An election to recall Undergraduate Council of Students President Ricky Zhong ’23, finally, is imminent. As this election begins, there are two topics I’d like to address: why I helped organize this recall, and what it can accomplish.
I’ve seen significant discourse and speculation about why I worked to organize a recall. Explanations I’ve heard include that I’m a disgruntled election loser and that I’m seeking retribution.
Both accusations are patently false. My motivations for this are a matter of principle: a government cannot operate without accountability, and UCS has refused to be held accountable by internal checks and balances. This has been demonstrated by its failure to seat the Student Government Ethics and Accountability Board and dissolution of the general body. Therefore, it’s our responsibility as voters to exercise our only external check: participation in a recall election. It is imperative that we exercise our right to vote and hold UCS accountable.
Students deserve the right to express what student government means to them and how it should manifest. While I’m focused on UCS and the present recall, this movement to reform our student government is not an effort to abolish any specific branch of student government or smear any individual. Rather, it is an opportunity for students to decide how student government should serve them.
Should Zhong be successfully recalled, students will have issued a powerful and unprecedented message to future student governments at Brown University. A message that no individuals or groups can escape the rule of law nor the strong grip of an active, democratic system. We can demand change, making clear to UCS that they must reform their processes or forever be seen as an undemocratic club masquerading as a government.
When this recall vote is successful, the president will be stripped of his position and a special election will be held to replace him. Currently, UCS plans to hold this special election internally, meaning only members of UCS will be able to vote in it. I firmly believe that this election should be open to the student body. It would be abhorrent and anti-democratic for the organization to do otherwise.
After the selection of a new president, the Council’s immediate priority should be to reopen meetings, return to the use of Robert’s Rules of Order — which lays out the standard rules of parliamentary procedure — and restore language in the Code of Operations that provides for a general body. There are plenty of other priorities that we can undertake once the current leader is out and a new president is elected, such as rewriting the UCS Constitution, further uplifting student activism and voices, holding the administration accountable to student opinion and identifying new approaches to Spring Weekend — the planning for which students outside of the Brown Concert Agency have been left out of.
Whether or not you’ve personally engaged with UCS, this president’s actions represent a far-reaching subversion of your democracy and an active effort to avoid electoral accountability. It’s time that students issued a mandate for change. Vote "yes."
Christopher Vanderpool ’24 can be reached at email@example.com. Please send responses to this opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org and other op-eds to email@example.com.