News, University News

UCS committee aims to increase transparency

UCS internal committee shares initiatives with body such as town hall meetings, Instagram page

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, November 29, 2018

The newly formed Communications Committee pitched several plans to make UCS more accessible to students, including a new feedback form, office hours with UCS members, town halls and an information campaign.

The Undergraduate Council of Students heard updates from its Communications Committee at its weekly general body meeting Wednesday evening.

The Communications Committee was established this year, and though a lot of their work is “very structural and internal … we believe (it) will benefit the school greatly,” said Communications Director Sofia Jimenez ’21.

All of the initiatives discussed are “still a work in progress,” Jimenez added.

Deputy Communications Director and Deputy Appointments Chair Joey Ravenna ’22 presented the first initiative: a “Student Communication Pathway” that would institute a Google Form to replace the previous platform for students to voice complaints and concerns to UCS.

The Communications Committee would then write reports based on student submissions and refer them to the appropriate UCS committee chair.

“My hope is that this is a pathway for students to be able to get their issues heard in their student government … and that way students have some sort of outlet for their problems,” Ravenna said.

The second initiative, entitled “yoU-C-uS,” would aim to increase the body’s visibility through an Instagram page featuring general body meeting recaps as well as member and committee spotlights. Presented by Nadia Goldberg ’21 and Brendan Caver ’21, the initiative would also set up office hours for students to meet with members of UCS.

“People can just come and talk in more of a one-on-one setting about their ideas,” Goldberg said. Office hours would “provide a space for students to share ideas and suggestions” and connect “students with resources they need to accomplish their goals,” she added.

The initiative could also involve a semesterly town hall — a highly publicized general body meeting that would be “the high-priority meeting of the semester for getting non-members of UCS to come,” Caver said.

A third initiative would be an information campaign that would use a series of videos to better communicate what UCS is to the student body.

“We’ll be spreading the word mainly through videos … just because (students) can interact with it, and that’s more enjoyable for them,” Bryan Guan ’22 said, though they would also use other means such as posters and fliers.

A set of talking points would be “the foundation of … our information campaign,” and would aim to clarify the role of UCS, Ravenna said. The campaign would describe UCS as the “legislative body” for students and stress that the group does create effective change on campus.

Several members of UCS expressed concerns about the talking points, particularly one that stated that “UCS is the main and only official form of student government at Brown.” UCS members were troubled because they felt that the statement could create contention with the other forms of student government — the Undergraduate Finance Board and the Class Coordinating Board — and could make an unnecessary hierarchical distinction between the groups.

“These talking points are not final, and … UCS as a consensus is not behind them,” UCS President Shanzé Tahir ’19 said in response to the concerns. “We need to have further conversation about them.”

After the presentation and ensuing discussion, UCS Vice President Camila Pelsinger ’20 praised the Communications Committee for its work in “increasing our transparency” and “helping us be more accessible to the student body.”

Representatives from the Council’s other committees provided updates on their work before the close of the meeting.

In addition to other projects, the Student Wellness Committee announced it is finalizing a SEAS reporting system to provide recourse for students when their needs are not appropriately addressed and is establishing a peer program to support students on leave from the University, UCS Secretary Vanessa Garcia ’20.5 said.

The Academic Affairs Committee is creating three $500 cash awards for peer advisors, tentatively titled the “Exceptional Peer Advising Award,” and continues to advocate for student representation on the University’s disciplinary hearing committee, said Chair of Academic Affairs Mar Weiss ’20, among other work.

The Student Activities Committee has approved registration applications for more than 50 new student groups and more than 15 applications for student group re-categorizations. They have also kept track of attendance at two pilot trainings launched under the Campus of Consent Bill this semester and will do the same at a training today, said Chair of Student Activities Alex Song ’20.

The Campus Life Committee’s work this semester has included collaborating with the Office of Sustainability on a proposal to have water bottle filling stations installed in residential halls, an initiative the committee launched last year. The committee also provided airport transportation for students over Thanksgiving break, and hopes to do so again for future breaks, said Chair of Campus Life Melissa Lee ’20.