Simmons discusses housing, proposes use of RISD dorms at UCS meeting

Nine UCS officers receive notice of potential removal in mid-year report fallout

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Correction appended.

The Undergraduate Council of Students discussed the direction of the undergraduate College and campus life initiatives with President Ruth Simmons before turning to discussion of its botched mid-year report in a four-hour meeting Wednesday night.

Simmons attended the first hour and 20 minutes of the meeting, presenting an overview of the Plan for Academic Enrichment’s goals for improving the undergraduate experience before taking questions on campus issues.

She said much of the plan focuses on the Medical School and Graduate School because those “programs were not as strong as the undergraduate College,” but said now the College is “falling behind” its peer institutions.

Specifically, she noted housing infrastructure and the sciences as areas needing improvement.

Asked about housing, Simmons said the University is considering building new residence halls as well as taking over dorms currently belonging to the Rhode Island School of Design as solutions to the housing crunch.

Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services David Greene, who was also at the meeting, said there was an “immediate need” for more and better housing, especially for upperclassmen.

The University needs to look at “life beyond (the Gradute Center)” for juniors and seniors, he said, and create more attractive options for upperclassmen to remain on campus and part of the campus community.

Simmons also said there was a need for improvements in other facilities, especially the Sharpe Refectory.

“The Ratty certainly deserves a major overhaul,” she said, which “will happen at some point.” In the meantime, Greene said, there will be improvements made at the Ratty this summer, including better lighting, fire safety measures and an elevator on the Wriston Quadrangle side of the building.

Simmons said she has placed a higher priority on academic measures, such as faculty expansion and financial aid, than on improving campus facilities.

“If we had not done need blind (admissions),” she said, “we certainly could have done some of these things.

Simmons also addressed the issue of the new focus on science education, marked by the proposed Science Cohort program. She said that the “model typical of science teaching” tends to drive away those who do not excel in coursework, and that new proposals should encourage more students to include science classes as part of their educations.

“Fundamentally, the question is, how can we interest more students in science and engineering?” she asked. “What can we do to make students feel more positive about science?”

Simmons also addressed rising tuition costs, pointing to the expense of updating scientific equipment and buildings, as well as the higher costs of “smart” classrooms with electronic equipment versus older-style classrooms.

Other topics discussed included improving the integration of Resumed Undergraduate Education students into campus life, the impression among applicants that Brown lacks “intellectual engagement” outside the classroom and funding for undergraduate research.

After Simmons departed the meeting, UCS continued its regular business, including certifying four student groups. The Brown Policy Review was certified as a category two group, while the Russian Club, the Bulgarian Club and Visions – an Asian American literary and opinions magazine – were all given category one status.

Michael Thompson ’07, communications chair, informed the council that 1,500 students had taken the UCS WebCT poll so far.

UCS proceeded to discuss what one member called the “fiasco” of its mid-year report. In a lengthy session, members questioned one another about the printing of the inaccurate, poor-quality reports and their unauthorized removal from the UCS office in Faunce House late Saturday night by Thompson. Members also discussed the numerous e-mails on the subject written within the UCS listserve which were leaked to The Herald.

“I think that (the executive board) and the main characters in this sad little drama are covering their asses” by leaking e-mails to The Herald, said Representative Hugh Livengood ’07.

In order to be permitted to remain present at the meeting, a Herald reporter agreed to not attribute quotes to members unless the member agreed to allow it.

“I think it’s clear there was a miscommunication” in the printed of the report, a senior UCS member said, which led to an outdated member list being printing in the report at the cost of $966. Another member said the executive board of UCS should work at the Gate and donate earnings to the Undergraduate Finance Board to pay back the money spent.

There was also tense questioning of members over the removal of the reports from the office by Thompson to his room in Hark-ness House. Members questioned Thompson’s truthfulness when he said he did not intend to destroy the reports, while others defended him.

In the end, UCS/UFB Representative Cash McCracken ’08 and UCS Treasurer Jonathan Margolick ’06 served notice to Thompson that a motion removing him from UCS could be introduced after a 120-hour waiting period mandated under its constitution.

Admissions and Student Services Chair Halley Wuertz ’08 then served notice to Academic and Administrative Affairs Chair Tristan Freeman ’07 that a motion removing him could be intro-duced at the same time.

Freeman then served the same notice to President Sarah Saxton-Frump ’07, Vice President Zac Townsend ’08, Appointments Chair Benjamin Boas ‘06.5, Corporation Liason Kate Brandt ’07, Campus Life Chair Deanna Chaukos ’08 and Alumni Relations Liason Douglas Faron ’06.

Boas then served the same notice to McCracken, making nine UCS officers eligible for removal at the next general body meeting. A two-thirds majority of UCS members is necessary to pass a motion removing an officer.

“I think this is a painful lesson for UCS and the executive board in communication and checks and balances,” Saxton-Frump said.

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