Candidates offer views at forum
By Andrea Lamberti
The Freshman Housing Committee proposal, relations with MIT's next president and ARA were some of the issues discussed at the Undergraduate Association candidate forum Wednesday night.
The three teams for UA president and vice president presented their platforms and took questions from the audience. The candidates are Thomas S. Kang '91 and Jon D. Strizzi '92; David W. Hogg '92 and David M. Stern '91; and Manish Bapna '91 and Colleen M. Schwingel '92. Class officer candidates also spoke.
streamlining the UA
The Kang/Strizzi platform is a series of proposals to improve the UA and the quality of life at MIT. Central to the platform is a "list of what we think are major concerns facing the undergraduate body right now," Kang said.
In order to "make the UA a more publicized and efficient organization," Kang and Strizzi said they would increase publicity through a biweekly UA publication and create the position of a UA publicity chair.
The two also said they thought the UA should work with class representatives to help them get funding for activities. One of their proposals, Strizzi said, was to allot "each individual class council . . . its own budget. It is a much more effective way for them to put out the publications they need and to sponsor the initiatives" they want. Strizzi added that their goal was to "streamline the way the UA operates," which would improve funding obstacles.
The Kang/Strizzi platform also lists possible ways to "get more funding for student activities." These include a line item in the MIT budget -- not associated with tuition -- that "assigns funds directly to the UA," and "more permanent fund raising schemes for each class." They would also create a UA Fund Raising Chairman, and search for alternative funding sources outside of MIT.
to next MIT president
One of the main concerns of the Bapna/Schwingel platform is the incoming Institute president and new administration. There is an opportunity for "a new relationship" with the next administration, Bapna said. The next UA president and vice president will be in a unique position to build a relationship with the new president of MIT, and the Bapna/Schwingel team would focus on strengthening that relationship, they said.
To build a strong undergraduate rapport with the new administration and with the faculty, Bapna and Schwingel proposed monthly dinners for faculty and students. They also wanted to see the UA president and vice president increase their voice at faculty meetings, Bapna said.
Many new issues have been passed, Bapna said, and "student opinion has not been reflected" in the new policies. This reflected the lack of a solid relationship between the UA and the administration, he said. "We'd like to work with the administration, not against it."
Because "the president, the provost and the faculty do not respect the UA, or student opinion . . . we get a chance with the new administration coming in . . . to create a new relationship," Bapna said.
Another of Bapna and Schwingel's goals, they said, was to provide a variety of "tangible services" for students, such as a shuttle service to Logan International Airport for vacations, a shuttle to the Stop & Shop supermarket on Saturdays, and a shuttle to the Coop during registration week.
The Bapna/Schwingel platform includes several proposals for improving food service on campus. Although it was likely that ARA's contract will be renewed, Bapna said, "We can still lobby for improvements." They would push to extend dinner hours to 8 pm or 8:30 pm, and support hot breakfasts at Walker Memorial and in the dormitory cafeterias.
The third UAP/UAVP team, Hogg and Stern, focused on several precise issues at the forum. They took a stand on matters such as recycling, the alcohol policy, ARA, sexual harassment and condom machines.
Based on unofficial Hogg/Stern student opinion polls, the team concluded that if MIT decided to renew ARA's contract, it would be a decision made without student input, or in spite of students' low opinions of the food service. Both of these cases are "lamentable," Hogg said.
To solve problems like this based on a lack of communication, Hogg and Stern proposed a biweekly newsletter as a forum for student opinion. They would make "opinion clear so that the administration couldn't claim ignorance" of student opinion, Hogg said. "We hope to inform the administration of student opinion, and hope they act on it," he added.
Regarding sexual harassment, Stern said, "As UA president and vice president, we will work with all interested students and faculty to create a book on sexual harassment, which we will distribute to all students, faculty and TAs." They would also encourage the Institute to "make formal action about harassment easier" and more effective, Stern said.
Regarding the alcohol policy, Stern said, "We want to have responsible drinking." But students should be participating in the discussion of the rules, he added.
Their campaign also calls for the "Institute to put condom machines in each dormitory" and maintain them. Hogg and Stern pledged to personally maintain the machines if the Institute did not.
The Hogg/Stern stance on recycling is one of optimism. "We are optimistic that we can accomplish our goal of increasing [the amount of recycling] that occurs" on campus, Stern said.
Freshman housing proposal
One major issue discussed at the forum was the Freshman Housing Committee report that came out last November. The report recommends that freshmen live in preassigned rooms and that rush be delayed until the spring semester.
In reaction to the report, Kang and Strizzi "[have] a lot of specific ideas in mind," Strizzi said. "What we want to do is come out and say what a new freshman housing report should have."
The Kang/Strizzi "substantial platform" itemizes these ideas, one of which is a UA collective to gather and distribute student opinion on the issue of undergraduate housing. The collective would consist of living group representatives, who would serve as "a liason between each living group and the UA collective," Kang said.
Bapna and Schwingel felt the freshman housing proposal was "one of the most important issues" of the election. Bapna said there were two forces behind the housing report. First, the faculty "[feel] that there is too much pressure on students at the beginning" of their MIT careers. Second, alumni tend to donate to living groups after graduation, not to MIT.
Bapna argued that these problems "will not be solved" by the FHC's proposed changes. Bapna and Schwingel's proposal to counter the FHC report would "allow freshmen to select their own housing, but have orientation precede rush to relieve initial anxiety at MIT."
If elected, Kang and Strizzi would create the position of UA publicity manager to improve communication between the UA and undergraduates. The Kang/Strizzi platform pledges to "inform undergraduates of UA issues and initiatives through regular publications and informative Tech advertisements."
To improve communication between students and the UA, Bapna and Schwingel would post the names of UA Council representatives in the living groups. They would also post a "flame sheet" for students to express their criticisms and complaints.
When asked how they would strengthen the voice of student opinion to the administration, other than merely saying, "This is how the students feel," Hogg responded, "I think we can take a strong stand and fight the administration when they refuse to listen to us."