Candidates for UCS and UFB elections

Monday, April 14, 2008

Candidates for UCS President

Brian Becker ’09

Brian Becker loves Brown, but he thinks it’s changing.

“I think we’re sort of at the crossroad of a huge cultural shift at Brown,” Becker said, referring to changes to the New Curriculum brought by Banner and online registration.

Becker thinks the Undergraduate Council of Students can do a lot to make students’ voices heard because it is a “funnel” of student opinion to the administration. UCS’s strength also lies in changing small things that can improve students’ daily lives, said the international relations concentrator from Los Angeles.

“You can have big goals, but you also need small areas that can be vastly improved with small solutions,” Becker said.

Becker joined UCS during the fall of his freshman year and served as chair of the Campus Life Committee his sophomore year.

Though not currently on UCS, his past accomplishments include the introduction of salads at Josiah’s and the DVD collection in the Friedman Study Center, and working on a report that led to the renovation of freshman lounges.

He believes that UCS needs to communicate better with students and said he wants to send an occasional letter to the student body with information on UCS’s activities. UCS “just does a bad job about letting (students) know” about its actions, he said.

Martin Bell ’10

Martin Bell thinks he can use the leadership skills he learned in the Navy to lead UCS effectively.

“The Navy has a fundamental basis of traits and values that leaders should possess,” Bell said, citing honor, courage and commitment. The skills he learned during his three years as an intelligence specialist will allow him to “exploit the strengths and improve the weaknesses” of UCS, the New Mexico native said.

Bell, who served as liaison to the Corporation last semester but left UCS earlier this semester, worked to establish the Sexual Assault Advisory Board and the Sexual Assault Task Force and to spur the debate about the transparency of the Undergraduate Finance Board during his time on UCS.

Bell, a public policy concentrator, thinks UCS needs to work on getting need-blind admissions for international students and improving currently “deplorable” advising for interdisciplinary concentrators like those in international relations. He also wants to improve dorm upkeep – the interior of Vartan Gregorian Quad looks like a “insane asylum,” he said.

“Too often, UCS just focuses on the small picture” rather than “looking down the road ahead of it,” Bell said.

The “cornerstone” of his presidency will be to improve communications to make UCS more visible, he said.

“Whoever’s communications chair will play an integral role in UCS under me,” Bell said.

Candidates for UCS Vice President

Ellen DaSilva ’10

Loud and outspoken, Ellen DaSilva thinks UCS is “the least efficient body on the planet.”

“Something that really irritates me this year is how inefficient the committees are,” said DaSilva, a Herald account manager. The committee chairs “aren’t as much taskmasters as they need to be,” she said, adding that the vice president’s role is to “make sure everyone is doing their job.”

DaSilva transferred to Brown from Georgetown at the beginning of the year and joined UCS immediately, rising to alumni liaison in October. She wants to supervise UCS’s expansion next year as it moves toward abolishing class representative positions, she said.

“Everyone in the community should be represented on UCS,” the New York native said. “I want all 6,000 people at this school to be heard.”

DaSilva, an American civilization concentrator, hopes that having more people on UCS will expand and empower the committees, and wants to create committees to back the currently existing appointments and communications chairs, she said.

“It’s so important that (the appointments committee) be organized since it runs the rest of the school,” she said.

Michael MacCombie ’11

Michael MacCombie thinks UCS lacks drive. But he hopes to make up for it.

“After six hours of class on Wednesday, I want to go to UCS because I know people want to get things done,” he said. “There are too many people on UCS right now that are just waiting for the meetings to end.”

MacCombie, who serves as an at-large representative, said next year’s expansion of UCS will “bring new people into (the) fold.”

He wants to improve UCS’s communication with the student body by holding office hours in dining halls, he said.

“I want to make it less of a forced, formal connection, and more of an informal thing,” he said.

He has worked to expand advising awards to encourage good advising, and he wants a system that would allow students to have brief meetings with professors in their departments before choosing concentration advisers.

“Since we have such an emphasis on the undergraduates here, it’s sort of important,” said MacCombie, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio.

He also co-sponsored resolutions this semester to encourage the University to allow kegs at Class F parties and to allow student input in departmental hiring, firing and tenure decisions.

MacCombie, who is on the steering committee of the Janus Forum, is planning to study economics, and possible add a second concentration of public policy or urban studies, he said.

Candidates for UFB Chair

Lily Tran ’10

Lily Tran knows how scary the Undergraduate Finance Board can be.

“I have first-hand experience about how intimidating UFB can be,” said Tran, a Herald sales manager. “I think that stems from the fact that UFB lacks transparency.”

Tran, who has served on UFB since January, works with a number of student groups, from the Brown Spectator to the Vietnamese Students Association, in finance roles, helping the groups request money from UFB, she said.

Though Tran, a Los Angeles native, doesn’t think UFB’s closed deliberations should be opened, she does think the board should be “more accessible.” She wants the board to send an e-mail to student groups after every decision explaining how it reached its conclusion, she said.

“The problem with having open deliberations it that it becomes really political,” she said, adding that members would become uncomfortable voicing their opinions.

Tran, a political science and economics double-concentrator, proposes parcelling student groups and assigning each bunch to a representative who would become an expert in helping their kind of group craft realistic proposals for funding, she said.

Jose Vasconez ’11

Jose Vasconez, who has served on UFB for three semesters, said he understands how UFB works.

He’s even written a “comprehensive guide” on how to get funding from the board. The guide explains to student groups the ins and outs of requesting funding, he said, and will be posted online.

“One of the biggest problems with UFB is the lack of transparency,” Vasconez said, adding that the guide, which lists the relevant precedents that UFB uses to make its decisions, should help assuage that problem.

The guide could save students the “frustration” of “having to make a detailed budget request, coming to UFB and having it denied,” Vasconez said.

“Students pay a student activities fee, and they generally feel like they don’t know where it’s going” or why it goes to a given group, he added.

He also wants to post the amount of money UFB has available on the UFB Web site each week to give students a more realistic expectation of how much funding they could receive, he said.

Vasconez, a Commerce, Organizations and Entrepreneurship concentrator from Los Angeles, also serves on UCS’s Academic and Administrative Affairs Committee and as finance chair for Brown’s Ivy Council.

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