University News

UCS reputation remains unchanged

Students are still ambivalent toward UCS as it works to clarify its relationship with UFB

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, February 25, 2013

A year after the debate over a controversial amendment that would have let the Undergraduate Council of Students determine its own budget without approval from the Undergraduate Finance Board, the issue has settled with no lasting damage to the groups’ relationship, said officials from both organizations. The Council’s reputation among students remains unaffected, with many students still apathetic toward UCS, multiple students said.

The largely unpopular amendment, proposed by then-President of UCS Ralanda Nelson ’12, sparked on-campus discussion and several op-eds and letters published in The Herald. The amendment was put to undergraduate vote on a MyCourses poll, where it failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required to pass. UCS and UFB then formed a joint committee that worked to reevaluate UCS’s funding process, The Herald previously reported.


Pushing for cooperation

The committee tasked with reexamining UCS’s funding process produced a comprehensive set of recommendations, such as allocating $1,200 to UCS per semester for unlimited purposes, requiring UCS to submit its budget to UFB for approval and tasking UFB’s vice president with representing UCS interests in UFB discussions, said Nick Tsapakos ’13, who served on the committee as a UCS representative.

The committee — which comprised two representatives from UCS, two representatives from UFB and one undergraduate from neither group — submitted these recommendations to the executive boards of UCS and UFB, which accepted them with few changes, Tsapakos said.

“A lot of the language we drafted was to clarify the relationship between UCS and UFB, so that moving forward, whether or not the two groups liked each other, they would be forced to cooperate to promote the undergraduate student experience,” Tsapakos said.

The representatives of UCS and UFB worked well together on the committee, said Holly Hunt ’13, who served on the committee as a UCS representative. “The committee process made it very clear that we need to work together as two different parts of the student government to make fully educated decisions about how the power structure should work and how money should flow,” Hunt added.


Problems with parenthood

The amendment temporarily damaged dealings between UCS and UFB, with concerns emerging over the power dynamic between the two organizations.

Nelson argued at the time that UCS was a “parent organization” of UFB, said Daniel Pipkin ’14, UFB vice chair and former UCS-UFB liaison.

The former UCS president argued for the amendment by suggesting that “UCS getting funding from UFB was like a mother asking a child for money,” said Raaj Parekh ’13, former UFB representative, who wrote an editorial in The Herald last year urging students to vote against the amendment on MyCourses.

“From the perspective that UCS and UFB are equal, (the amendment) certainly looked like a major power grab from UCS,” Hunt said. But from a perspective that privileges UCS as a parent organization of UFB, “it didn’t look like a power grab at all. It looked like UCS was exercising its rights.”

Though UCS technically is the parent organization of UFB, the new funding process that emerged from the committee’s recommendations allows for more equal collaboration, Pipkin said.

“If you separate two student government bodies, it hurts the students,” Pipkin said. “A house divided cannot stand. I like that now we have to come together and work together a little bit more.” This is the first year the leadership of both organizations has consistently held weekly meetings, he added.

Though the amendment briefly injured UCS-UFB interactions, in the long run “it strengthened the relationship overall,” said Anthony White ’13, president of UCS.


Memories fade, ambivalence lives 

Though the amendment ignited heated debate in the student body last year — manifest in angry Facebook posts and impassioned Herald editorials — it did not have a lasting negative impact on students’ perceptions of UCS. In fact, most students interviewed told The Herald they were unaware of the amendment and felt indifferent toward UCS.

Nicole Grabel ’14 said she was “ambivalent” about UCS because “I don’t really know what they do.” She added she did not remember the amendment.

“I don’t feel strongly negative or positive about UCS,” said Hannah Glickman ’15. “A lot of the things they make decisions about I don’t feel particularly strongly about.”

Tim Whalen ’15 said he “vaguely” knew what UCS was, adding, “I get them confused with all of the other three-letter acronyms.” Whalen said he remembers reading about the amendment, but said, “I didn’t have any strong opinions. … I started reading about it and found I didn’t care.”

“I remember the amendment being a huge controversy and people saying they didn’t want UCS to put itself before other student groups,” said Ashley Brown ’15. “I remember thinking it was kind of an abuse of power.”

Though Brown remembered feeling opinionated about the amendment, she said she currently feels “indifferent” about UCS. “They’ve probably influenced my life, but I don’t know.”

“Memory in general is short on college campuses because the population cycles out so frequently,” Parekh said. “If you combine that with the fact that so few people know what UCS is or does, I think it would take something bigger than (the amendment) to create a saliently lasting image in people’s minds.”

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