Editorial- Support McGeever and Kirby
Amazingly, the Undergraduate Association has in the last two years made important strides in providing the kind of service and leadership students deserve. While far from being perfect, contemporary UA leaders seem to have learned one valuable lesson from the follies of their predecessors: Don't pretend students' lives revolve around the UA.
Tomorrow, undergraduates will be asked to choose between two teams in the race for UA president/vice president. If they wish to continue the favorable trend of pragmatism and humility, they should vote for Stacy E. McGeever '93 for president and J. Paul Kirby '92 for vice president. If students desire a reversion to the old days of increasing "communication" and making the UA "truly representative" and "legitimate," then they should support Jonathan J. Lee '93 and Kristoffer H. Pfister '93, for president and vice president, respectively. We encourage students to opt for the former.
The difference boils down to action versus inaction: By committing themselves to "tangible services" -- expanding shuttle services, providing an Institute calendar, monitoring food service -- and fighting for student participation on Institute committees, McGeever and Kirby will, if elected, have real accomplishments to boast of at the end of the year; by promising to initiate some sort of vaguely constructed, grandiose plan to revamp the UA, ostensibly to promote greater student involvement and communication, Lee and Pfister will produce nothing but more wasted paper.
The UA has the power to perform three functions: (1) spend and allocate money, (2) lobby the administration on behalf of the students, and (3) restructure itself. McGeever/Kirby promise to focus on the first two points; Lee/Pfister the last one. McGeever and Kirby have come up with a solid platform -- the tangible services mentioned above, continuation of the governance initiative (which has already yielded some positive results), preservation of Independent Activities Period, promotion of student-faculty interaction through more advisor seminars, reform of freshman orientation, and the implementation of new programs for Project Athena. While some goals -- such as the expansion of "the role students play in software development as well as creating opportunities for students in the maintenance of the workstations themselves" -- seem a bit far-fetched and not altogether thought out, they are nevertheless concrete and clearly stated.
Contrast this with Lee and Pfister, who refuse to have a platform "set in stone," because "having a set agenda is detrimental to the UA" (even though Lee also believes the UA needs "focus"). Their primary concern is not with having the UA provide student services but rather with improving the lines of communication between the UA and its constituency. Currently, the team believes, the UA "has not been addressing problems and . . . has not been receptive, open and representative of students." Higher-level issues such as representation, they say, must be addressed before promoting more concrete initiatives.
While the Lee/Pfister platform appears sincere, it is in fact just an easy way out for two gentlemen who have no idea what they would do if elected. (When asked at last night's candidate forum what he thought of the Freshman Housing Committee's report recommending all freshmen live in dormitories, Pfister provided the audience with a blank stare.) Experience has painfully shown that such candidates, when elected, wind up spending their entire term putting forth complicated and ultimately useless restructuring initiatives. The result is that students become even less interested in the UA and the complaints about lack of student involvement and representation become inflamed. MIT students, these people fail to understand, are not consumed by the UA's self-important self-improvement efforts.
Before lending our support to McGeever and Kirby, we provide one warning: The two, believing that the administration is not "evil," tend to give too much deference to higher-ups. A critical function of the UA is to guard the interests of students. Kirby, who serves as chairman of the UA Standing Committee on Student Life and its alcohol policy subcommittee, has been working closely with the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs to formulate a new alcohol policy. Some have accused Kirby of working too closely with the Dean's Office. They fear Kirby's committee will in the end come up with an alcohol policy created largely by the Dean's Office, with little input from students.
With this potential problem in mind, students should cast their votes for McGeever and Kirby.