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UFB chair, vice chair candidates discuss platforms

Races for chair, vice chair both uncontested, candidates emphasize UFB transparency, accountability

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 30, 2020

In the race for Undergraduate Finance Board chair, Akilesh Raman ’22 (left) runs unopposed, with Anika Ahluwalia ’23 (right) also running unopposed for UFB vice chair.

Akilesh Raman ’22 runs unopposed in the race for Undergraduate Finance Board chair, with Anika Ahluwalia ’23 also running unopposed for UFB vice chair. The voting period for UFB and Undergraduate Council of Students elections begins at 8 p.m. EST today.

Candidate platforms are available on the UCS website, with virtual debate videos also available on the Council’s Facebook page.

Election results will be announced via a Zoom meeting open to the undergraduate student body next Monday at 10 p.m. EST. 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 chair: Akilesh Raman

Raman, who has served on the Board since this past fall, cited his experience handling funding distribution in school and family matters growing up in India as an initial motivator for his involvement with UFB. He said that translating that experience to his work on the Board has greatly contributed to his experience at Brown.

“Being on the Board for a year has helped me understand that Brown has so many clubs and it’s amazing to see the diversity of activity and diversity of thought,” Raman said. UFB’s role should be “to fund these clubs so they can express themselves,” he added.

As an at-large representative on the Board, Raman represented 20 student groups in UFB meetings and participated in policy discussions regarding equity and service group funding, he said. He cited his experience reviewing over 500 budget requests as having prepared him for the chair position. Raman added that his emphasis on creative thinking and problem solving also equips him for the role.

Raman’s priorities as chair would include “moving in the direction of increased transparency, holding highly funded groups accountable and really sitting down and listening to people,” he said.

He noted UFB’s work in implementing a transparency requirement for highly funded student groups and holding conversations with service groups to ensure more equitable funding as essential kinds of work UFB should continue. “It boils down to you sitting down and actually talking to people who are actually a part of these service groups about their experiences and how they contribute to the Brown community,” he said. 

In addition to ensuring easier access to funding for service groups, he intends to establish regular office hours to increase the Board’s transparency and familiarize groups with the funding process. Raman also intends to restructure UFB meetings to improve their efficiency by instituting a “goal-oriented” approach when deliberating group funding, according to his campaign platform

Raman also identified UFB’s backlog of policy discussions as another priority, adding his intent to expand existing subcommittees within the Board to more evenly allocate the number of student groups currently assigned to each individual Board member.

Acknowledging that he is running unopposed for the position, Raman said that “this is a great opportunity for me to reach out to every student group on campus, especially service groups, and convey the message that UFB will always be there for them and to work for their best interests.”

The race for vice chair: Anika Ahluwalia

As a first-year, Ahluwalia described her involvement with UFB as one of the highlights of her experience at Brown thus far. “It has been really inspiring to see how passionate everyone is about what they’re doing, what their groups are doing and their groups’ missions,” she said. “I really just want to delve deeper into that and give back and become more involved in this organization that I love so much.”

Citing UFB’s release of student group funding data earlier this year, Ahluwalia expressed a desire to continue the Board’s push for transparency and accountability. “I’ve heard a lot of concerns from the student body about the great disparity between highly funded groups that are more competitive versus service groups,” she said. “The more we can be transparent, the more we can be held accountable for our actions.”

Ahluwalia also stated her intention to continue conversations with highly funded groups and service groups that occurred earlier this semester, intending to involve the student body in these discussions as well. “We need to have more honest and open conversations where people are identifying our weaknesses,” she said. “I would love to focus on talking with highly funded groups about why individual line items are important to their mission and passing a new set of policies for them specifically.”

According to her platform, Ahluwalia aims to address concerns expressed by service, cultural and religious groups by initiating future policy proposals and facilitating ongoing discussions to achieve more equitable funding. She noted the March amendments made to UFB’s constitution, which changed the document’s wording to make funding more accessible to student groups whose missions “indirectly” benefit the student body, such as service groups, as an example of the type of work she would like to continue as vice chair.

Ahluwalia also mentioned increasing accessibility to and student awareness of the funding distribution process as a priority. 

“A lot of groups that I have represented this year on UFB came to me having no idea how to request money” from the Board, she said, noting that many groups she represented this year did not know how to request additional funding and left their baseline funding unused. She hopes to publicize the UFB funding process to the student body and make it more transparent to student groups. She added that her experience serving concurrently on UFB and the executive board of Smart Women Securities has helped her see both sides of the UFB funding process and identify how it needs to be changed.

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