implementation. Akasaka said she would have UFB recommend an increased fee, citing a natural increase in inflation and noting that a few departmental undergraduate groups will require UFB funding. Chhabria agreed and fleshed out the latter reason, adding that DUGS will all have their funding shifted from their corresponding departments to UFB because of a decrease in federal funding to the departments.

The four UFB candidates agreed on many issues: they all stressed the importance of UCS and UFB cooperation as well as the need for more transparency and publicity of UFB activities. When asked about initiatives like UCS’s goal to distribute free tampons throughout bathrooms on campus, the candidates stated the need for UFB to hold UCS accountable, but also reiterated the value of open cooperation between the two groups.

Polls for UCS and UFB positions will open March 21 and close on March 23. The winners of the election will be announced Thursday night on Faunce steps.

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