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Becker ’09, Bell ’10 commence campaigns for UCS presidency

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Monday, April 7, 2008

As Brian Becker ’09 and Martin Bell ’10 square off for the presidency of the Undergraduate Council of Students in next week’s election, many other positions will go uncontested or empty, with an upcoming referendum holding the future of class representatives in question.

Candidates for every UCS position turned in the signatures they had gathered and officially began campaigning Friday at 7 p.m. The elections will be held on MyCourses from April 15 to 17.

Only two elections besides the presidential are contested. Michael MacCombie ’11 and Herald Account Manager Ellen DaSilva ’10 are running for UCS vice president, while Herald Sales Manager Lily Tran ’10 and Jose Vasconez ’10 are running for chair of the Undergraduate Finance Board.

Other positions will be filled by candidates running unopposed. Stefan Smith ’09 is running unopposed for UFB vice chair, while Harris Li ’11 is running for UCS treasurer. Ryan Lester ’11 is running for chair of the Student Activities Committee and Herald Opinion Columnist Tyler Rosenbaum ’11 is running for chair of the Academic and Administrative Affairs Committee.

No one is running for chairs of the Campus Life Committee or the Admissions and Student Services Committee.

“I don’t think this has happened in a long time,” said Elections Board Vice Chair Ellie Cutler ’10, referring to the lack of candidates for the two committee chairs.

If a referendum passes next week to abolish class representatives, UCS will not elect class representatives to fill vacant seats at its first meeting next year, Elections Board Chair Rakim Brooks ’09 said. In that case, only students running for class representative positions in next week’s election would be eligible to fill the two vacant committee chair positions, he said.

The referendum to make it easier for students to join UCS is potentially risky. If students don’t join in the fall, which would require attendance at two meetings and some signatures, then UCS could find itself with a leadership that has no one to lead, Brooks said.

“This is something UCS is really going to have to confront,” he said.

Salsabil Ahmed ’11, Jeremy Harper ’11, Akshay Rathod ’10, Cecilia Strombeck ’11 and Herald business staffer Juan Vasconez ’10 are running uncontested to be UFB representatives.

Jerry Cedrone ’11, Sammy McGowan ’11 and Whitney Talbott ’11 are running for sophomore class representatives in an uncontested election. Greg Abdo ’10, David DesPres ’10, John Giannuzzi ’10, Clay Wertheimer ’10 and Alexandra Wilpon ’10 are running for junior class representatives, also uncontested. Nobody is running for senior class representative.

Cutler called the number of junior class representative candidates “the most surprising and most pleasing thing” about the election.

Though the position of class representative could be abolished by the proposed UCS reform, any student elected class representative would be given an at-large seat on next year’s council.

At Friday’s meeting, Brooks cautioned candidates running unopposed that they will still have to receive at least 5 percent of the vote in ordered to be elected. He also warned that candidates should run clean campaigns.

“This elections board is going to be very vigilant about slander,” Brooks said. “We want this election to be run with integrity.” Brooks added that the elections board would take “harsh” action against candidates who fail to comply.

The candidates running in contested elections will participate in a debate in the Sharpe Refectory tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. UCS rules require that student groups that wish to endorse a candidate send a representative to the debate, Brooks said.

The candidates

Currently, neither candidate serves on UCS. UCS presidential candidate Brian Becker served as chair of the Campus Life Committee last year before going abroad last semester. Despite seeking election to an at-large seat twice this semester, he lost both internal elections. Becker’s “small and simple” platform involves finding particular areas of Brown that can be “vastly improved with simple solutions,” he said, citing the addition of salads to Josiah’s and the Friedman Center DVD collection as some of his past accomplishments. He said he also wants to create a “more open and transparent conversation” with administrators about Banner and the “possibly changing ideals” of the New Curriculum.

UCS presidential candidate Martin Bell served as liaison to the Corporation last semester before resigning for personal reasons, he told the council in February. He served on the Admissions and Student Services Committee last year as a freshman class representative. Bell said he wants to increase UCS’s visibility to “bring students into the fold” and to restore the UCS president’s role as a student advocate, adding that he thinks he is the best candidate to represent currently underrepresented groups. Bell cited the creation of the Sexual Assault Task Force as one of his accomplishments while on UCS.

“It’s not about changing UCS. It’s about using the tools that UCS has in its arsenal,” Bell said.

UCS vice presidential candidate Ellen DaSilva transferred from Georgetown University at the beginning of the year, joined UCS immediately and was elected alumni liaison in October. She also serves on the Admissions and Student Services Committee. She said she wanted to help increase representation on UCS next year, citing her work with the Faculty Executive Committee to improve advising, especially for transfers, as one of her UCS accomplishments.

UCS vice presidential candidate Michael MacCombie, an at-large representative serving on the Academic and Administrative Affairs Committee, said he wanted to expand UCS membership and foster more transparency. “We want to hear from students, and students want to hear from us, but nobody’s taken the first step,” he said. MacCombie cited his work to expand the UCS teaching awards to include Meiklejohn peer advisors and graduate student teachers and his co-authorship of a resolution to introduce kegs at Class F parties as two of his accomplishments.

UFB chair candidate Lily Tran, a current UFB representative, said she wanted to make the finance board more transparent by sending e-mails to student groups from the entire board explaining how it made its funding decision and by improving the board’s record-keeping. She said that the group’s poor documentation makes it difficult to cite precedent in a clear way, making rules even more inflexible. Because of the lack of transparency, groups end up requesting more money than they want in hopes of getting enough, she said.

UFB chair candidate Jose Vasconez, a current representative on both UCS and UFB, said he wanted to “ease tension” between UFB and student groups. He said he was writing a document that would clearly outline for student groups what UFB funds and what it does not to make the process of applying for money clearer for students. He said he wanted to put the amount of money available for funding on the board’s Web site and list the allocation for each meeting along with the amount groups requested, so that students can see the disparity.

The relationship between UFB and student groups should be “symbiotic,” Vasconez said.

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