UAP/VP candidates take stands
By Joey Marquez
and Karen Kaplan
With Undergraduate Association elections slated to occur March 13, two teams of candidates for UA president and vice president are defining their positions on campus issues. The candidates' teams, Stacy E. McGeever '93 and J. Paul Kirby '92, and Jonathan J. Lee '93 and Kristoffer H. Pfister '93, faced off in a debate on Wednesday where they discussed their platforms, student interest in the UA, freshman housing and governance.
The main goal of the Lee/Pfister ticket for the upcoming year is to provide a "legitimate" UA that "amplifies the student opinions to the administration." They feel that the current UA "has not been addressing problems" and that it has not "been receptive, open and representative of students."
McGeever and Kirby want to improve "student-faculty interaction" and develop a good relationship with the administration. The administration is not "evil" and "changes can take place" if there is a good rapport with the administration, McGeever said.
Lee and Pfister do not have a platform "set in stone." Pfister said that it is "hard to put a platform together" since not much is known of the upcoming year.
Lee said, "To set a concrete stand and make promises" would only make the UA weaker and that strengthening communication is crucial in order to have a "very open and "strong" UA.
The McGeever/Kirby team has defined specific issues that they wish to address. Aside from improving student-faculty interaction, they would like to improve the academic orientation for freshmen. McGeever said that "orientation is not geared at student views and money is wasted and not maximized."
To further their goal of increased student-faculty interaction, McGeever and Kirby would like to recruit dedicated faculty to teach advisor seminars, said McGeever.
Another issue McGeever addressed was the continuation of the "tangible services" of the past UA administration. McGeever said that shuttles would still run and that there will be a "soon-to-be implemented safety shuttle." And next year they would like to provide another tangible service -- an Institute calendar listing various academic and social events.
The McGeever/Kirby ticket also would like to implement new programs for Project Athena due to the ending support of the Digital Equipment Corporation and IBM. McGeever and Kirby want to "expand the role students play in software development as well as creating opportunities for students in the maintenance of the workstations themselves."
In terms of IAP, both tickets do not want to eliminate it, but McGeever and Kirby would like to see "pilots for new classes" and take advantage of this period to increase student-faculty interaction.
McGeever and Kirby believe that a responsible, educational alcohol policy should be adopted. McGeever said the problem seems to be the "control of drinking" rather than underage drinking. But Lee and Pfister did not want to take a stand without hearing further student opinion. Pfister said that he would personally want a "lenient alcohol policy."
Candidates debate issues
Both teams emphasized their positions at the UAP/UAVP debate Wednesday night.
McGeever and Kirby, who spoke first, emphasized their platform issues: keeping and improving IAP, continuing to influence MIT food service, stressing governance and continuing the work of the current administration of Manish Bapna '91 and Colleen M. Schwingel '92. "We're concerned with issues on the students' minds," Kirby said.
Lee and Pfister underlined the importance of the UA's legitimacy, calling it a "much greater, more important issue." Lee said, "We have to make the Council truly representative of students' diversity. The UA is not legitimate, it has no respect. How can we represent students without their support?"
Pfister added that "the Russians have a word for this. It's glasnost." They also mentioned the importance of issues like freshman housing, the academic calendar and keeping IAP.
When asked why the UA has been suffering from a lack of student interest and what could be done to remedy it, McGeever suggested setting up a stronger communication network and showing students "that the UA really affects them."
Kirby noted that "the amount of time students have to spend working on issues" discouraged many students from participating. But both felt that there were "interested students out there, and we will personally take it upon ourselves to find them," McGeever said.
Lee blamed student apathy on "a lack of communication and a lack of openness. We don't know what students think is important." He offered specific methods to combat this, including "canvassing students on a frequent basis," continuing with the UA Today and getting student representation on Institute committees.
Lee also emphasized what he and Pfister see as a "lack of diversity" within the UA. "The UA has really built up a bad reputation on campus," he said. Lee and Pfister said they would be more flexible, open and honest.
When asked their positions on housing and governance, McGeever focused on the "problem with the role of graduate tutors" and the alcohol policy. Kirby added that Residence/Orientation Week could be improved as well.
McGeever praised the current UA administration for its "amazing" steps taken on the governance issue, saying "it touches every single aspect of student life."
Lee focused on the potential role of students in appointing faculty members, calling for more diversity among faculty. Lee said he hoped to provide a housing plan "representative of all students on campus" by seeking out student input.
The UAVP candidates were then asked what each of them would do if the dean for student affairs came to them asking for help in dealing with a pornography problem on campus. Kirby responded by saying he would open the lines of communication, but that he was inclined to allow people to possess pornographic materials in the privacy of their own rooms. Pornography in common areas would require some kind of regulation, he said, and he would want to promote student discussion on this issue.
Pfister stressed that "America is based on free speech . . . and if they want to show Deep Throat in East Campus, there's nothing I can do to stop them." He said he was inclined to "sit back and see what happens and roll with the punches," although he recommended organizing a colloquium to discuss the issue.
Lee asked McGeever and Kirby how they would address the lack of support for international students on campus. Both said they had not heard of any problems with international students, but if it were true, McGeever said she would do "anything in my power," to remedy the situation, including setting up student support groups.
Kirby said, "When entire segments of the student body are treated unfairly, we have to get together and meet their needs." He added, "If there's one thing we believe in, it's equality and fairness."
McGeever questioned Lee and Pfister on educational reform, asking whether they supported a university atmosphere with well-rounded curricula, or an institute with a more narrow focus and more depth.
Pfister then cited tests which showed that engineering students generally had more of a well-rounded education than history students, for example. Lee said the issue rested with students, because if they felt the Institute should be more like a university, they would take more humanities classes.
Lee then asked McGeever and Kirby, as UA insiders, what they felt the flaws in the UA were and how they would address them. McGeever responded that the major flaw was communication. Otherwise, she said, "we've made amazing strides this year in achieving tangible results for students." Kirby noted that attendance at UA Council meetings rose from 20 percent last year to around 90 percent this year.
McGeever then asked Pfister how he would promote continuity within the UA and restructure the council. Pfister responded that if he and Lee were elected, "there would be a lot of restructuring and we can assure there would be a lot of continuity."