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University News

UCS plan receives lukewarm response

By
News Editor
Friday, February 10, 2012

A proposed amendment to the Undergraduate Council of Students’ constitution has been met with mixed response, though many student group leaders have expressed concern that the amendment would place additional power in the council’s hands at the expense of other groups.

The council’s funds are currently distributed by the Undergraduate Finance Board, which oversees funding allocations for Category II and III student groups. The amendment would put decisions about UCS funding under the authority of council members instead of the board. UFB would still allocate the remaining funds to other Category III groups.

In light of rising conflict between the two bodies over the last few years, the council introduced the amendment Wednesday to secure the funds necessary for its initiatives, clarify its relationship with UFB and render UFB budgeting processes more transparent, said UCS President Ralanda Nelson ’12. 

But UFB representatives and student leaders are not certain the amendment would be a positive change for the campus.

Though Kaz Wesley ‘14.5, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said he understands the council’s intention of clarifying its relationship with UFB, he added that the amendment could bring about a “very harmful change” by giving additional power to UCS at the cost of student groups. Because the amendment does not place a limit on the council’s control over funds, he said its approval could bring about “dangerous” changes.

Nelson acknowledged that some groups have responded with concern but added that the council’s intention was “never malicious.” UCS will not employ “underhanded” measures to allocate additional funds for itself, she said, and with its open membership policy, students opposed to the council’s decisions may join and vote against the measures. 

“Students wanted to see this,” she said. “It’s not about taking funds away, it’s equipping the student government to do its job.”

Students have until Sunday to vote on the proposed change via MyCourses

“It’s ridiculous that we have this little time after they have announced the proposal to vote,” Wesley said.

Joseph Rosner ’12, president of the Brown Debating Union, also expressed concern. “Even the best of intentions could lead to unfair consequences for equally important groups on campus,” he wrote in an email to The Herald.

Rosner instead called on UCS to explore alternative channels in settling its conflict with UFB.

“There is no logical basis for the amendment because it seems to center on in-fighting,” Rosner wrote. “Other options, like reorganizing the communication channels or settling the political problems that exist between the two groups, should come first.”

The council can appeal UFB’s budget decisions through the administration or seek funding through other means, he wrote. “That is exactly the same deal given to all student groups, and UCS should be no exception,” he added.

 The relationship between the two bodies has been an issue in the past, said UFB Chair Jason Lee ’12. But he said the amendment is not the appropriate way to change the relationship structurally because it removes a checks and balances system for UCS funds and projects. Since the amendment would provide the council unlimited control over its finances, it would make UCS a “priority” over other groups, Lee said. 

Nelson told The Herald that she has also received positive feedback from some student group leaders who recognized the effort to improve the relationship between the two organizations and increase the funding board’s transparency. Group leaders have expressed that the amendment is an “interesting idea,” Nelson said, adding that students want to hold UFB accountable for its budget allocation decisions.

The main goal behind the amendment is to make UFB more transparent and not necessarily to increase available funds for the council, she said. Groups are currently underfunded, and there are issues to address within UFB.

“They operate in the green, not in the red,” said Nelson, a former member of UFB.

But many students expressed confusion over the conflict between the two organizations. Some were suspicious of the council’s intentions, while some said they were not well-informed.

“They’re getting all totalitarian,” said Elizabeth Perez ’13. “Give us our money.”

Others were more open to the idea of the amendment. “I think it makes sense for UCS to control their own funds,” said Adwoa Hinson ’14. “I mean, they’re supposed to be the student government, right?”

 

­— With additional reporting by Phoebe Draper

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