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UA Presidential Hopefuls Face Off in 6-120

By George Ipe
Staff Reporter

In a debate that covered topics ranging from a student credit union to a reading from Douglas Adams' The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the four Undergraduate Association candidate teams for president and vice-president faced off in verbal battle in 6-120 on Sunday night.

The four candidate teams for UA President and Vice-President are Shally Bansal '93 and David J. Kessler '94, Emily R. Prenner '93 and Anne S. Tsao '94, Stephen A. Rinehart '93 and Jeremy H. Brown '94, and Kai-Teh Tao '94 and Peter K. Verprauskus '94.

Three panelists posed questions: Theresa Esser '95 of The Thistle, Mithran Mathew '95 of The Analyst, and Brian M. Rosenberg '93 of The Tech. Avik S. Roy '94 of Counterpoint moderated.

After opening statements from each candidate, the panelists began the questioning. Each team was given two minutes to respond to the panelists' questions, and the other teams were given 30 seconds for rebuttal.

Many of the candidates felt the debate's format was bad. They cited short time limits on answers and the lack of provisions for responding to rebuttals as problems.

Early in the debate, Mathew asked Prenner about allegations that she had missed "many executive board meetings and some sub-committee meetings. How do you defend this?"

Prenner responded, "I am involved in many activities besides the UA, and they take a lot of time. But this will change. I am already committed to dropping my other activities if I am elected UAP."

Esser asked Prenner and Tsao, "You advocate the UA controlling a larger activities fee by increasing the amount charged students; but you also support a waiver for students who object to certain activities for `religious, ethical, or moral reasons.' Wouldn't this in effect keep certain groups from getting needed funding?"

"We would have money left from the activities fees. From this fund, money would be distributed to activities with insufficient support," Tsao said.

In a question directed to Tao and Verprauskus, Rosenberg asked, "I am curious to know whether you came up with the idea of the student credit union you support independent of the UA Finance Board, which has been considering it for some time, and why should students trust a fledgling union to put their money in?"

Tao responded, "I spoke with the director of the employees' credit union at MIT and he was very enthusiastic about it. He said that he wanted to help out and he thought that a credit union would give students a way to learn about the banking process, and it would allow them to have an alternative to commercial banks. Also because a credit union is non-profit, it can offer more higher interest rates."

In a rebuttal to Tao, Kessler countered, saying, "Yes, credit unions are non-profit, but no matter who runs [credit unions] they are prohibitively expensive. Also, it is not cost-effective; the rebate students can expect is not worth the effort."

Esser questioned Bansal and Kessler: "A UA referendum called for divestment of MIT assets from South Africa, but MIT has not done so. What will you do as UAP and UAVP to make student opinion an integral part of MIT's decision making process?"

"MIT is a corporation and works like a business and will make decisions as such. As UA officers we cannot hope to change that. But we can follow up on UA resolutions by effectively voicing student opinion, by informing the media, by letting people in authority know. This is a way to ensure the administration seriously considers student views," Bansal replied.

Rinehart and Brown were less hopeful about swaying the MIT corporation on major issues such as ROTC and divestment. "The only way you can make them listen, maybe, is to buy stock in the corporation," they suggested.

Candidates felt after the debate that the time allotted did not allow them to make their positions clear. "I am afraid some of the things we said were misunderstood. It was unfortunate, but we ran out of time and couldn't say everything we wanted," Tsao said.

Raajnish A. Chitaley '95, chairman of the UA Election Commission, said, "I can understand why some candidates felt they were misinterpreted or their issues were confused. Given the similarity of some of the candidates' platforms and the format of the debate itself, there might have been some misunderstandings."

Hans C. Godfrey '93, UA floor leader, said, "The impression given by some of the candidates was misleading. For example, Anne [Tsao] spoke of `organizing an academic honesty colloquium.' Actually she is part of a huge committee involved with this."