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Candidates race for UCS presidency, vice presidency

Candidates address issues of dining, housing, communications

<p>This is the first spring elections under the newly formed Student Government Association’s standardized elections code.</p><p>Courtesy of Emma Amselem, Chas Steinbrugge, Ricky Zhong and Mina Sarmas</p>

This is the first spring elections under the newly formed Student Government Association’s standardized elections code.

Courtesy of Emma Amselem, Chas Steinbrugge, Ricky Zhong and Mina Sarmas

Election polls opened yesterday for the Undergraduate Council of Students, Undergraduate Finance Board and  Class Coordinating Board elections. UCS Chair of Health and Wellness Emma Amselem ’24, Chas Steinbrugge ’24 and UCS Student Activities Committee Chair Ricky Zhong ’23 are competing for the UCS presidency, while UCS Chair of Campus Life Mina Sarmas ’24 is running uncontested for the vice presidency.

Candidate platforms and their open platform event speeches are available in a Google Drive folder sent out by the Student Government Association via email on April 11. Polls close April 15, and results will be announced April 18 on the steps of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center at 7 pm.

These are the first spring elections under the newly formed SGA’s standardized elections code and are also the first in-person spring elections in two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The race for presidency: Emma Amselem ’24 

Amselem has served on UCS for two years: as a first-year representative last year and as the current health and wellness chair. During her time at UCS, Amselem has worked with University offices like the Office of Sustainability, Health Services and the Counseling and Psychological Services. She also implemented health and wellness programs such as the wellness fair, nutrition week and a winter clothing giveaway.

Amselem helped implement monthly health and wellness weeks, which included sexual violence prevention week last November, mental health week last December, two nutrition weeks this semester and a sustainability fair coming up in April, she said.

“I love representing people and like making thoughts, ideas (and) suggestions turn into actions,” Amselem said. “I’ve been able to establish relationships with (administration), so I think I have the capacity to make changes happen.”

Amselem’s platform focuses on community, sustainability and communication, according to her campaign poster.  

Amselem plans to reduce student stress, especially before finals, through wellness programs and a potential collaboration with the Brown University Relaxation Project. She also hopes to address sexual violence issues on campus by increasing survivor support, she said.

As president, Amselem would continue annual sustainability fairs and invite more “local businesses (and) student clubs to say what they do, what impact they have and how students can contribute,” she said.

She plans to partner with local sustainable businesses to give them more exposure and help students “find sustainable alternatives to things that they already do,” she added. 

In addition, Amselem wishes to facilitate clearer communication between University administration and the student body, particularly for the housing selection process.

“I’ve been working with admin and students these past two years, and I’ve done a lot of events in programming that I think prove that I take action and I listen to students,” Amselem said.

The race for presidency: Chas Steinbrugge ’24

Though he is not a member of UCS, Steinbrugge considers the current situation of UCS “really similar” to his high school student government, where he served as president. 

“In high school, we had a student government that wasn’t really communicating super effectively with the student body,” Steinbrugge said. “I took over, sort of reoriented it around engaging with students (and) hearing their concerns.”

With his experience in operating the Instagram account Brown University Memes — which students have used to air complaints about University policies — Steinbrugge has gained an understanding of these issues, he said. Given his experience with the account, Steinbrugge believes he’s “in a good position to understand what (students are) concerned about … (and) to express these views to the administrators.”

According to Steinbrugge, running his Instagram account and being UCS president go “hand in hand.” He added that he sees both as a way of speaking with “a large portion of the student body.”

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Steinbrugge’s platform revolves around more immediate communications between students and administration when issues arise, he said.

He also plans to improve the housing lottery by forming a special committee that brings student input to the Office of Residential Life, as well as reform dining services by advocating for shorter lines, longer hours, a larger fruit selection and better conditions for BDS workers. 

“In the past, UCS hasn’t … always focused on the most pressing issues for students,” Steinbrugge said. “Someone … who has proved that they can communicate with the student body effectively … (will be able to represent) their interests to the administration.”

The race for presidency: Ricky Zhong ’23

Zhong has served three years on UCS and two years on UFB. During his time on UCS and UFB, he has “helped manage the entire club pipeline,” from student group application approval to student group recategorization to UFB funding access, said Zhong.  

According to his campaign poster, Zhong has reduced the wait time for student group supplemental funding access by a year, increased student group baseline funding by $300 per semester and worked with hundreds of student groups during his time at UCS.

“I think the community at Brown has given me so much,” he said, adding that he wants “to give back to the community to make positive quality of life changes and to … turn UCS into this transformative engine where we are working with student groups.”

Zhong mentioned that the work he has done as student activities chair has enabled him to better appreciate the campus community. Out of the approximately 400 student groups on campus, he has worked with “at least 300 of them” to learn about their missions and events, he said. “The kind of spirit that they are bringing back, especially post pandemic … (was) just very inspiring to me,” he added.

He added that serving on the Student Labor Alliance, a worker solidarity student group, for two years before the pandemic taught him the “importance of listening to people” and how to communicate effectively and persuasively.

In the upcoming year, Zhong wishes to center his work on improving quality of life for students as well as supporting community wellness and student groups, according to his campaign poster. 

Zhong plans to remove paper straws from the Ivy Room, eliminate the hourly two-swipe limit of meal swipes, increase funding for club sports and create a coalition of student groups on campus which would facilitate student communications with ResLife, he said. 

In addition, Zhong hopes to transform UCS general body meetings — which are more or less internal and can be intimidating for students outside of UCS to participate in, he said — into weekly townhalls, where any student can step in and voice their concerns. 

Zhong wishes to continue his past support for student groups’ missions and campaigns and make mid-year student group recruitment easier by providing the student body with clearer descriptions and making it easier for clubs to book spaces, he said.

Another goal Zhong has is to ensure that progress on UCS projects is not lost when there are leadership transitions within the Council, he said.

The race for vice presidency: Mina Sarmas ’24

Sarmas has served on UCS for two years, beginning as first-year representative and later as chair of campus life. She initially focused on increasing communications to guide first-year students and later carried out initiatives like the winter clothing program to recycle clothing between students. Currently, she is developing resources for students moving off-campus, such as an explanation of local laws, and is working on providing consistent access to menstruation products on campus.

Next year, she wants to take “a more flexible and administrative role in student government,” Sarmas said.

The role of UCS vice president “is a bit less pointed than campus life,” she said. Sarmas hopes to  “better (UCS’s) position as that middle ground between students and admin” and open “more channels for communication,” she added. 

Sarmas’ platform focuses on student wellness, student life and activities, University transparency and UCS reform, according to her campaign poster. 

She wishes to complete her current projects for student wellness like the menstruation project — which aims to fill and monitor menstruation product dispensers around campus — and increasing student access to confidential HIV and STI testing.

Additionally, Sarmas hopes to fill the gap of communication between students and ResLife in terms of on-campus housing. She also aims to incorporate the voices of student groups into UCS initiatives by having UCS open hours. 

Sarmas also plans to create a comprehensive guide to University resources as part of her goal to increase University transparency and facilitate better communications between students and administration.

Overall, Sarmas wishes to reform UCS into a “more functional student government” by improving initiative visibility and channels of student feedback, she said.



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