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UCS, UFB leadership candidates square off at debate

The three presidential candidates shared their priorities and vision for the coming year

Candidates for Undergraduate Council of Students and Undergraduate Finance Board leadership positions confronted questions of need-blind admission, student government transparency, community engagement and student activities funding at the candidate debate Thursday night.

The UCS presidential candidates grappled with questions of working toward expanding financial aid and need-blind admission with finite financial resources.

Todd Harris ’14.5 said the student body must have a voice in choosing which financial aid-related goals the University should prioritize — whether implementation of universal need-blind admission or reduction of student loan debt.

“I would open that question up to the student body,” he said. “UCS always talks about what we have done. Instead we should be asking, ‘What do you want to see?’”

Daniel Pipkin ’14 said it is important to examine financial aid from both “micro” and “macro” perspectives. The UCS president must consider smaller concerns like increasing financial aid packages as well as larger goals such as implementing need-blind admission for all applicants, he said.

Afia Kwakwa ’14 called need-blind admission for international applicants an “important” priority, citing her background as a student from Switzerland. Implementing need-blind admission for international applicants would help the University expand its scope and global image, she said.

The transparency of student government to the Brown community emerged as another major topic of discussion among the presidential candidates.

“The biggest mistake student government has made is in terms of transparency,” Pipkin said. Student government should make a greater effort to solicit student feedback instead of remaining an insular institution, he said.

Kwakwa agreed that UCS has “not opened up enough venues for student feedback.” She suggested each UCS committee sponsor an event aimed at gathering student input.

Presidential candidates also discussed ways to bolster student engagement with the Providence community.

Pipkin argued against the notion that community service is solely an “extracurricular experience.” Service should be “coupled with academics” and integrated into course curricula, he said.

The candidates all said they both supported the Brown Divest Coal campaign and were in favor of the University divesting from coal.

After answering questions from both the audience and the moderator, Professor of Theater Arts and Performance Studies Barbara Tannenbaum, candidates posed questions to one another.

Harris asked his competitors what the UCS president could not do.

“The UCS president cannot do anything alone,” Pipkin said, adding that communication between the president and executive board is crucial.

Candidates for UFB chair considered ways to improve and maintain the relationship between UCS and UFB.

Leila Veerasamy ’15 said the two bodies should come together for a “weekly briefing” but otherwise remain separate.

“I don’t think we should get involved in each other’s politics apart from that,” she said.

Alexander Sherry ’15 said he served on UCS last year when controversy arose after then-UCS President Ralanda Nelson ’12 proposed a referendum that would let UCS determine its own funding independent of UFB.

In order to prevent a repeat “breakdown of communications” between the two organizations, UFB must “work closely” with the UCS Student Activities committee, he said.

Veerasamy said the board must match UFB representatives with student groups related to their interests.

Sherry said it was necessary to make UFB representatives meet with their student groups earlier in the funding process.

Sam Gilman ’15, the unopposed candidate for UCS vice president, did not attend the debate because it conflicted with a conference he was attending in Washington, D.C.

“I wish I could have made it back for the debate,” Gilman told The Herald. “Despite missing the debate, I plan to put on a vigorous campaign in other ways.”

Gilman’s absence will not damage his campaign, since he has no competitors, said Caleb Miller ’16, UCS Elections Board chair and a senior staff writer for The Herald.

Though unopposed, Gilman must receive 5 percent of the student body vote to be elected.

There were no candidates for UFB vice chair present at the debate because there are no candidates for the position. Veerasamy and Sherry both said they would run for vice chair if they lost this election.

The debate was co-sponsored by The Herald and the UCS Elections Board. Voting opens Tuesday at noon and continues until Thursday at noon. A campus-wide email will be sent to students with a link to the voting survey.

This was the first time the moderator was affiliated with neither The Herald nor UCS, Miller said. He added that Tannenbaum was a “crowd favorite” and said the UCS Elections Board will ask her to moderate again next year.


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