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Candidates compete for UCS presidency, vice presidency

Candidates discuss platforms as polls open today, emphasize student activism, social justice concerns

By and
Senior Staff Writers
Monday, March 30, 2020

In the Undergraduate Student Council elections, Zanagee Artis ’22 and Jason Carroll ’21 vie for the UCS presidency, while Summer Dai ’22 and Sam Caplan '22 compete for the vice presidency.

Polls open today at 8 p.m. EDT for the Undergraduate Council of Students and Undergraduate Finance Board elections. Zanagee Artis ’22 and Jason Carroll ’21 vie for the UCS presidency, while Sam Caplan ’22 and Summer Dai ’22 compete for the vice presidency.

Candidate platforms are available on the UCS website, in addition to virtual debate videos posted on the Council’s Facebook page. 

Election results will be announced via a Zoom meeting open to the undergraduate student body next Monday, April 6 at 10 p.m EDT. The outcomes will also be sent in an email to the student body later that evening. While results are typically announced in person, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and the University’s subsequent shift to remote learning mean that this year marks the first time that election results will be delivered electronically.

The race for presidency: Zanagee Artis

Over the course of his two years on UCS and as the Council’s current Chair of Campus Life, Artis has experience working on various issues in areas such as residential life, transportation and dining. 

Having co-founded the climate justice organization Zero Hour in early 2018, Artis said that his background in activism is a great motivator for his involvement in student government. “Because (UCS has) a unique relationship with the administration and high-level administrators in the Brown corporation,” Artis said that the Council could do more to provide “institutional support to student activists on campus.”

While on UCS, Artis has worked to restart the search committee for a director of the Brown Center for Students of Color, establish the UCS free airport shuttle program, extend the hours of the Verney-Woolley dining hall and facilitate Project Tampon, which distributes free menstrual products in University bathrooms, according to his campaign platform. Artis is currently working to increase student printing credits and expand composting on campus, in addition to securing UFB funding for Greek and program houses.

Artis said he believes his experience working for social justice causes both on and off campus will aid him in advocating for the student body. “It’s so important to understand how movements and student activist groups function,” he said. “We need to be doing a lot more to support these groups and to include them in conversations rather than just supporting them on their behalf.” 

The establishment of the Disability Justice Cultural Center would be one of Artis’ top priorities as president. “For too long, activist groups are bearing the brunt of the organizing work when they are the most affected by the issue,” he said. This year’s ballot includes a referendum proposed by Chair of Student Wellness Shivani Nishar ’20 and Vanessa Garcia ’20.5 asking students if a certain percentage of the University’s annual budget should be allocated to creating the DJCC, The Herald previously reported.

Artis would also prioritize efforts to increase awareness of the University’s historical relationship with marginalized communities. “Brown needs to do a lot more to specifically recognize its place on native land,” he said, adding that the University must also do more to recognize that many of its founders profited from the slave trade.

According to his campaign platform, Artis would also aim to move the Undocumented, First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center to a dedicated space on campus, subsidize a free textbook loan program and increase the accessibility of residence halls and academic buildings. 

Regarding student concerns about grading in light of the University’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, Artis expressed his support for the Universal Pass at Brown campaign, which seeks to implement a grading system in which all students will receive a grade of “Pass” in their classes this semester instead of A/B/C grade or optional Satisfactory/No Credit systems according to the campaign’s Facebook page. “The people who are forced to choose S/NC because of circumstances out of their control will be marginalized, which will affect them later when applying to jobs or internships,” Artis said.

As president, Artis said he would fight for social justice and accessibility issues impacting the entire student body.

The race for presidency: Jason Carroll

Citing his experience as UCS vice president and his involvement in various projects, such as to subsidize the cost of laundry and improve the accessibility of clean drinking water in residence halls, Carroll said he wants to “help grow UCS as both a resource for students on campus, as well as an organization which is proactive at working on student-centered issues.”

“My past experience has really shaped my views on how we can grow this organization, specifically in being more involved with supporting students and especially student activism,” he said.

Carroll said he wants to ensure that UCS is “out front, that our voices are helping to complement the voices of students who can’t be heard on this campus.” He added that he would continue advocating for projects that deliver tangible benefits to students in their everyday lives. 

Food insecurity is a top priority for Carroll. He aims to continue his work from this past year to ensure that the commercial space in the University’s new residence hall will be occupied by a grocery store. “Students need a grocery store that is accessible and near campus,” he said. “This isn’t a space that can be turned into a bank or some other non-student-centered business.”

Additionally, Carroll would continue his work to increase the accessibility of clean drinking water on campus after he led UCS advocacy efforts to replace hot water tanks in dorms on Wriston Quadrangle and install filtered drinking water faucets in several University residence halls. Carroll said he would “love to see that project grow” and work to expand it “campus-wide.”

As vice president, Carroll also oversaw the reduction of the minimum GET deposit from $20 to $10, secured 24/7 undergraduate swipe access to the Graduate Center Bear’s Lair and made pay information mandatory in Workday postings for on-campus student jobs, according to his campaign platform.

Carroll is currently working with administrators to determine refund amounts for room and board charges in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and the University-mandated student move-out. He identified providing advising for marginalized students, ensuring compensation for student workers on financial aid and creating digital events to help keep the student community connected as priorities during the ongoing global health crisis. Carroll said he has also communicated with administrators about compensating temporary student workers who were hired to work now-postponed or cancelled events, such as Commencement.

