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For undergrads, a time for thanks

Thanksgiving is usually on the last Thursday of November. Here at MIT, it comes after the second Wednesday of March. That is the time we all give thanks to the end of the inane Undergraduate Association election process. I thus present to you a list of the things most tedious about the process.

Before I start flaming, it will probably be prudent to look at all the good the process creates. First and foremost is all the copy it generates for The Tech. The debates, forums, election results, and all the inflammatory letters which result from the elections are worth a good eight or nine articles. This means beefier Techs, which is good for those of us with too much time to kill, boring classes, or a desperate need for exercise.

The winning candidates also benefit from the process. Gee, Shawn, you mean they get to develop their leadership skills which will undoubtedly be a great benefit to them as they begin their trek through the real world? No, they get to put "class clown" or the like on their resumes, and these winners need all the help they can get in finding a job.

On the other, and much larger, hand: things I hate about the process. The worst thing has to be the "issues." Every year, candidates base their platforms on reforming the UA, improving ARA, and whatever was in The Tech on the day they wrote their platforms. Every year, the UA remains an invisible organization: ARA still sucks, and the other issues die of old age. And every year, the UA allocates more and more money on office furniture so the victors have a comfy place to rest between classes. As an aside, do any of you know who the people are on your class council, and what they havedone during their tenure other than get elected?

Another thing that I hate is being inundated with posters screaming at me to vote for a name for a certain office, with nothing else on the poster. Let's face it, we're all intelligent people. Seeing a name flashing in bright pink neon around every corner will not get me to vote for that name. Maybe if we were bugs, we'd be attracted to the biggest and brightest posters. Maybe if we had frontal lobotomies we might think, "Gee, it looks like John Doe will do a good job as my class doofus chairman because he has that really big poster." Get real.

Okay, enough generalizing. Let's now look at the specifics of this inanity.

The referenda

These look very much like the staff at the Weekly World News wrote them. To those of you unfamiliar with the alternate journal of record for the Library of Congress, it is an ultra-conservative periodical written at about a third-grade level which stresses that the communists are out to get us.

1. Presidential Search -- Do you believe that the committee responsible for choosing the next president of MIT was too secretive about the process and the candidates? Choose one: Yes No.

Okay, first of all, why would anyone want to choose more than one of those options? I think that for a yes/no question, the "choose one" option is pretty much evident. About the "secretive" part, however, the criticism is boundless. What do they think the selection process entails? Do prospective candidates have to prove that they will do their best to screw us, the students, over? I'm sure the dudes on the committee merely threw out some names, looked at their records, and interviewed these people for the job. Not real exciting stuff. I'm also sure that nobody would really be interested in watching the committee sort through records. It's not like they were sitting around choosing the most totalitarian or the most racist or the most corrupt person they could possibly get a hold of.

2. Presidential Search -- Do you believe that students should have more control over the search for the next president of MIT? Choose one Yes No.

Again, that "choose one" thing! The Corporation doesn't clamor for a vote in the UAP/VP election, so why should we mess with them? And besides, are there any students who really know enough about the candidates to contribute intelligently, or would it turn into a bunch of screaming hordes chanting "Tastes Great" and "Less Filling" while the committee tries to get this place a responsible and intelligent leader? Even if there were students who knew enough about the selection process, they wouldn't be found among the bozos we had to choose from in this election. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't trust the presidential selection to a person whose idea of a serious campaign is mailing Andes mints to fellow classmates. Here again, the UA has chosen to manifest unrealistic fears of subversion in our minds.

3. Freshman Housing -- To what extent, if any, did "flushing" have an impact on you during your R/O week? no impact 1 2 3 4 5 severe trauma.

"Severe trauma"? Are they serious? Were otherwise happy freshmen hospitalized, turned into manic depressives, just because one fraternity/sorority did not want them as a member? I am also curious as to exactly what the UA plans to do about this.... Sorry, guys, despite the fact that you are a bunch of beer-drinking football players, you have to accept little Wormser here because it will traumatize him if you don't.

The candidates

Viewing the pictures in the supplement, it looks like all the UAP/VP candidates are up to something fishy and that all the class council candidates have nothing upstairs. However, if you read their platforms, you will find out exactly how misleading this is: The UAP/VP candidates are up to nothing at all (the class council candidates don't lie to you with their pictures, though).

David Hogg '92 and David Stern '91 are friendly enough guys, but not good politicians. Rule of thumb in politics: If you don't know the issue, don't make it a part of your platform. All the demanding was a little much for a campaign where the issues were, to put it mildly, weak. They can, if they so desire, personally keep the dormitory condom machines filled as they promised.

Manish Bapna '91 and Colleen Schwingel '92 are also quite friendly. They are also quite the UA types; that's why they won. Their sensationalization of issues -- "Do you fear the Freshman Housing Proposal will destroy your living group?" -- played on our fears just like the Weekly World News. Well, good luck to them. We can look forward to another year of what we are already used to -- an invisible student government. A "realistic solution" indeed.

The campaign of Thomas Kang '91 and Jon Strizzi '92 was curious at best. Mr. Strizzi vowed to fight sexual harassment and "promote ... mutual respect." In light of his now-famous T-shirt design, his knowledge of these issues seem clouded at best. Their idea to restructure the UA was silly. They fell victim to the same rule of thumb which brought Dave and Dave down. Aside -- what the hell does "undergraduate strength" mean? And does Strizzi look like someone who has it?

The class council candidates are too numerous to delve into individual flaws. Suffice it to say anyone who wants a part of the class council should have it. Interestingly, not all the positions on the ballot were filled, showing the vast and deserved respect the council has earned through the years. The only interesting chap of the lot was Mark Lee '93, proving himself to be racist and insensitive on his posters, which he wished to make on behalf of his class as publicity chair. "I will be able to make our class posters more lively, interesting, and attractive," reads Lee's platform. At least he doesn't lie. (I also like the way the new '93 social chairs "love" us.)

We thus reach an interesting paradox. There wasn't a single candidate whom I wanted to vote for -- even the usually amusing "write-in" candidates were non-existent or immature at best. Only when the UA manages to gain respectability will respectable people run for the offices. But this will only happen when respectable people get into office....

Oh, well, the faculty is older and wiser than we are, and so they can keep on running this place autonomously as far as I'm concerned. We don't need government; we need degrees.

Election Commission

Last year, the Infinite Corridor was made about three feet narrower from the amount of paper on the walls. Graphic Arts and LSC reaped huge profits from this, and as a result they improved services this year. But the postering was ugly and confusing, and so a new postering policy was initiated.

This worked really well. As regular candidates were confined to expressing their views on big ugly pieces of paper hung strategically throughout the Institute, write-ins could poster everywhere. But the Election Commission opened postering to regular candidates on the last day, again narrowing the corridor by three feet. It was once again ugly and confusing.


Scrap the election process. Have the UA run itself and embezzle all our money. That's what happens anyway.


Shawn Mastrian '91 is sports editor of The Tech and a three-time failure in the UAP/VP race.