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Presidential search called too secretive

By Karen Kaplan

In response to referenda questions on Wednesday's Undergraduate Association ballot, 44 percent of voters felt that flushing during Residence/Orientation Week had "no impact" on them. Over 60 percent of voters responded that students should have had more input in MIT's presidential search process, and that the search committees were too secretive about the process.

The first of the three referenda was intended to gauge undergraduate student opinion about the findings of the Freshman Housing Committee. Stacy A. Segal '90 proposed the survey question, "To what extent, if any, did `flushing' have a negative impact on you during your R/O week?" Flushing refers to being turned down by a living group "in a negative way," according to Segal. Students were asked to respond on a scale of one (no impact) to five (severe trauma).

In addition to the nearly 50 percent of respondents who reported that flushing had "no impact" during their R/O week, another 28.9 percent felt they were mostly unaffected (one). Of the remaining respondents, 8.5 percent indicated a score of two, 8.9 percent a three, 5.1 percent a four, 2.9 percent a five, and a mere 1.5 percent indicated that their R/O experience caused them severe trauma. On this scale, the average score was about 1.2.

Segal said she was hoping that "the survey would show a decrease in the negative effects of flushing." During R/O Week in 1987, a "hotly contested rush skit" was blamed by many living groups for hurting their rushes that year "because freshmen saw that the brothers would talk about them behind their backs," she explained. However, since that year, Segal felt that "all other things being equal, people have had fewer negative experiences with flushing."

The impetus for the question was the report released last year by the Freshman Housing Committee which suggested that flushing did not offer a positive introduction to life at MIT. Segal hoped to gain "a general idea" about these trends in the past four years. "If the responses had been concentrated near the no impact side, or if there had been a dramatic decrease in fours, fives, and severe traumas, then we would have had a strong indication that the referral system [implemented by independent living groups two years ago] is working," she explained. However, at this point, further student opinion surveys are needed and in the works.

The other two survey questions focused on the presidential search. The first of them read, "Do you believe that the committees responsible for choosing the next president of MIT were too secretive about the process and candidates?" A majority of respondents, 63.4 percent, replied "Yes."

The second of the presidential search questions asked, "Do you believe that students should have had more control over the search for the next president of MIT?" Here, 68.5 percent responded positively, indicating a strong undergraduate sentiment that students should be more involved in the presidential search process.

UA President Paul L. Antico '91 said that although most people expected more of an 80-20 outcome on the presidential search questions, his expectations were much closer to the actual count. "A lot of students realize that we don't have the information to make these decisions and that the faculty and administration may be more capable in these areas," he explained.

As for the future of student input, Antico is excited about the prospects of a new program to get student input about the presidential search, the results of which will be presented in a 2-3 page report to four members of the MIT Corporation.

UA President Elect Manish Bapna '91 expressed surprise that more students didn't feel that the presidential selection process was secretive. Bapna described the flushing referendum as "a vague topic generalized into one question." He doubted that "anything quite significant will come from these questions."