The candidates running in this year's Undergraduate Council of Students and Undergraduate Finance Board elections next week will encounter stiff competition, with only the UCS treasurer and UFB at-large representatives facing uncontested races.
Students will also vote on a referendum to adopt instant runoff procedures for future voting in next week's election.
Last spring, five leadership positions were uncontested, including chair of the UCS Admissions and Student Services, Student Activities and Campus Life committees, The Herald reported at the time.
"I am glad there has been a lot of turnout," said current UCS president Clay Wertheimer '10, adding that high participation "is important to get the issues discussed and the student body engaged."
Kening Tan '12, chair of the UCS Elections Board, said the board made a point of encouraging people to apply for the chair positions this year by increasing awareness that candidates do not need to be UCS members to run.
"The campaign is interesting because there is not a lot of disagreement on issue platforms," Wertheimer said. "What is at stake is the experiences candidates have and what they can bring."
A candidate must have a "firm understanding of how the group functions and how it functions best," said UCS Communications Chair Evan Holownia '11, a candidate for the council's vice president.
"It is hard for someone to just come in and effectively run the board," added UFB-UCS Liaison Salsa Ahmed '11, a candidate for chair of the finance board. She said the most important task next year for UFB will be "maintaining projects" started this year. Students "well-versed" in the finance board's policy will be best equipped to follow through with these initiatives, she said.
Diane Mokoro '11, current UCS vice president and a candidate for next year's president, said that past "proven leadership" is the true mark of a good candidate.'Tan said the elections board will strive to "encourage fairness" in the election this year, even as the use of Facebook, Twitter and other online sites for publicity is on the rise. As in years past, campaigning will be based on a points system designed to increase fairness by limiting how much a student can campaign.
Problems with online promotion have already arisen this year.
UCS presidential candidate Arthur Matuszewski '11, a former editor-in-chief of Post- magazine, sent an open e-mail to over 500 students, faculty, administrators and other staff Tuesday. An anonymous reply sent to everyone who received Matuszewski's e-mail mocked many statements he made.
Matuszewski brought this exchange to the election board's attention, writing in an e-mail that even though the response was anonymous and possibly a form of "shadow insult," it might fall under the board's ban on negative campaigning. But board member Sarah Rutherford '12 said that because he was not misquoted and the information was therefore not "objectively false," nothing could be done by the board under its rules.
Matuszewski spoke about the intentions of his e-mail during community time at the council's general body meeting Wednesday, saying it was a "genuine" attempt to acknowledge connections at Brown, despite the anonymous responder's cynical reaction. In a speech filled with sensational language and expletives, he said UCS needed to explore "bolder" initiatives to improve connections rather than just bringing "bacon to the Ratty." He said he did not intend to "demean UCS," but to encourage "conversations about vision and expansion" at Brown.
Wertheimer later said UCS actually discusses many large issues with the administration and the community.
Last year, then-candidate Wertheimer lost 15 of his 100 campaigning points after a member of the elections board joined his Facebook campaign group and was appointed as a group administrator by someone other than Wertheimer, The Herald reported at the time.
With six non-UCS members on the 10-person elections board this year, Tan said UCS has sought to increase the transparency of the election process by increasing community participation.
Many candidates for both UCS and UFB also said transparency was a larger, fundamental goal.
Most students know little about UFB's true function at Brown, said vice-chair candidate Jason Lee '12, adding that increasing "openness and transparency" would be one of his main aims next year.
UFB Chair candidate Adam Kiki-Charles '11 said the problem has more to do with accessibility to the board than transparency, and that UFB must ensure that student groups understand how to receive funding from the finance board.
"UFB must also improve relationships" with faculty, UCS and the outer community, said vice-chair candidate and current UFB secretary Tyler Rosenbaum '11, adding that UFB has acted too "autonomous" in years past.
Reed Frye '11, a candidate for UCS vice president, said increasing the "community audience" will help hold UCS accountable for the way it conducts its meetings.
The elections board will host a debate at 7 p.m. Thursday in Salomon 001 to provide the larger Brown community with an opportunity "to come and hear students give their perspective on the issues," Tan said, adding that she "highly encouraged" students to attend the debate to understand what the candidates stand for.
Candidate statements are now posted on the UCS Web site.
Wertheimer said the "vision of the candidates," in addition to their levels of experience, will be important for guiding initiatives UCS is involved in next year.
"I'm running mainly because I love Brown, and I want to have the opportunity to make as many improvements as I possibly can," said Campus Life Chair Ben Farber '12, who is running for UCS vice president.
In other UCS news, the council also unanimously agreed Wednesday to include a referendum on next week's ballot that, if passed by the student body, would amend its constitution to include instant runoff plans to be implemented in general elections beginning next year.
The proposed changes state that "voters shall rank candidates by preference" when they vote. If no candidate receives a simple majority, the votes for the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes will be "redistributed based on the second choice of those ballots." If needed, the process would be repeated until a winner of a simple majority can be declared.
UCS already implemented these changes for internal council elections earlier this year. "This is the most uncontroversial thing we have done all semester," Wertheimer said.
UCS also discussed the University's response to flood damage in Providence, which occurred over the week of spring break at Brown. The council agreed that volunteering in larger groups and fundraising during Spring Weekend will be key to supporting relief efforts.
Colleen McDonald '12, who has acted as a liaison between students and administrators on disaster relief, said they have been working on these initiatives and are attempting to identify regions that can most effectively use a large amount of volunteers.