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Editorial: What does UCS even stand for?

In five days, undergraduates will have the opportunity to fulfill their civic responsibility as members of the Brown community. But the reality is that little of substance seems to happen during the election for the Undergraduate Council of Students and Undergraduate Finance Board. And candidates running for these positions need to do little to secure a position of leadership, compromising the electoral process.

A strong culture of apathy undeniably exists among the Brown undergraduate body when it comes to student government. This sentiment is, in turn, reflected in the election itself. One bright note will be the race for the UCS presidency, which is and should be by far the most exciting component of the election season. A total of three presidential candidates, Todd Harris ’14.5, Afia Kwakwa ’14 and Daniel Pipkin ’14, will take the floor and presumably set the tone of the election in tonight’s Herald co-sponsored UCS/UFB debate.

But other races for leadership in student government are hardly contested, let alone competitive. The UCS Vice President, the second highest position in UCS, is uncontested. Most pitiful is the nonexistent race for UFB Vice-Chair, where not one student has even bothered to run. While the democratic process is widely heralded as the supreme method of maintaining positions of leadership, most of these UCS elections suggest that standing in the Sharpe Refectory for 30 minutes to collect signatures may very well be the golden ticket to winning a UCS election.

There is no single person or group to blame for the lack of student interest. Many of these candidates run based on their perceived best interests for the student body, and several candidates, especially those running for higher positions, are extremely well-versed with issues pertaining to the student body. One factor that could be to blame is the brief nature of these positions themselves. Because students are elected to terms that last only one academic year, their individual legacies in student government cannot always reflect permanent, sustained changes, leading to student disillusionment about UCS’s capabilities. Unlike the faculty, UCS is not a formal voting power of the University — though it can pass resolutions or statements, those do not directly translate to University action. With these factors, it becomes less difficult to identify the apathy’s source. The student body’s expectations thus can often exceed or not align with the Council’s capabilities, rendering it difficult to expect a sustained and active connection between both parties.

We urge both the student body and the potential candidates to examine the roots behind student apathy. With still several days to go before the election, current candidates — especially presidential ones — can take the first step towards restoring relations between UCS and the rest of the student body. Students will vote for candidates who do not consider themselves liaisons between students and administration but rather true representatives for students and their concerns. We call for student leaders who not only speak on the issues we actually care about but who will make our votes count toward substantive action. We hope someone will step up to the challenge and make student elections meaningful.

 

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Dan Jeon, and its members, Mintaka Angell, Samuel Choi, Nicholas Morley and Rachel Occhiogrosso. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.



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