University News

For those who know, UCS approval high

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More than 40 percent of students said they had no opinion of the job that the Undergraduate Council of Students is doing, while almost half said they approved of UCS’ job, according to a recent Herald poll.

“I mean, I guess I should know what UCS does, but it doesn’t bother me that I don’t,” said Vanessa Munoz ’13, one of many students interviewed by The Herald who expressed apathy about the council.

While 48.7 percent of students said they approved of UCS’ job and 10.0 percent said they disapproved, 41.2 percent said they didn’t know or had no answer about the performance of UCS. Few students responded at either extreme, with 38.7 percent of students saying they somewhat approved and 8.7 percent saying they somewhat disapproved of UCS.

UCS Vice President Diane Mokoro ’11 said she is not concerned by the number of people who said they did not know about UCS’ job.

“The numbers for this year are pretty standard,” Mokoro said. “Usually in the fall, the upcoming new group of students have never heard of anything at Brown and it takes a while to get across to them what UCS is and what we do.”

The number of students who do not have an opinion of UCS decreased from last fall’s Herald poll figure of 49.3 percent. In the spring poll, 35.5 percent of students said they did not know or had no answer to the question.

In last spring’s poll, 41.4 percent of students “somewhat approved” of the job that USC is doing and 10.1 percent “strongly approved.”

UCS President Clay Wertheimer ’10 said he was pleased with this semester’s poll results. “Last spring, we hit a high for approval and that’s basically stayed the same given the margin of error of the poll,” he said.

Wertheimer also pointed to the fact that the percentage of students who strongly disapprove of UCS’ job has remained low.

Wertheimer said he is hopeful that students will have higher awareness as the year goes on. “I actually think we’re in a really good place to see even higher improvement in this spring poll,” he said.

According to UCS Communications Chair Evan Holownia ’11, the communications team is intensifying its outreach projects in attempts to raise awareness of UCS activity. Among other things, UCS publishes mid-year and year-end reports distributed to all students, hosts study breaks where students can talk with UCS members and is increasing its use of social media, he said.

“We’re now on Facebook, we’re now on Twitter and we’re getting our blog off the ground, which will be another tool for posting headlines, links and others sorts of information we feel students should be aware of,” Holownia said.

Moroko said that UCS members should not “wait for students to come to them.” UCS has started holding office hours in the Sharpe Refectory, during which UCS members approach random students and ask them to share their concerns with undergraduate campus life.

When asked about student apathy toward UCS, Rebecca DeSa ‘09.5 called the low awareness of students “kind of troublesome.” DeSa said students remain largely apathetic because UCS doesn’t deal with “pressing-enough problems” for students to get concerned about.

“A salad bar is not going to make or break your time here,” DeSa said, referring to the UCS initiative that brought the salad bar to Josiah’s in 2008.

Liz Livingstone ’10 agreed, saying, “The things UCS has done are good … but they don’t have a huge bulk of substantive projects.”

Despite some people’s apathy, Holownia said he is optimistic about student awareness of UCS.

“I don’t want you to think we’re taking it lightly,” Holownia said. “But it’s always a process, and we’re very happy the number has gone down since last year.”

The Herald poll was conducted from Nov. 2 through Nov. 4 and has a 3.6 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. A total of 687 Brown undergraduates completed the poll, which The Herald administered as a written questionnaire to students in the University Mail Room at J. Walter Wilson during the day and in the Sciences Library at night.

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