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Outgoing UAP Katz recalls new initiative in UA

By Niraj S. Desai

The Undergraduate Association has shifted in the past year from being a largely reactive body to one capable of taking initiative, according to outgoing UA President Jonathan Katz '90. Looking back on his tenure as UAP, Katz cited this shift as a fundamental feature of the past year.

In particular, the UA was able to move out front on the issue of second-term freshman pass/no-credit grading, Katz said. The Institute proposal for changes in freshman grading was not put before the faculty until last month, while the Student Committee on Educational Policy issued its report last year, Katz noted.

Moreover, the educational reform debate this year has been much more open than the 1987 fight over revising the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences distribution requirement, according to Katz. The proposed HASS-D changes were not widely-publicized until shortly before the faculty was scheduled to vote on them -- not allowing much time for students to react. The result was a large amount of student complaint about both the proposed changes and the procedures that had been used.

This year, in an effort to avoid a repeat of the 1987 controversy, the administration and the UA made a conscious effort to alert students well ahead of time to the pending educational reform proposals, Katz said. He believed that all Institute committees that deal with curricular issues should work in public. There is no need for secrecy and there is a need to keep students informed, he said.

The UA also sought to open up to student input the process concerning the recently-approved 1989-90 tuition increase, Katz said. In the past, students often felt they had no input into how tuition increases were decided, nor did they really understand how such decisions were made. This year, President Paul E. Gray '54, on a suggestion by Katz, released a background paper explaining the need for the tuition increase; Gray also held an open forum with students to discuss tuition.

Katz credited the UA's increased activity in the past year, in part, to efforts to make the UA into a "single" organization. In the past, the different entities within the UA -- the Finance Board, Dormitory Council, etc. -- operated somewhat like separate organizations, Katz said. Katz and UA Vice President Ephraim Lin '90 sought to make the UA a more cohesive body, with authority more centralized in the UA Council. Katz noted that the Council has met regularly in the past year, attracting representatives from most parts of the community.

Moreover Katz and Lin tried to involve as many people as possible outside of the office of the President in the UA's efforts. Previously, the system was such that the UAP and UAVP alone controlled most of what the UA did, Katz said. Now, even after he and Lin leave office, there will be a number of people who have experience in the UA's operations and can continue one, Katz said.

Katz cited the UA Housing Committee's report, the formation of committee to study the operations of FinBoard, talks with the ARA Dining Services, and the regular publication of a UA newsletter as other examples of the UA's activity in 1988-89.

The MIT alcohol policy -- another issue that has confronted the UA -- remained relatively unchanged over the past year, Katz noted. MIT has moved away from toughened enforcement as a way to curb alcohol abuse and toward increased education, he said. While programs such as TIPS, which trains people to serve alcohol at parties, are not the whole solution, the UA has argued that they are the best method that MIT can employ.

At the same time as Katz and Lin were elected in March 1988, a referendum calling for students to be charged a fee to fund activities was defeated. The UA did not move strongly on activities funding last year as a result, Katz said. It would have been difficult for the UA to approach the administration for more money after the undergraduate student body had voted down the fee, he said. Katz said he still believes that a activities fee would be the best source of funding. Activities funding will be a major problem confronting the the student body in the future, Katz predicted.