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UCS, UFB candidates engage in public debate

Participants discuss legacy admissions, diversity of speech on campus, student activities fee

Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, March 18, 2018

Candidates for top positions on the Undergraduate Council of Students and the Undergraduate Finance Board addressed topics including communication with the University administration, the #FullDisclosure campaign and diversity of thought on campus at a public debate Sunday night.

Shanzé Tahir ’19 and Fabrice Guyot-Sionnest ’20 are contending for the UCS presidency, while Camila Pelsinger ’20 and William Zhou ’20 are vying for the vice presidency.

Lisa Schold ’19 and Drew To ’19 are competing for chair of the Undergraduate Finance Board, and Julian De Georgia ’20 runs unopposed for UFB vice chair.

Both Schold and Guyot-Sionnest participated in the debate over Skype. Schold is currently in South Africa as part of a study abroad program and Guyot-Sionnest was traveling back to the University from a mock trial tournament.

In her opening statement, Tahir said her presidency would focus on three primary themes: “protecting students affected by the current political climate,” reducing “interpersonal and institutional harm on campus” and demanding “increased accountability and response as well as proactiveness from the administration on student concerns.”

Although Guyot-Sionnest’s platform focuses on increasing diversity of thought on campus, he said in his opening remarks that, if elected, he would also work to advance other initiatives.

“If we want to be the best students we can be, the best citizens we can be, the best members of the community that we can be, I just believe that instead of silencing opinions that we don’t agree with, we have to hear them, so we can legitimately disagree with them,” Guyot-Sionnest said.

The debate’s moderators — current UCS President Chelse-Amoy Steele ’18, UFB Chair Yuzuka Akasaka ’18 and VP for Campus Life Eric Estes — asked candidates personalized questions related to their platforms. In the past, Herald editors have also served as debate moderators, but Steele and Akasaka declined The Herald’s request to join the moderating panel through the Elections Board.

In her platform, Pelsinger says she would work to eliminate textbook costs for low-income students. In response to a question about other economic barriers for low-income students, Pelsinger mentioned that student activists within first-generation and low-income communities on campus are also working on initiatives to create stipends to cover costs for food and transportation, among other pursuits.

Throughout the debate, Pelsinger, who is currently the UCS chair of campus life, also stressed the importance of incorporating student groups into conversations with relevant administrators.

Similarly, Zhou’s platform includes a provision to expand communication between student groups and administrators. In conversations with student leaders, Zhou said their top priority is consistently increasing administrative transparency.

Zhou, who is currently the UCS chair of student activities, also highlighted his experience on issues including developing amendments to the Campus of Consent Bill, organizing a career fair in the fall and collaborating with UFB to help student groups reduce their event costs.

Tahir, Pelsinger and Guyot-Sionnest all discussed what having diversity of thought means on campus.

Guyot-Sionnest stressed the importance of learning how to engage with and refute opposing or ignorant ideas. Tahir and Pelsinger both noted the importance of free speech on campus, but said they would prioritize student safety over discourse.

The UFB debate occurred in the hour preceding the UCS debate with the same moderators. Candidates emphasized the importance of increasing transparency within UFB.

On the issue of the student activities fee, Schold said she would support smaller annual increases to reflect inflation as opposed to larger, more irregular increases.

To said the fee should increase only as much as is necessary for UFB to continue funding student groups, and De Georgia said he would support a small student activities fee increase every year to avoid any large jumps.

The student activities fee is currently $274 for each student and funds the UFB budget. The fee will rise to $286 next year, as The Herald previously reported.

All three candidates have experience working on UFB. To currently serves as the board’s vice chair, while Schold has served as the UCS-UFB liaison from fall 2016 through fall 2017. De Georgia has served as a UFB representative for the past two years.

The candidates agree that UFB should compile periodic reports on UFB’s funding, according to their platforms, and provided similar ideas about crafting and distributing these reports by using UFB’s recently redesigned website.

All seven UCS and UFB candidates expressed their support for the #FullDisclosure campaign in response to audience questions from Shawn Young ’19.5 and Joseph Vukel ’19, who help lead the campaign at the University.

#FullDisclosure aims to make any information regarding the use of legacy status in the admission process public and push the University to reexamine the role of legacy status. UCS will hold a referendum on these objectives as part of elections this week, as The Herald previously reported.

Voting for UCS and UFB positions will open March 20. Polls close March 22 and results will be announced at 10 p.m. on the steps of Faunce.

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  1. Recent Alumn says:

    “Tahir and Pelsinger both noted the importance of free speech on campus, but said they would prioritize student safety over discourse.”

    Wtf does that even mean? How are those things even at odds?

    • “Tahir and Pelsinger both noted the importance of free speech on campus, but said they would prioritize student safety over discourse.”

      Who decides what speech constitute threats to student safety?

  2. Chelse-Amoy Steele says:

    To clarify. All questions for candidates were drafted by myself and Yuzuka with attention to their platforms. As the representatives of the two organizations participating in the debate and the authors of the questions, our presence as moderators was required. The candidates will work closely with VP Estes and so his presence as a moderator was important to both of us. It was unclear who The Herald would be representing and we felt that it would be unfair to open to The Herald and not all publications. In addition, since The Herald plans to endorse a candidate for each position, we find it unfair that an organization that publicly favors one candidate would be in a position of neutrality as a moderator. Because The Herald reached out to us 1 day prior to the debate there was not enough time to contact all other publications and give them enough time to meet and draft questions. For these reasons we found The Herald’s involvement infeasible and inappropriate.

    – Joint response by Yuzuka and myself.

    • The Herald would be representing the student body as members of the most widely read student publication on campus. It would have been entirely appropriate to ask a third-party to co-moderate in order to have an outside perspective for those not involved in student government. The Herald, as well as all other groups on campus with at least one representative present, are entitled to endorse candidates. While some voters may have made the decision a priori, I think it’s disingenuous to suggest The Herald already knew who they were going to endorse BEFORE the debate even took place.

      • Of course it also merits mentioning Steele and Akasaka’s repudiation of The Herald’s endorsement the previous year in “Letter: Brown Daily Herald endorsement for UCS/UFB candidates.”

        As representatives, it’s your job to seek guidance from the people you represent–not the other way around. Glad you managed to mend that fence.

        • This is just an update for anyone curious, but voting has begun and the Herald did NOT endorse anyone.

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