In the Undergraduate Finance Board elections beginning today at noon, Lisa Schold ’19 and Drew To ’19 contend for the chair position while Julian De Georgia ’20 runs unopposed for vice chair.
The candidates’ platforms — which are available on the Undergraduate Council of Students’ website — speak to a variety of issues, including increasing the board’s transparency and improving relationships with student groups.
Election results will be announced at 10 p.m. Thursday night on the steps of the Stephen Roberts ’62 Campus Center.
The race for chair: Lisa Schold ’19
Schold is currently spending a semester abroad in three different countries and will be en route to Buenos Aires, Argentina, when election results are announced Thursday night.
“I’ve been … trying to coordinate this campaign while abroad, and it’s been kind of challenging with the time difference and all, but I hope I am expressing how important this election and this organization are to me,” Schold said over Skype.
From fall 2016 through fall 2017, Schold served as the UCS-UFB liaison. As UFB chair, Schold said she would further foster the relationship between UCS and UFB.
“Since UCS does officially create (UFB) policies, … it’s important that UCS is aware when UFB is having challenges with existing policies so that they can also be more involved in the process,” Schold said, adding that she would also look to add weekly UFB reports to UCS’ general body meetings.
Communication issues also exist between UFB and the student groups it finances: UFB sometimes struggles to convey to student groups how to adequately prepare to present their budgets to UFB.
“We have a rule where we’re supposed to meet with student groups before they go in to present their budget, but that doesn’t always happen because sometimes we don’t know who their financial signatory is, or … they don’t know who to contact,” Schold said. “I’m really hoping that we can make this a more fair process by either making sure that we are meeting with our student groups before they come in to present or having a formal resource so that student groups understand the process before they come into the meeting.”
Schold stressed the importance of transparency, considering that UFB manages “close to $2 million” in “student money through the student activities fee.” To this end, Schold’s platform includes a promise to publish end-of-semester reports regarding fund allocation.
When UCS and UFB voted to raise the student activities fee from $274 for each student this year to $286 next year, Schold said “it was a pretty frustrating experience.” Though Schold said the increase was necessary because of inflation, she thought any change “should be a little bit more of a larger campus conversation and not just within the select few who are voting to raise tuition slightly.”
“This is student money that we’re responsible for, and I really want people to understand where their money is actually going,” Schold said.
In her platform, Schold also said she would outline a process for funding Category S, or service groups. Category S groups became UFB-funded organizations last year, Schold said.
“The challenge is that UFB was created to allocate funds to Category III and II groups, not service groups, and so we don’t have any policies regarding service groups even though they’re very different,” Schold said. Last semester, UFB “had some forums where we talked to these group leaders, but there was a lot of confusion on both sides and I think there’s a lot of room to increase clarity,” she added.
If elected, Schold said she will work to increase student engagement with UFB so that students can hold the board accountable for its decisions.
“I understand that it can be hard because UFB is kind of a confusing process to navigate, but I’m hoping to really clarify that so that students are more aware of where their money is going, and who is on this board and what we do, … just to foster more communication and relationships with everyone,” Schold said.
The race for chair: Drew To ’19
To currently serves as vice chair of UFB and said he is running for chair to continue working with the wide range of student groups at the University.
“I’m really passionate about helping other people (and) making sure everyone on campus gets to enjoy what they like to do,” To said. “Brown isn’t just academics — it’s also the activities that each student does. That’s what really makes us cool.”
As vice chair, To has implemented feedback forms for student groups that work with UFB, which he plans to incorporate into his plans for the next year. “It was really useful, and I think we’re going to be putting that into effect in determining their funding for the coming year,” To said.
If elected chair, To said he would also work to expand the use of lump sum funding for student groups that hold regular events.
“Right now, UFB doesn’t technically fund lump sums, but there are some groups like (the Brown Concert Agency and) Lecture Board, where we do give a large portion of their budget through this idea of a lump sum. And it’s really inconsistent about how this policy is done because it’s not clearly written in our policies that this lump sum thing can happen,” To said.
In order to make the policy consistent, To proposes formulating “a process for some student groups to get funding in a lump sum type of format” for costs such as honorariums or annual events.
Any portion of the lump sum the group did not use for its event would be given back to UFB to fund other projects, as is currently the practice with BCA and Lecture Board, To said.
He also emphasized the importance of increasing student groups’ involvement with UCS so they have the opportunity to contribute to any policy changes.
“When we make our policies, it’s very much in a vacuum — we’re arguing with one another about what we think is right (and) what we think we should do, but there’s really little input from student leaders and such, which could provide us another dimension to look at,” he added.
To ensure that UFB’s relationship with student groups remains stable as groups go through leadership changes, To said UFB could meet with student leaders to plan for their successors.
“Maybe a (UFB representative) can sit down with the current treasurer (and) the financial signatory and hash out a plan for next year that would be guided by the budget they’ve submitted this current year,” To said. “So that when these people graduate, the group can still operate and understand what happened last year and why.”
In his platform, To promises not to request an increase to the student activities fee for the 2019-20 academic year.
“This current year, I worked on the proposal to increase the student activities fee, and I believe that the amount that we got from this increase is more than enough to cover us,” To said.
If elected, To said he would work to ensure fair, consistent policy.
“The reason I’m in this is not a resume boost or anything — it’s just because I do believe in UFB,” To said. “I really do want to make sure that UFB is consistent … (and) going the distance to help out all the student groups that we have under our purview.”
The race for vice chair: Julian De Georgia ’20
De Georgia runs unopposed for vice chair one year after current UFB vice chair To narrowly defeated him for the position. De Georgia has served on UFB since his freshman year and said he hopes to improve communication with student groups as vice chair.
“Ever since I got on the board, I started to realize that there’s a lot of things that we can improve,” De Georgia said. “In particular, it’s often quite challenging for student groups to find out about our policies (and) learn about the process, and that’s led to a lot of frustration.”
To better inform student groups, De Georgia said he envisions UFB having “a stand-alone website that’s just easier to maneuver (and) easier to use.” UFB recently launched a new website that is part of the UCS website.
“I also think that we need to do a publicity campaign to inform students about the resources that are available,” De Georgia said. “It’s one thing to have the resources there, but if it’s not easy to access and if student groups don’t know that it’s there, (then) that’s not going to help anybody.”
Going into next year, establishing a central online source for all information about UFB will be the board’s most important pursuit, De Georgia said.
“The most important thing is creating that website, creating an effective place for students to go and get all the information that they need about UFB easily,” De Georgia said. “That would make the biggest difference for student groups.”
Like both candidates for UFB chair, De Georgia emphasized the importance of transparency. One way to increase transparency would be “to notify groups whenever anything meaningful happens, such as policy change,” De Georgia said.
Students also “have the right to know where” their student activities fee is going, De Georgia said. “Currently, they don’t. Currently, there’s no transparency at all, there’s no way for you as a student, as a leader of a student group, to … get any sort of information about where that money’s going other than by talking to your representative and kind of trying to wheedle some information (out of) that person.”
To address this issue, De Georgia said he would “create a report that analyzes that information of where that money is going into different categories.”
This report would not only increase transparency, but would also help UFB better “understand where we can improve and whether or not the funding that we’ve been doing is really a fair allocation of the resources that we’re granted by the students,” he added.