Op-eds, Opinions

Pelsinger ’20: My time at UCS

By
Op-Ed Contributor
Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Serving as the Vice President of Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students has been a joy and a privilege — one I will never forget. This semester I have a class, “AFRI 1030: Contesting the Carceral State,” that conflicts with UCS general body meetings and could not be accommodated logistically.

General body meetings are mandatory for all members of the Council and serve as a forum for our Executive Board and various members of the Brown administration to gain student input on future and ongoing projects. As taking this class restricts my ability to attend these meetings, I am unable to fulfill all of the administrative duties of the VP, and thus have made the difficult decision to step down.

“Contesting the Carceral State” is the first course I have found at Brown that focuses on alternatives to incarceration; and it is central to my thesis research. I plan to write my International Relations thesis on alternatives to punitive systems of justice on a domestic and global scale and this class will equip me to do so with a semester-long, in-depth study of the topic.

The addition of this class to the Brown curriculum should be celebrated. In fact, the ethos behind it aligns with the reason I ran for UCS in the first place. I decided to run for the position of UCS Vice President with the distinct goal of wanting to create alternative systems of healing and accountability for those in our community who have experienced harm. I learned firsthand that students were taking it upon themselves to try and repair their communities, without any institutional support. This is an undue burden to bear for any individual student, regardless of how passionate or well-intentioned they are — Brown needed an institutional mechanism outside of formal complaints.

Advocating for University-wide resources that address harm outside of the punitive system became the cornerstone of my platform for UCS, and I was fortunate that the student body was receptive and encouraging of this charge and elected me as Vice President of UCS. Once elected, UCS President Shanzé Tahir and I shaped our outreach efforts to hear directly from students about how to best focus our efforts. After many focus groups and meetings with administrators, we were able to gather a better picture of what resources students seek and what programs already exist.

At the end of last semester, we were able to build an exciting program that fills the aforementioned resource gap. In the coming weeks, UCS will update the campus community on a new initiative to expand institutional resources for community accountability and healing. I am proud of what we have accomplished, and I believe this program will address student need in a meaningful and transformative way. This project was one of the most important undertakings for us this year, and I would not have felt comfortable stepping down had I not seen it through to the finish line.

Though I will not be able to serve in the role of Vice President, I look forward to continuing to work through other means on two main projects I spearheaded this year. As a Sexual Assault Peer Education Coordinator, I will continue the group’s partnership with UCS on the Campus of Consent trainings for student groups. Last semester, I worked with the UCS Student Activities Committee to organize this first set of workshops hosted by SAPE, Masculinity Peer Educators and Peer Mental Health Advocates. I have been involved in shaping this initiative since its inception in 2017, and it was an honor to work on the first semester of its implementation. I will also continue to work on initiatives to expand resources for community accountability in my role as a Community Dialogue Student Coordinator under the Office of the Vice President of Campus Life. Specifically, I will be helping to develop and implement a program that empowers students to navigate conflict through skill building, education and, when necessary, mediation and facilitation.

I am stepping down to offer the position of VP to someone who can bring the availability that the role demands. I know firsthand the work this position entails, and it would be unfair to the rest of the Executive Board to have to operate around the logistical limitations my class schedule presents. I am so proud of what UCS has been able to accomplish this year and I look forward to working on these initiatives in other capacities on Brown’s campus. I am confident that whomever UCS elects to succeed me will join the Executive Board to accomplish remarkable things that improve the lives of students on Brown’s campus.

I am so grateful to have had the platform to advocate for this institutional expansion of resources, and I look forward to continuing to work on this effort outside of my official position of VP. Though this decision means that I will no longer officially serve in my role, I will continue to work with the Executive Board on our projects through the transition period and beyond. Meanwhile, “Contesting the Carceral State” will allow me to further explore avenues for community accountability and healing that fall outside of the existing punitive system, which I hope to bring to my work on and off campus.

Camila Pelsinger ’20 can be reached at camila_pelsinger@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.