The Student Government Association, a group formed to foster better communication between the different branches of student government, hosted an open platform event for spring elections this Tuesday afternoon. The event allowed candidates for all three branches — the Undergraduate Council of Students, the Undergraduate Finance Board and the Class Coordinating Board — to discuss their campaign platforms with students.
Attendance of the event was required for all candidates for president of each branch, The Herald previously reported.
UCS Chair of Health and Wellness Emma Amselem ’24, UCS Student Activities Committee Chair Ricky Zhong ’23 and Chas Steinbrugge ’24 are competing for the UCS presidency, while UCS Chair of Campus Life Mina Sarmas ’24 is running uncontested for the vice presidency.
UFB At-Large Representative Amienne Spencer-Blume ’23 is running uncontested for UFB chair while UCS-UFB Liaison Johann Dizon ’24 and UFB First Year Representative Arjun Krishna Chopra ’25 are running for vice chair.
The open platform event included speeches by the presidential candidates in Sayles Hall and was followed by a meet and greet between candidates and students on the Main Green.
According to current UCS President Summer Dai ’22, the debates hosted in previous years asked the same questions to all candidates running for a certain position and the answers were “more or less similar.” The open platform event provides candidates with “more flexibility to talk about their ideas and values” and is less intimidating, thus encouraging more participation in the election process, she added.
SGA decided to host an outdoor meet and greet because they “want candidates to get the opportunity to talk to as many people as possible,” Dai said.
Common issues mentioned by candidates were housing selection, dining, sustainability and the UFB surplus, which was approximately $1.2 million in the fall, The Herald previously reported.
Chopra emphasized that they hope to spend the UFB surplus by making at least half of tickets to UFB-funded events free and by working with the Office of Residential Life to ensure laundry is either free or subsidized.
Amselem addressed sustainability, mentioning that she wished to continue a yearly sustainability fair she organized this year.
A common theme in all the candidates’ speeches was supporting and strengthening communications between the student body, student government and the University administration, with UCS and UFB acting as liaisons.
“All UFB needs to be successful is … clear communication and (the student body’s) clear understanding of what UFB does and what the student body can do with the money that they paid for,” Dizon said.
Steinbrugge emphasized the importance of communicating with the student body. “My main priority is to use my background in … communications (to) talk about (the current issues) more publicly with students on social media … to make sure they have a bigger voice,” he said.
Some candidates also emphasized collaboration between student groups and the student government on top of this communication.
Zhong talked about building “a coalition of … student leaders and student groups that will advocate for changes on the most relevant (issues),” citing his experience in working with “hundreds of student groups” during his three years serving on UCS and two years serving on UFB.
Another recurring theme among candidates was giving back to the campus community.
“The student activism on campus taught me to … advocate for social inclusion and change,” said Zhong. “The desire to give back to the Brown community shapes every single thing I do with regard to student government.”
During the meet and greet, candidates introduced their platforms to students walking by and answered any questions they had.
Dizon explained to a student that his platform doesn’t propose specific UFB policies for a fear of making empty promises and that UFB policies are a collaborative effort of the whole board.
Voting for UCS, UFB and CCB positions opens today and closes April 15, with results being announced April 18. Undergraduates can vote through a link sent via email.
Kathy Wang is a senior staff writer who covers the University's Undergraduate Council of Students and Undergraduate Finance Board. She is a sophomore from Beijing, China studying Nonfiction Writing and Comparative Literature.