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Editorial: Gourley ’16, Bhatla ’16 for UCS president, VP

Polls for the Undergraduate Council of Students and Undergraduate Finance Board elections open online Tuesday at noon, when all undergraduates will be emailed a link to the ballot. As voters consider the important choice of whom to select to lead next year’s student government, we endorse Sazzy Gourley ’16 for UCS president and Alana Bhatla ’16 for UCS vice president.

In the presidential race, voters have a choice between three candidates who all bring passion and thoughtfulness to the table: Justice Gaines ’16, a UCS general body member and a member of the Task Force on Sexual Assault, Zachary Nelkin ’17, a former UCS general body member, and Gourley, UCS vice president and chair of the UCS Outreach and Advocacy Committee. All three have drawn attention to the need for the University to revamp mental health resources and reform sexual assault policies while also positioning themselves as best suited to making UCS a more accountable and proactive organization. We applaud Gaines’ clear and resonant call for ensuring that administrators as well as UCS-appointed representatives respond to the diverse range of student voices on campus. And we are impressed by Nelkin’s bold and creative reform agenda aimed at breaking down the Council’s top-down structure to be more democratic.

But Gourley’s focus on building cross-campus relationships, proven track record of effectiveness and detailed knowledge of the urgent issues facing Brown set him apart as the best potential UCS president. Involved in Swearer Center for Public Service programs, a Departmental Undergraduate Group, Greek life and varsity athletics, Gourley is well positioned to bring disparate groups into constructive dialogue at a time when we believe Brown must remember the importance of respecting and listening to all community members. As UCS vice president, Gourley has shown a tireless commitment to implementing a best practices approach to reforming mental health policies, and he pledges to give underclassman members of UCS more agency to combat the council’s struggle to retain first-year talent. Gourley’s support for establishing uniform, understandable standards for sexual assault policy and his call for student activists’ demands to be supported alongside the general welfare of all students distinguish him as a leader who grasps both the urgency and complexity of key issues.

The vice presidential race provides voters with two candidates holding extensive UCS experience: Bhatla, UCS media director and former UCS treasurer, and Ryan Lessing ’17, chair of the UCS Admissions and Student Services Committee. While both Bhatla and Lessing echoed the general sentiment surrounding hot-button issues like sexual assault prevention and mental health in their platforms, each candidate placed varying degrees of emphasis on the current structural weaknesses of UCS governance. Lessing pushed an alternative, democratic structure for UCS characterized by a more uniform distribution among class years. Bhatla, alternatively, underscored the need to craft a heightened degree of transparency and welcoming atmosphere by way of more regular communication with the student body at large.

Though we appreciate the unparalleled parliamentary fluency and firm reformist approach offered by Lessing, the current climate at Brown requires a vice president to help in actively engaging with the plethora of communities on campus — a task that Bhatla is clearly positioned to achieve. Her long-standing tenure on UCS — paired with her involvement in Women in Science and Engineering, Brown University Sexual Education and peer advising — underscores this necessary degree of engagement, a quality that would complement Gourley’s agenda effectively. Bhatla’s platform properly weighs the true priorities on campus, and as such, best serves the Brown community at the current juncture.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Mathias Heller ’15 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to

Editors’ note: Due to personal conflicts of interest, Bluth, Contreras, Kaplan and Rattner recused themselves from the board’s endorsement process for UCS president.


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