Three teams to run in UAP/VP election
By Seth Gordon
All three candidates for Undergraduate Association president pledge to improve communication between students and the UA if elected. The three candidates are Paul Antico '91, Adam Braff '91, and Luisa Contreiras '90. Their running mates are, respectively, Andrew Strehle '91, Shawn Mastrian '91, and Dave Atkins '90.
Antico has been treasurer, and Strehle president, of the Class of 1991 for the past two years. Antico served on the UA Finance Board and Ring Committee this year, and was vice chairman and "one of the founding fathers" of the UA's Ad Hoc Stress Committee. Strehle has been on the UA Executive Board since April 1988. Both live in Phi Sigma Kappa, where Antico has served as assistant treasurer for three terms and Senior Council-member for one term; Strehle has been house bylaws chairman since January of his freshman year.
Braff has taken on an outsider's view. His only experience with the UA has been some publicity work for the Educational Reform Dinners and the Class of 1991 Picnic. "Because we're not UA types," he said, "we think we can bring the ideas of the non-UA people -- that is, the majority of MIT -- into focus." Braff emphasized that although his campaign style was "lightening the atmosphere of the election," he was not a joke candidate.
Contreiras has "been involved with the UA and [Dormitory Council] for the past couple of years," including nine months as UA Council floor leader. She said that while on the UA, she has solicited a wide range of student opinions, made the UA active toward its goals, and dealt with whatever issues came before it. Atkins has worked with the Course Evaluation Guide for two years and served as CEG chairman last year. He said he once thought the UA was useless, and believed that his skeptical attitude compliments Contreiras' quick action on issues.
Contreiras and Antico thought that their experience with the UA would let them communicate better with others on the UA Council, and thus let them work more efficiently.
Braff wanted to concentrate on quality-of-life issues. The current UA, he said, has not addressed issue like the food service or the alcohol policy; the latter, he complained, was set by the administration with little feedback from students.
Braff also criticized MIT's educational reform policies. He remarked that although "we're being led to believe that the [Committee on the First-Year Program] is making a great attempt to ... find out how students feel about this," there was a general feeling that student opinion would not count for much.
Contreiras and Atkins wanted to use Course Guide to spur educational reform. The administration, said Atkins, has defined educational reform as changing requirements, but he believed that the problem was deeper. The quality of teaching, he insisted, has to be improved, and the best means for doing this was through Course Guide.
Contreiras, if elected, would use Course Guide to evaluate all subjects and compile a "comprehensive report" highlighting the best professors. Atkins noted that the Guide already evaluates almost every class in the School of Engineering, and that the Dean of Engineering uses a report based on those evaluations in departmental meetings. Contreiras and Atkins want similar reports released to the public for all departments. The administration, according to Contreiras, would not be able to ignore classes with consistently low ratings.
Student activities funding is a high priority for both Antico and Contreiras. Antico noted that the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs has given student activities $67,000 a year for the past twenty years, but that activities today are requesting four times that amount.
Antico wanted to improve activities' fund-raising abilities, both by teaching them how to do it well and by pressing the Institute to give students more space in which to raise funds.
Contreiras and Atkins said they would try to raise a student endowment to fund activities. Atkins hoped that the Institute will pledge matching funds for the venture.
Both Contreiras and Antico believed the UA should help unify the student body. They hoped to do this through campus-wide social and political events, like Spring Weekend and the recent tuition talk. Antico expressed concern that the UA was perceived as a West Campus body and praised former UA President Manuel Rodriguez '89 for moving UA Council meetings all over campus to attract other students. He and Strehle said they had done the same thing with Class Council meetings.
Atkins believed that while social events could bring students together, issue-based forums would ultimately hold them together and show them that the UA was doing something.
Contreiras and Atkins made it clear that they would not sacrifice living group autonomy in an effort build community spirit.
All the candidates believed that the UA should faithfully represent student opinion to the MIT administration. Antico thought that the InterFraternity Conference, Dormitory Council, and student activities should be able to "bounce [ideas] off" UA officers and come to the UA officers for support.
Braff felt that the UA should further the students' interests, rather than those of its officers; "A person shouldn't be elected UAP" if he has a "set, fixed agenda," he said.
Contreiras and Atkins said they want the UA to be active, not reactive.
Antico praised UAP Jonathan Katz '90 for dealing with issues through student reports and forums.
He and Atkins cited three ways to raise student activities funding: a student activities fee, improve student activities funding, and build a student endowment. The first option was voted down in a referendum last year. Antico and Strehle prefer the second, and Contreiras and Atkins the third.
Now, according to Antico, activities must reserve Lobby 10 space two months in advance. He hopes to expand the opportunities for students to raise funds, and teach new activities how to do it well. He will also consider putting elected student representatives on FinBoard. He also wants to alert students to how they are affected by the current shortage of funds.
Contreiras and Atkins want to raise a student endowment, the interest of which would go to fund student activities. Atkins hopes that the Institute will pledge matching funds. The exact amount raised, said Contreiras, will depend on the time and effort of the people raising it, but Atkins noted that it would be "orders of magnitude" below MIT's half-billion-dollar "Campaign for the Future."
It would be "politically unwise," said Atkins, for CEG itself to lobby for such a program, since the CEG chairman depends on departments for funding, and because the CEG is not accountable to the students at large, it isn't supposed to pursue educational reform. Contreiras claimed that having the UAP lobby for universal course evaluation emphasized its importance.
"It's not something we're going to ram down the Institute's throat," warned Atkins. Contreiras explained that they would justify their program from the Institute's point of view. WHATEVER THAT MEANS--Prabhat.