Carroll also expressed his support for Universal Pass at Brown in an email to The Herald. “I believe UP is the most comprehensive plan for both the majority of Brown students as well as for students facing the most acute hardship as a result of COVID-19,” he wrote. “UCS must do everything we can to support students from marginalized communities … who are disproportionately impacted and at risk.” Carroll acknowledged that different grading systems would impact students in “varied ways,” so he said that he is also working on measures that would support all students, such as sharing resources on how to promote student health and wellbeing in a virtual academic environment.

“We’ve been able to do a lot of really great things this year, and it’s something that we can really build on and expand into next year, where we have a UCS which is even more active in fulfilling student needs and helping to support students,” Carroll said.

The race for vice presidency: Sam Caplan

Entering his third year on UCS, Caplan hopes to further “elevate student voices” and connect students with ways to implement their ideas in the Brown community if he were elected vice president.

As Co-Appointments Chair this past year, Caplan appointed undergraduate representatives to University policy-making committees. During his tenure as co-chair, UCS created a Dining Council and added a student representative to the Honorary Degree Council. Caplan has also worked to “improve student representation and student accessibility” throughout the appointment process, he said.

As vice president, Caplan would aim to better incorporate the student community in UCS affairs, he said. He explained that while UCS does a “good job of soliciting advice from students” during the elections season, more work must be done to “advocate for student needs” year round. 

“When it comes to the fall and time to actually implement those things, I think we take a back seat role and kind of just try to placate administration,” Caplan said. He added that he would also hope to include leaders of student organizations in discussions between the Council and University administrators. 

Another focal point of Caplan’s candidacy is increasing sustainability on campus, such as by transitioning from single-use plastics to compostable materials.

“I think we could do a better job of leading our greater Providence community,” Caplan said, citing the use of plastic bags in the Brown Bookstore despite a plastic bag ban in Providence. “If we’re supposed to be this global leader, we can’t be looking for exemptions to rules.” 

On financial accessibility, Caplan proposed removing several of the fees that can pose a burden on students. “College is already super expensive,” he said. “These additional fees, like the fee for laundry, the fee for missing keys, missing ID cards … (add) an unnecessary burden that I think the University can front the bill for.”

Caplan would also aim to work with UFB to increase the UCS New Initiatives Fund, which provides financial support to new Category I and II student group initiatives, to better support student organizations, he said.

Another priority for Caplan is working with Disability Justice at Brown to create the DJCC, which would offer an identity center for students with disabilities. Caplan would also advocate for the required use of lecture capture in all classes, a produce market in the new residence hall and a swipe bank for students to donate extra meal credits, according to his campaign platform.

Reflecting on the recent events surrounding the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Caplan emphasized the importance of transparency. “I think that (administration) needs to do a better job of taking student voices and student perspectives into account,” he said, particularly from “students who hold marginalized identities and students who are disproportionately affected by this shift to online learning.” 

“We have a really great culture of community improvement,” Caplan said. “The piece that’s missing is the access to actually make that change. That’s how I see UCS fitting in and, by extension, me as vice president.”

The race for vice presidency: Summer Dai

As vice president, Dai said she would aim to make UCS “more proactive when it comes to reaching out to students and engaging student opinion.” 

As the current UCS Treasurer and having worked on the Campus Life Committee and with the Undergraduate Finance Board, Dai said her experience in student government has shown her “how much potential Brown has to better serve the community.” Throughout her two years on UCS, she has “prioritized the student experience” by working to implement and improve on various programs, such as the free airport shuttle initiative, the Leave-Taking Peer Program and the UCS 2019 Fall Poll, according to her campaign platform.

Through contributions to UFB conversations about group funding, Dai worked to further support student organizations on campus. She explained that she has “talked to a lot of student leaders from cultural and religious groups” and believes UFB “should continue increasing funding (to them).”

Based on her experience with UFB, Dai emphasized the importance of collaboration between UCS, student groups and University organizations to foster cooperation and “help in supporting the student body on campus.”

As vice president, Dai said she would prioritize improving facilities on campus. She hopes that efforts such as “increasing water fountains and hand sanitizers” on campus and “ensuring that dorms are renovated” would help “make sure that every student feels they are supported.”

Dai would also work to promote student wellbeing by increasing accessibility to Counseling and Psychological Services and working closely with CAPS staff. These efforts would include expanding “trauma and identity-informed care,” according to her campaign platform.

Further, Dai would advocate for continued collaboration between UCS and Disability Justice at Brown to establish the DJCC. Dai said she would prioritize the experiences of “students with historically marginalized identities” in order to “make (them) feel not only included but supported.”

Dai would also to aim to address students’ financial needs with specific goals to increase financial aid, reduce summer earning expectations, reduce laundry and printing fees, incorporate a financial section on class syllabi and pilot a senior graduation cap and gown rental program.

Further, to promote greater transparency from the Council as vice president, Dai said that she would hope to publish notes from UCS Executive Board meetings and notes from conversations with University administrators “so that students can be part of the conversation that’s been happening” on campus.

Dai also discussed some of the measures the University has taken in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Referring to the on-campus meal offerings available at the Sharpe Refectory for students remaining on campus, Dai said that students have told her that the quality of food “really fluctuates. Sometimes people are not really satisfied with what’s being provided for a day.” Dai said she hopes that, in the future, “working with Dining Services and communicating” student opinions can improve options so that they better meet student needs.

“I think Brown has done a really good job in supporting students, but we could do better,” Dai said, emphasizing the responsibility of UCS to listen to student concerns, particularly in light of the University’s current circumstances amid a global health crisis. “I hope to increase accessibility for students of all backgrounds, and I hope to hold UCS accountable for … communicating with the student body” and maintaining transparency.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Summer Dai ’22 “worked on the Undergraduate Finance Board.” In fact, Dai worked with the Undergraduate Finance Board. The Herald regrets the error.

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