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Editorial: We need greater student interest in UCS activity

The Undergraduate Council of Students’ leaders recently spoke to The Herald about the Council’s priorities for the spring semester, which echo last semester’s unfinished goals. Financial aid and advising remain at the top of the agenda, and last semester’s coal divestment decision — which left many students and faculty members disappointed with the Corporation’s leadership — has sparked the Council to call for greater Corporation transparency.

While UCS can boast a handful of victories, including President Christina Paxson’s recent announcement that the University will fund unpaid internships on a need basis, perennial qualms persist. There exists a widespread “culture of apathy” whereby students are disconnected from the decisions made by the University.

While UCS is theoretically the voice of the undergraduate body, the reality is that UCS offers a platform for only a small percentage of students to offer their voices. It is not enough for UCS to bear all the responsibility for prompting change; it is every student’s responsibility to participate in discussion and broadcast the issues he or she would like to see changed.

UCS should act like a government, wherein the most capable and worthy people are elected to represent the diverse interests of all students. We fall short of meeting this standard since many student government positions are not even contested in the elections. Just last spring, for example, only one candidate ran for the position of vice president. Only increased participation — more attendance at UCS debates, more students seeking active UCS roles, increased interest in those running for office, greater involvement at the polls — will ensure a system in which diverse student priorities are brought to the public stage.

In most cases aside from participation in student government, Brown students are far from apathetic. Last semester, many students were enraged by the Corporation’s decision not to divest from major coal companies, and they made their grievances known by forming student organizations and protests. That pent-up anger reached full throttle, erupting at the protests against New York City Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly, just days after the coal divestment decision. Students clearly care about the decisions the University makes, so with its reputation for liberal progress and activism, why does the student body detach from UCS?

By fighting for increased financial aid and greater University transparency, UCS is working to alleviate the issues that it knows are of significant importance to the overall population. It will take greater participation and interest in the Council’s agenda, however, before its influence can reach its full potential. There is little doubt that students’ voices hold weight, and UCS should be a mechanism that represents and amplifies them.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Matt Brundage ’15 and Rachel Occhiogrosso ’14, and its members, Hannah Loewentheil ’14 and Thomas Nath ’16. Send comments to


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