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UCS adds three referendums to elections ballot

Referendums address food insecurity, DJCC, constitutional amendments

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, March 5, 2020

During the general body meeting, UCS voted and decided to include multiple referendums to the ballot for their upcoming elections. Referendum propositions, which addressed food security and the establishment of a Disability and Justice Center, pass by majority votes.

At its general body meeting Wednesday evening, the Undergraduate Council of Students voted to add three referendums to the ballot of the upcoming UCS and Undergraduate Finance Board elections.

Referendums can be proposed to the Council directly by any UCS member or by any undergraduate student who collects 300 petition signatures. The Council then votes on the proposed referendums, with those that pass appearing on the ballot for students to vote on.

UCS Chief of Staff Melissa Lee ’20 and Nell Salzman ’22 presented the first referendum, which proposed a meal swipe donation program to benefit Providence-area organizations combating food insecurity. The program would donate the cash value of any of students’ leftover meal swipes to local food banks.

Describing her motivations for proposing the referendum, Salzman pointed to the prevalence of food insecurity in Rhode Island. “This is a way that Brown can donate to the community in a very feasible and tangible way,” she said.

The referendum also asks students if the University should release Dining Services’ financial data, including the number of unused meal swipes at the end of the semester.

Salzman expressed that existing meal swipe donation options, such as the granola bar drive conducted by student organization Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere, are comparatively inefficient.

Lee said that those working on the referendum had debated the idea of allowing students to donate extra meal swipes to other Brown students, but ultimately “thought it would be more strategic and helpful to focus on the Providence community.”

The referendum proposal passed by a simple majority vote, with the final wording including requests for Dining Services to be transparent about surplus revenue and meal swipe data, in addition to asking about the proposed meal swipe donation program.

Next, Chair of Student Wellness Shivani Nishar ’20 and Vanessa Garcia ’20.5 proposed a referendum that would allocate a certain percentage of the University’s annual budget to creating a Disability Justice Cultural Center.

Last year, Nishar and Garcia received 692 student signatures on a petition to prioritize the establishment of the center, according to Garcia.

“The DJCC will allow the community to build solidarity with others whose narratives are often silenced,” Garcia said. They emphasized that the proposed center “would carve out a space on campus that values the diversity of disability in the same way that other marginalized identities are recognized.”

Referencing the Council’s 2019 Fall Poll, Nishar noted that a majority of students who voted on the creation of the center voted in favor of its establishment. She said that the referendum would “help (UCS) put pressure on the administration in a more direct way than just saying that students support this.”

The Council voted to add the referendum to the ballot in a simple majority vote.

The third referendum proposed moving out of date logistical elements of the UCS Constitution to the Council’s bylaws. Because modifying the constitution requires a formal vote of the student body, specific elements such as election timing were proposed to be moved to the body’s bylaws, which can be modified within the Council.

The referendum proposal passed when put to a simple majority vote, with the final wording emphasizing UCS’ ability to update its constitution to reflect its values and updated operational logistics.

Sophie Culpepper ’21, who is a Managing Editor of The Herald, also presented to the general body at the end of the meeting on the structure of The Herald and its role in interacting with UCS. She detailed interview logistics, information about talking to reporters and ways to respond to Herald coverage.

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