UAP/VP reflect on last year
By Prabhat Mehta
The Undergraduate Association placed emphasis on moderation and working with the faculty and administration over the past year, said outgoing UA President Paul L. Antico '91 and Vice President Andrew P. Strehle '91.
"We wanted to negotiate first before we made a lot of noise. . . . I think the the faculty respects that," said Antico.
Housing, the student activities fee question, ARA, the presidential search, and postering were among the more important issues of their term, according to Antico and Strehle. On all these issues, the two stressed that they chose to act within the system rather than against it.
"Taking that approach is not always as effective as riots . . . but on the average it's better," Strehle said.
Antico cited housing as one of the most important successes in the past year. Referring to the Freshman Housing Committee's November report which called for a drastic restructuring in undergraduate housing (including housing all freshmen in dormitories), Antico felt that the UA played a significant role in stalling the FHC recommendations so that the community had more time to devise alternatives.
The pivotal point for the UA, which adopted a resolution against the FHC report, was the November faculty meeting, Antico said. At that meeting, Antico addressed the faculty to express his opposition to the proposal, but stressed that the UA and the administration both should work together to find new solutions to MIT's housing problems.
"We and the administration were on the same side," Antico said. "We both wanted to see how we could improve the current system."
At the meeting, most faculty opposed the FHC report and sided with the students, Antico claimed, because the UA chose to rationally discuss reasons why they felt alternatives should be sought. "We got a lot of faculty to see that students make sense," he said.
Currently, the housing proposal has been stalled because of significant student and faculty opposition, as well as uncertainty as to what position the next president will take on the issue, Antico said. Approximately 90 percent of the comments received on the housing proposal have been negative, Antico claimed.
The extra time afforded by the current deadlock allows the UA to plan ahead and come up with the appropriate alternatives, according to Antico. "We have some breathing space . . . to look into all of the possibilities," he said.
With long-term planning, the UA will be able to provide ample resistance the next time the housing proposal surfaces, which will likely be a year or two from now, Antico claimed. "We don't want future UA leaders to start from square one," he said.
Antico and Strehle also noted that restraint paid off in the spring when large numbers of students attended faculty meetings to show their support for freshman-year pass/no-record grading, which had been threatened under an educational reform package released at the beginning of last spring.
Taking office in the middle of the pass/fail battle, Antico admitted his administration took only a peripheral role, but claimed that the decision to oppose the plan without confrontation set the tone for their dealings in the rest of the year.
Before students entered the faculty meetings, they were handed "P/F" signs to hold up and were urged to act "like adults," Strehle said.
An issue dealt with more sternly but with a degree of moderation was student discontent over ARA, MIT's food services caterer. In the fall large numbers of students registered complaints about the issue, Antico said.
"Some students wanted a boycott," he noted. But the UA chose to use the threat of the boycott rather than the boycott itself to push MIT Food Services and ARA to act, thus easing tensions between students and ARA, Antico said.
"Screaming . . . was not as useful as thinking about the deeper issues," Strehle said.
With regards to short term goals for improvement in food services, there has already been "an immediate impact in food quality and service," Antico claimed. Long term goals such as reassessing food costs and the future of ARA's contract were under negotiation with Housing and Food Services Director Lawrence E. Maguire, Antico added.
The centerpiece of the Antico/Strehle administration was the revival of the student activities fee referendum, which had narrowly been defeated in the spring of 1988.
Their efforts to bring the issue back on last week's ballot died at a Feb. 22 UA Council meeting when the referendum was tabled.
At first, Antico expressed disappointment with the council's decision, but he now feels that issues of allocation must be addressed. Specifically, Antico feels the procedures and structure of the UA Finance Board, which currently allocates money for student activities, need to be readdressed.
One of his goals after he leaves office on April 5 will be to deal with issues of FinBoard reform, Antico said. After questions of FinBoard's credibility have been resolved, Antico said he will personally petition for an activities fee referendum next year. "I'm not leaving until it gets on the ballot," he said.
Antico said the worst mistake of their administration was their inaction on the presidential search. Answering a referendum question, 68.5 percent of voters in last Wednesday's elections felt students did not have enough input into the presidential search process.
But in light of Phillip A. Sharp's withdrawal and the resumption of the search process, Antico said the UA had a "second chance" at providing the search committees with student input.
The UA is currently working on a short report of student concerns about the next presidency of MIT. The report will presented to the Corporation and faculty search committees.