UA candidates discuss issues
By Joanna Stone
It's countdown time for Undergraduate Association elections and candidates for president and vice president are currently scurrying from one end of the campus to the other determined to prove their ticket will provide the best solution to current UA problems.
The elections for UAP and UAVP and for class offices will be held tomorrow.
Three UAP/UAVP teams -- Thomas S. Kang '91/ Jon D. Strizzi '92, Manish Bapna '91/ Colleen M. Schwingel '92 and David W. Hogg '92/ David M. Stern '91 -- presented their views on various issues in Sunday night's debate, sponsored by MIT Student Cable.
All three platforms agreed that the UA must take action to improve the quality of current food and dining services. However, the administration's recent announcement that it is likely to renew ARA's contract runs contrary to these improvement plans.
"ARA was presented with a list of demands that it must meet by the end of the year or else the UA will come out in opposition to contract renewal," Schwingel noted at the debate Sunday night.
However, she added that this list was no longer sufficient in light of recent administration decisions. "But the UA must continue to lobby for improvements... the demands we make are reasonable ones" and there is no reason these demands could not be met, Schwingel said.
Another result of the administration's recent announcement concerning ARA was that the Hogg/Stern promise to "Boot ARA" is no longer feasible.
"The problem is that ARA has a monopoly on food service and therefore has no incentive to improve quality," said Stern. "If we introduce competition into the food service, such as putting LaVerde's on meal cards, we will inspire a higher quality of food service."
Schwingel echoed the need for competition and added that longer dinner hours and hot breakfasts should also be on the agenda. Kang agreed that food quality should be improved but said he sees it as a part of a more important issue, namely "increasing the quality of undergraduate life."
The candidates unanimously denounced the Freshman Housing Committee's proposal. According to Stern, "No student would vote for a candidate who supported the proposal."
The only platform to offer a specific alternative to the current proposal was the Bapna/Schwingel ticket. According to Bapna the best way to decrease the stress of rush week is to give students a chance to adjust to MIT before rush. "This can be accomplished by having approximately five days of orientation precede rush," he said.
The other two platforms stressed the need for more student involvement in any R/O alternative. The Kang platform outlined a step-by-step plan on how this student involvement would be achieved. The first step in this plan would be the formation of a "UA Collective" composed of representatives from all independent living groups and dormitories.
The candidates also discussed sexual harassment. All three tickets agreed that the administration must be encouraged by the UA to adopt a new policy.
Hogg expressed the need for a published booklet of guidelines and procedures concerning sexual harassment to be sent to all students, faculty and teaching assistants. In the event that MIT does not adopt a new policy, Hogg said he believes such a booklet should be sent out anyway, the only difference being that guidelines would be suggested rather than policy.
Bapna and Schwingel stressed the additional need for forums and colloquiums in which speakers would be brought in to discuss harassment issues and make students more aware of the causes and effects of harassment.
Although Kang and Strizzi said they strongly agree with the other two platforms on the importance of improving sexual harassment education and policy, many students have questioned question their sincerity.
Recently Strizzi, as co-social chair of ATO, commissioned a T-shirt for ATO's annual Heaven and Hell party. The T-shirt depicted a man holding a bikini top with an angel and a devil on his shoulders. The devil said, "Do it. You know she wants it," while the angel cautioned, "You'll regret it."
The T-shirts stirred a great deal of controversy and claims that the shirts promoted sexual harassment/assault. ATO destroyed the shirts before the party and formally apologized for any grievances they may have caused.
"In hindsight I realize the shirts were a mistake. But in all situations it is inevitable that mistakes will be made. I think the important thing is to judge me not by the fact that I made a mistake, but on the fact that I reacted quickly and effectively to correct my mistake," Strizzi said.
Strizzi added that the final result of this experience was to further emphasize, in his mind, the importance of set guidelines and more student education concerning sexual harassment.
"If the definition of sexual harassment had been more widely publicized and there had been a published guideline I could've consulted for what constitutes and what is thought to instigate sexual harassment ... the whole unfortunate incident could have been avoided," Strizzi said.
The Kang/Strizzi ticket feel they are different from the other tickets because they are the only platform looking at "the big picture."
According to Kang, "Rather than getting bogged down in specific issues like food service improvement, we will first revamp much of the current UA setup. Because until we have more student body involvement in the UA, we will not have the (human) resources to attend to the many specific issues."
Hogg and Stern address many issues not mentioned by the other candidates -- including fighting to allow dorms and ILGs to enact their own alcohol/party policies and support for recycling initiatives.
"In the course of our campaigning we came across many students who expressed great concern over these issues and our campaign priorities reflect this concern," Hogg said.
Another difference between the Hogg/Stern ticket and the other two tickets is that Hogg and Stern did not fill in an MIT activity record on their nomination petition and have not referred to any prior MIT extracurricular activities in support of their campaign.
"We have not been previously involved in the UA and we felt that we shouldn't have to rely on activities that do not relate to student government," Hogg said.
In contrast, the Bapna/Schwingel ticket feel their biggest asset is their activity record. "We have experience with the UA and you can see our motivation in the fact that we have been active," said Bapna, who is a member of the UA Finance Board. Schwingel is UA secretary general.
"Having been on the inside we know the techniques, we know what does work and what doesn't. From experience we know not to make the same mistakes," Bapna said.
The other platforms, however, point to this experience as negative. "What good is experience with UA when on the whole they don't do a lot?" asked Kang and Strizzi.