News, University News

UCS to release statement, votes on elections changes

Council denounces recent hate act, finalizes new equity and inclusion position

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 13, 2020

UCS also discussed proposed changes to its election process and finalized the details of its new equity and inclusion position.

The Undergraduate Council of Students finalized its statement in response to the recent anti-Semitic graffiti found in Hegeman Hall and discussed possible changes to its elections process at its general body meeting Wednesday, Feb. 12.

The Council also confirmed the details of its new equity and inclusion chair position.

Feb. 4, a student reported a swastika drawn on a wall in Hegeman Hall, The Herald previously reported. This most recent occurrence follows several incidents of homophobic graffiti in Hegeman Hall this fall.

In the statement, the Council denounced these acts of hate against the student body. Offering support to individuals and student groups affected by the incidents, the statement also encouraged the University to work to prevent similar occurrences in the future. UCS plans to release the statement today.

“Myself and the others up here have been working on how to best support students during this time,” UCS Vice President Jason Carroll ’21 said. Carroll and other Council members met with the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life, Brown-RISD Hillel and the LGBTQ Center prior to drafting the statement.

After incorporating revisions from the general body, the statement was finalized and passed with a simple majority vote.

A community gathering in response to recent incidents was held on the steps of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center earlier Wednesday evening, with President William Zhou ’20 delivering remarks on behalf of the Council in solidarity with those affected by local and international tensions.

Also at the UCS meeting, Student Activities Chair Alex Song ’20 presented possible reforms to the Council’s elections process that were raised at an elections working group discussion late January.

UCS members expressed differing opinions on modifying the number of student signatures required for candidates to run for Council executive positions. In last year’s elections, candidates running for UCS president had to garner 200 signatures, and candidates for the vice presidency and committee chair positions needed 100.

First-Year Representative Zane Ruzicka ’23 advocated for a greater signature requirement, highlighting the benefit he gained from speaking to members of the student body when gathering his own signatures for UCS.

Chair of Student Wellness Shivani Nishar ’20 and Leona Hariharan ’23 both voiced their belief that the signature requirement should be reduced, as the number currently required disadvantages students who are socially anxious when running.

Song added that “there have been times in the past where the high signature requirements have been an obstacle for those who are otherwise qualified.”

When put to a vote, the Council decided not to modify the current signature requirements. Song, however, encouraged further conversation on the issue.

Nishar and Chief of Staff Melissa Lee ’20 also presented an updated version of the Council’s new Chair of Equity and Inclusion position. “We feel like this role encompasses a really important niche that isn’t being filled right now,” Lee said. The name of the role was confirmed, with the Council voting to change the proposed name of “Chair of Diversity and Inclusion” to “Chair of Equity and Inclusion.”

Minor changes were made to the scope of the role, clarifying the position’s relationship with the University’s admissions and financial aid offices  and the chair’s conflict mediation responsibility. The position will be filled in the upcoming elections.

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