Jung Haye To ’24, outreach director of UCS, first heard about efforts to recall UCS President Ricky Zhong ’23 — a motion that the Undergraduate Council of Students approved last Monday — halfway through fall semester.
The recall election — which will ask students “Should Ricky Zhong be recalled from the office of UCS President?” — will begin at noon Monday and close after 48 hours. Results will be announced Wednesday night.
To views misinformation as one of the biggest challenges facing the recall election, adding that UCS will try to make sure the upcoming election is “free, fair and based on legitimate and true information.”
Debating recall legitimacy, motivations
To will vote to keep Zhong in office in the upcoming election, citing UCS’s efforts to instate free laundry for the rest of the spring semester, a new mailroom queue monitor and the Nelson Fitness Center’s online occupancy tracker as “really important” UCS initiatives started under Zhong’s tenure.
“I’ve never seen the effects of UCS’s changes as much as I do now,” To said. “People have been wanting and needing (these changes) for years now.”
To is also skeptical that recall efforts were motivated by “genuine concern for the Brown community.” Christopher Vanderpool ’24, who organized the recall petition, alleged in the petition that the UCS secretary was neglecting her duties to record “vote tallies on the acceptance of UCS Resolutions, Statements or changes to the UCS Code” on the UCS website, which To does not believe directly applies to the president’s work.
“No matter who ends up contributing or providing a certain responsibility, … as President it's your responsibility to ensure that your members are upholding the values of your organization and fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of their role,” Vanderpool said.
To added that there are ways other than a recall petition for community members to give feedback to UCS. Students can attend town halls, visit To’s outreach hours and contact Zhong directly.
Vanderpool said he was in contact with both Zhong and UCS Vice President Mina Sarmas ’24 early fall semester regarding his concerns, but that he felt these conversations were “very unproductive.” He added that he chose not to approach other members of the executive board because he felt unwelcomed by the organization.
According to To, UCS ultimately chose to move forward with the recall election to ensure the council does not set a precedent to use its “power (to) dismantle any recall” that students may bring in the future.
‘It’s not that deep,’ students say
Ruth Engelman ’25 heard about the recall election through social media and described the proceedings as “blown out of proportion.”
Though Engelman does not usually follow UCS politics, she feels that the criticism both Zhong and Vanderpool have received over the past several weeks is “over the top for a student government election.”
“It doesn’t matter very much to me honestly,” Engelman said, adding that she does not plan to vote in the recall election
When Catherine Paik ’25 first got news of the recall election, she assumed “something really bad (had) happened” because she had never heard of a recall happening in student government before.
Paik said she intends to further research the context behind the recall before voting.
Leanna Bai ’25 found out about Vanderpool’s recall efforts through various emails, social media postings and friends who are involved in student government, but said she thinks “it’s not that deep.”
“It’s a student government, not the President of the United States,” Bai added. Student government needs to have a more significant “presence in our Brown community for people to care about who” the president is.
Bai, who found the comments sections of Zhong’s recent Instagram statement regarding the recall “surprisingly inflammatory,” said that she feels “like an outsider” in the recall proceedings.
Bai added that she would rather not have a recall because she is “tired of constantly voting for another president.” Zhong was elected in a runoff election last spring after filing an appeal arguing that the original election procedures violated Article VIII of the UCS constitution, The Herald previously reported.
Ronald Yuan ’23.5 said he learned about the recall through friends and from various “signage and slips of paper strewn about” the Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center.
“It felt kind of out of left field to me,” Yuan said. But “I hope there’s some good discussion that is generated from this.”
Indigo Mudbhary is a University news senior staff writer covering student government. In her free time, she enjoys running around Providence and finding new routes.