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Candidates compete for UFB chair, vice chair positions

Current chair runs unopposed for reelection, three candidates compete for vice chair position

Current Undergraduate Finance Board Chair Akilesh Raman ’22 is running unopposed for reelection to his position, with Kushagra Agarwal ’22, Claire Brown ’22 and Daniel Yadegar ’22 competing in the race for vice chair.

The voting period for UFB and Undergraduate Council of Students elections begins today, during which students can vote via an online form sent to their email.

Candidate platforms are available on the UCS website for students to view before casting their vote.

The voting period will run through March 26, after which election results will be announced via a Zoom meeting open to the student body. 

Last year’s elections were the first to be held virtually due to their occurrence days after the University asked students to leave campus in light of the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. Now, one year later, the Council is again holding elections virtually due to the remote learning circumstances necessitated by COVID-19.

The race for chair: Akilesh Raman

Raman, who served on the Board first as an at-large representative and then as chair, sees his work with UFB as an opportunity to use his interest and knowledge of finance to “create an impact in a tangible way,” he said.

This past year, much of his work centered around transitioning UFB into the online environment necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This task required the creation of new systems where groups could submit budgets online, which became “a fairly complex logistical process to manage,” Raman said. 

Despite the challenges of a virtual semester, Raman noted that holding meetings with clubs over Zoom increased the Board’s ability to connect with student groups this past year.

“If you are a UFB representative you’re going to have to communicate with (student groups) multiple times to try to understand more about the group’s mission (and) to try to understand what your fellow students want and what they need,” said Raman, who hopes to find ways to continue building these relationships after the pandemic.  

Raman has also led the group in its efforts to improve efficiency and outreach. Over the past year, the Board has “streamlined the process” of applying for funding in an effort “to make (its) decisions faster,” Raman said. Two subcommittees within UFB, the Transparency Committee and the Outreach Committee, also worked to increase accessibility to UFB and its resources. 

When talking about his goals for the next year, Raman shared his ethos around his work with UFB. “I largely view progress on UFB as very incremental and very gradual,” he said. “I’m hoping to make things even more efficient than they were in the past year.” 

Raman recognized that UFB still has “a pretty large surplus” despite spending some of it after the University eliminated the Student Activities Fee for the fall semester. “I’m looking forward to ironing down how we’re looking to use” the surplus, he said.

When deciding what to do about the surplus of $1.6 million, Raman plans to speak with student groups. “There is a lot of value in simply engaging with student groups and hearing their perspective,” he said. These conversations will help the Board understand where there may be a need for new policies, whether that be “expanding support” for Category I groups or increasing their “baseline of funding,” Raman continued. 

Acknowledging that he is running unopposed, Raman said “I want groups to know that … our primary goal has been supporting student groups” and that he has “no plans of changing that” in the upcoming year. 

The race for vice chair: Kushagra Agarwal

Although he has now served as a UFB representative for a year, Agarwal credits his interest in student group funding to his time as treasurer of the South Asian Student Association during the fall 2019 semester. 

Having served on both sides of UFB funding activities, Agarwal identified a “cultural issue, where people are comfortable with things going the way they are” as one of the largest obstacles the Board currently faces. “When I had the chance to look at the bigger picture, I realized that a lot of things need to change,” he added.

Agarwal’s campaign is focused on “breaking down the status quo by figuring out what’s not working well, starting to have conversations and giving clubs more power by increasing baseline funding and using the surplus to fund more requests,” he said.

Because many student groups are unaware of how UFB allocates funding and what UFB’s policies include, Agarwal said, the Board’s decision-making process can often seem subjective and opaque. UFB’s policies should be sorted by category on the Board’s website to make them more accessible and to increase transparency and access, he said.

Agarwal also addressed debates about the equity of UFB’s funding practices among different student groups, noting that he wants to interrogate these practices and “do so much more” for cultural and service groups. 

Speaking about the current surplus, Agarwal expressed that he “want(s) to start focusing on how we can use that surplus to start framing policies … and to fund larger requests that could not have been funded in the past.”

Agarwal added that he wanted to explore investing the surplus, the returns of which would help the Board “do more” to serve student groups and increase overall group funding levels, he added.

The race for vice chair: Claire Brown

Brown cited her experience on UFB, the Class Coordinating Board and on Brown Mock Trial as instrumental in her decision to run for the vice chair position. These roles have allowed her to become “familiarized with UFB, the whole budgeting process and what it’s like to budget for highly-funded groups,” she said.

As a financial signatory for Mock Trial, Brown had the opportunity to attend UFB working groups last year from the perspective of a student group representative. “In that position, I had the opportunity to … hear about how many inequities in funding there were, and it pushed me to realize that Mock Trial and a lot of these other highly-funded groups’ (funding practices) were not great,” Brown said.

After getting elected to UFB last year, Brown “fell in love with the work” and “interfacing with students,” she said. “I was already really interested in the entire budgeting process and especially trying to make funding a lot more equitable,” Brown added, which later inspired her to run for the Student Activities Chair position on UCS to learn more about student group relations with UCS and UFB.

“Having exposure from as many angles as possible, I’ve realized that UFB really is the best fit for me and is something I’m really passionate about,” Brown said.

Speaking about her platform, Brown said that she would “really like to see UFB do a lot better with accessibility, transparency and digestibility,” noting that she specifically would like to make the Board’s online policy page more organized and easier to read.

“I also want to try and have a lot more direct interfacing between UFB and student groups,” Brown continued. An example would be for UFB to begin holding semesterly funding workshops between individual UFB representatives and the groups they oversee, she said.

“Helping student groups and supporting them is something that I am truly, genuinely deeply passionate about,” Brown said, adding that she would love to have the opportunity to keep working with student groups to increase funding accessibility.

The race for vice chair: Daniel Yadegar

Yadegar’s current involvement as an undergraduate representative on University committees related to financial aid was a large factor in his decision to run for vice chair. 

Having served on the University’s Financial Aid Advisory Board subcommittee, Yadegar has had the opportunity to work with University administrators in the Financial Aid Office as well as other student leaders and officials on campus, he said.

“For the past few years, it has been a really wonderful opportunity for me to learn about financial aid policies and have a direct contribution to improvements and feedback in relation to Brown’s financial aid policies,” Yadegar added.

Additionally, Yadegar has served as the vice chair of development to UCS’ chair of appointments, which he said has been a valuable experience in working at the intersection of student government, student groups and students themselves.

If elected, Yadegar would advocate for the establishment of “bang for your buck” workshops, which would offer general financial literacy classes led by UFB representatives for students and student groups. The sessions would be “aimed at improving and increasing financial literacy (and) familiarity with skills that are necessary for creating a successful budget, (such as) using Excel to create spreadsheets,” he said.

Yadegar is also committed to “strengthening communication channels with the student groups we represent that are devoted specifically to improving student diversity and inclusion on campus,” he said.

Touching on past campus discussions about inadequate funding for service groups on campus, Yadegar described service groups as “an important part of the Brown experience (that strengthen) bonds between the Brown community and the external community.”

Yadegar also highlighted transparency as a key issue that he hopes to address, citing online feedback forms as a potential initiative toward making the Board more transparent and accountable toward the student groups it serves.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that voting closes March 24. In fact, the voting period was changed to end March 26. The Herald regrets the error.


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