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UCS elects new VP, chair of academic affairs

William Zhou ’20 replaces Camila Pelsinger ’20 as VP, Jimenez ’21 elected Chair of Academic Affairs

The Undergraduate Council of Students elected Co-Chief of Staff William Zhou ’20 as its new vice president and Sofia Jimenez ’21, who served as the Council’s Communications Director, as its new chair of academic affairs in an internal election during its general body meeting Wednesday evening.

UCS also voted in confidence of President Shanzé Tahir ’19 after Tahir gave a presentation on the Council’s past and ongoing projects.

UCS held the elections after Camila Pelsinger ’20 and Mar Weiss ’20 formally resigned from their positions Wednesday afternoon as vice president and chair of academic affairs, respectively, The Herald previously reported.

Following his election, Zhou told The Herald that “UCS as a whole is working really hard on outreach to the Brown community. We will be publishing a master list of all the speakers who are coming into our meetings.” He added, “If (students) have issues that they want UCS … to hear about, or just be updated about campus news … please come check out the UCS meetings” or reach out to a UCS member.

Zhou ran against Molly Naylor-Komyatte ’19, the co-chief of staff, and Jason Carroll ’21, the appointments chair, for the vice presidency. Jimenez and UCS Secretary Vanessa Garcia ’20.5 ran for chair of academic affairs.

Fifteen voting members of the Council were present and eligible to cast ballots in the two elections, though candidates could not vote in the races in which they ran. Tahir was only allowed to cast a vote in the event of a tie, according to provisions of the UCS By-Laws and Code of Operation. No ties occurred, said Austin Lessin ’19, the Council’s treasurer.

Each candidate was given two minutes to speak before participating in a five-minute question-and-answer period.

In his speech, Zhou said running for the vice presidency last spring — when he lost to Pelsinger — gave him the opportunity to speak with “a lot of different student leaders.” Through those conversations, Zhou added that he learned  “UCS needs to continue improving our transparency, our collaboration and the amount of resources we provide to student leaders who drive a lot of the change we see on campus.”

Zhou discussed his goal “to improve UCS and make it a better advocate for student voice as well as represent the multifaceted identities in the Brown community.” Citing his experience as a Meiklejohn Peer Advisor, his work with the Office of Sustainability and First-Gens@Brown, Zhou said, “I’ve shown that I can work across communities to effect change, and I really want to bring that experience to support” UCS and “to push the boundary on what UCS can be.”

In her speech, Naylor-Komyatte addressed concern over the proposed Title IX regulations released by the U.S. Department of Education in November. “I’m particularly interested in sexual violence prevention, and I think now is a particularly timely point for the VP to work on that kind of project,” she said.

Referencing her work as a Women’s Peer Counselor and a Community Advisor, Naylor-Komyatte said she has been acquainted with “the various challenges that students face navigating University resources, especially the different loci of marginalized identities.”

In his speech, Carroll mentioned ideas including obtaining clean drinking water in all student dorms and making sure that all student groups have Brown-affiliated email addresses.

“One of the biggest roles of a VP is working on stuff inside UCS, so for example, I want to make it easier for us to work across UCS and across class years,” he said.

After a closed period of deliberation and a written secret ballot vote among the 12 voting members eligible to cast ballots for the vice presidency, UCS held an election for the chair of academic affairs. 

In her speech before the election, Jimenez said her main goal as chair of academic affairs would be “highlighting what Brown already has and emphasizing that there are certain support groups and things in place that can be publicized further.”

Through her work as communications director, Jimenez said she tried “to brand UCS as more of an accessible place for students to come to for their problems and hopefully bring in the effective change they want to.”

Garcia, who is a member of the Council’s academic affairs committee, discussed their work in adjusting the wording of the University’s academic warning letters and implementing cash awards for peer advisors.

Thirteen voting members of UCS elected Jimenez to the chair position after a second closed period of deliberation.

A vote of confidence for Zhou will be cast later in the semester, Tahir said.

UCS declined to disclose the number of votes cast for the candidates running in the two races following a request from The Herald. The Council conducted a secret ballot for both elections and asked the press, the body’s non-voting members and the candidates to leave the room for each vote and its preceding discussion. According to the By-Laws and Code of Operations for UCS, voting in special elections “shall be by secret ballot in the form of instant run-off voting with each voting member listing their candidate preferences in descending order.”

“It’s a secret ballot, and we believe strongly in preserving that,” Lessin told The Herald after the meeting’s conclusion. “There was a member of the Elections Board present at all times supervising all of the counting. Because it’s a secret ballot, we are going to preserve … that and not disclose those results.”

UCS also did not disclose the number of votes of confidence cast for Tahir. According to the By-Laws and Code of Operations for UCS, the vote of confidence must occur “in a secret ballot form where only the counters will know the results.”

Project LETS Chapter Co-Coordinator Yema Yang ’19 was initially supposed to speak to the general body, but the election proceedings took up the entire meeting time.

An earlier version of this article stated that UCS Vice President William Zhou '20 cited his work with Christians at Brown. In fact, he referred to his work with First-Gens@Brown. The Herald regrets the error.


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