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News, University News

UCS elects two students to UFB at first meeting

Council also discusses election processes, addition of diversity, inclusion chair

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, January 30, 2020

At their first general body meeting of the semester, UCS considered a proposal for a new diversity and inclusion chair position, and discussed potential changes to the spring elections process.

The Undergraduate Council of Students elected Claire Brown ’22 and Kushagra Agarwal ’22 to fill two vacancies on the Undergraduate Finance Board at its first general body meeting of the semester Wednesday evening.

Brown and Agarwal ran alongside Amienne Spencer-Blume ’23 and Benjamin Kilimnik ’23. The positions, which opened up after two members of the Board went abroad this spring, will only run to the end of the semester. Elections for at-large representatives typically occur in the spring for year-long terms.

Before the candidates gave their speeches, UFB Chair Julian DeGeorgia ’20 spoke about the role UFB plays on campus. “Money is often the barrier to making things happen, so if we can make sure that those resources are allocated successfully, and we can help all of these groups be successful, we can have a big impact on campus,” he said.

In her speech, Brown highlighted her experience working with UFB in her roles on Mock Trial and the Class Coordinating Board. “Working so closely with those budgets, I really know how inequitable funding has been in the past and how much money that those groups get that they don’t necessarily need,” she said. “The main reason I’m running for UFB is because I feel like being on the Board is a really great way to be able to implement that change.”

Agarwal emphasized his experience as treasurer for the South Asian Students Association on campus during his speech. “I know a lot of UFB policies, and that’s what motivated me.” He added that his experience with both successful and unsuccessful requests for funding have prepared him for the role.

Each candidate was allotted two minutes to speak and two minutes to answer questions.

Also at the meeting, the general body discussed a proposal to add a diversity and inclusion chair position within UCS. The proposal was drafted by Chief of Staff Melissa Lee ’20 and Chair of Student Wellness Shivani Nishar ’20. “In the past, diversity and inclusion has not really been a priority of UCS; it’s been more of an afterthought dependent on the experiences and expertise of people in UCS, and so we thought that it’s really important that we formalize this role,” Lee said.

Nishar added that the role is intended to be an advisory position for the Council to ensure that all members are considering aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion with their initiatives. “We never had a point person who really spoke to community members,” she said. “It was just community members who were already involved” in UCS.

The Council also discussed possible changes to how UCS and UFB elections are conducted, following a listening session this weekend to solicit input on the process. Chair of Student Activities Alex Song ’20 presented on strategies to increase voter turnout and to streamline the elections process, highlighting possible amendments to the length of the voting period and candidacy requirements as priorities. “We thought that increasing the voting period by another day is definitely feasible,” he said. He described a previous Herald article that showed that the University’s student voter turnout in the 2018 UCS presidential elections was the second lowest turnout rate in the Ivy League.

Song also mentioned the potential implementation of an online signature gathering tool to replace the current system in which prospective candidates are required to collect hundreds of signatures on paper. Ricky Zhong  ‘23 said that paper signatures encourage more discussion about a candidate’s goals, whereas Nishar emphasized the increased accessibility of online signature gathering for candidates with disabilities.

An electronic system “would increase the accessibility for the type of people that would be able to get these signatures and run for these positions,” she said.

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