News, University News

UCS amends bylaws, supports Disability Justice at Brown

Appointments chair to join executive board, no decision on treasurer-liaison position merger

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Undergraduate Council of Students unanimously passed an amendment adjusting its bylaws for its chair of appointments position, debated merging roles on its management and executive boards and agreed to support a petition from the student group Disability Justice at Brown during its general body meeting Wednesday evening.

UCS’s appointments chair helps coordinate the placement of student representatives on several University committees and boards.

“The two major changes (are) that the appointments chair would serve officially as an executive board member on UCS and that it would be an appointed position,” said UCS President Shanzé Tahir ’19. The appointments chair has acted as an unofficial member of the executive board since the start of the spring semester, said current Appointments Chair and incoming UCS Vice President Jason Carroll ’21 in his presentation of the amendment.

After approving the appointments chair amendment, the Council discussed but did not reach a final decision on combining the positions of UCS Undergraduate Finance Board liaison and UCS treasurer. The liaison serves on the Council’s management board while also acting as a UFB at-large representative. The treasurer, a member of the Council’s executive board, is primarily tasked with delegating UCS’s New Initiatives Fund, which will be worth $7,500 next year and is available to Category I and II student groups.

The goals of the proposed merger include increasing communication between UCS and UFB by having the treasurer also serve on UFB, according to the proposed amendment document presented at the meeting. The merger would also aim to expand the treasurer’s knowledge of UFB processes in relation to UCS budgeting requests.

Increasing communication between UCS and UFB “is something we’ve been trying to work on this past year, so that we can get more insight into what UFB is talking about,” said current UCS Vice President and President-Elect William Zhou ’20 while presenting the amendment. But possible drawbacks include creating a conflict of interest within the position and generating too much work for the treasurer, Zhou added.

UCS Treasurer Austin Lessin ’19 said that because “the liaison role was quite simply to … bring UCS and UFB together,” UCS “could have added (those) responsibilities to the treasurer from the beginning.”

However, UCS-UFB Liaison Kathryn Stack ’19 said she did not think the positions should be formally merged because there are other means of increasing communication and expanding the treasurer’s understanding of UFB policies.

“Quite frankly, my work on UCS is limited,” Stack said. She suggested setting monthly meetings between the UCS executive board and the liaison and recommended more conversations with the treasurer to clarify UFB policies.

In addition, Stack said she sees the role of the treasurer as more related to “handling the internal budgets of UCS,” while “being a communicator is more the role” of the liaison.

By merging the positions, “the treasurer will have more understanding about what things can be asked for on behalf of UCS from UFB,” said Chair of Student Activities Alex Song ’20. He acknowledged that this could be accomplished through increased communication without the merger, but “communications traditionally haven’t happened that way,” he said.

A representative from student group Disability Justice at Brown also presented to the general body about a petition that the group is circulating to garner support for a Disability Justice Cultural Center. In their presentation, DJAB Community Coordinator Silver Pape ’22 emphasized the importance of creating community for students with disabilities at the University.

The DJCC would “create a community for disabled/neurodivergent students similar to the LGBTQ+ Center and the Brown Center for Students of Color,” according to the text of the petition.

“Disability is an intersectional thing that interacts with every identity,” Pape said. “Because it’s an active part of identity, forming a community” with other University students, faculty and staff with disabilities is “very important,” they added.

While Student and Employee Accessibility Services provides accommodations for students with disabilities, the office is legally barred from disclosing the identities of the individuals it serves, making it difficult for students with disabilities to create a community, Pape said.

SEAS is a “federal institution that does the bare minimum for us to exist here. That isn’t a holistic understanding of us actually being happy here, having good quality of life, which is a right for every student on this campus,” said UCS Secretary and DJAB general body member Vanessa Garcia ’20.5.

University administration previously denied DJAB’s proposal for the DJCC, so “raw numbers of support (are) what we want from this petition,” Pape said.

Tahir said UCS would sign the petition after her suggestion to do so received no objections from the general body.