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Ballot Theft Amusing but Ultimately Pointless

Column by Bill Jackson

SRG Sympathizer

The recent theft of an Undergraduate Association ballot box is, first and foremost, funny as hell. At one time, each and every one of us normal people has thought those UA groupies take themselves too seriously, so seeing someone steal their ballot box is a great laugh.

The theft sent the UA into a frenzy. The election commission locked the doors and deliberated feverishly about what they should do and came out with their decision. The announcement: all those who voted in Lobby 7 would be allowed to vote again on the following Wednesday (tomorrow).

The candidates immediately began to whine and on Thursday, the commission made a bizarre reversal. The partial-repeat election was changed to Friday. However, the commission decided that it would simply sit on all of the ballots until this Wednesday night, when it will ask the UA Council whether the election will stand.

Apparently, like fine wine, the ballots need time to age properly before they can be counted. If this is true, than it was brilliant to throw the election to Friday, despite the obvious problems of quick publicity and throwing together a group of workers. Now the ballots have five whole nights to age properly in the musty UA "ballot cellar," so they will have a delicate and fruity bouquet when the feeble commission finally gets around to counting them.

The election commission's decision to move elections to Friday would have been a brilliant one if they had planned to count the ballots right away, declare the winner in time for today's Tech, and have the whole thing wrapped up by Spring Break. Now, however, the timing hasn't changed, and they've introduced a new possible point of contention; the quickly put-together re-voting process.

But enough on UA lameness in general. A more important consideration is why you, as an average MIT undergraduate, should care. (If you're a grad student, I apologize for the elite tone I'm using here. But what the hell are you doing away from your lab bench/computer/books anyway? Get back to work.)

According to the UA Constitution, the Undergraduate Association exists "to improve the quality of our education, to provide ourselves with services which would otherwise not be provided, to express our views and represent ourselves before other groups whose decisions affect us" and other reasons which I planned to list here, but I got so bored typing the first part that I fell asleep three times, and this column has to be in by Sunday night.

Sure, the UA can provide a service or two. A Safe Ride is the sort of service the UA can effectively provide. However, when it comes to reality, the UA is better off representing student opinion to the administration than trying to become a banking-and-chartered-trips organization.

Who in the administration listens to the UA? Believe it or not, the "Magic King Dean of all Deans" himself, Art Smith, actually listens to the UA. He considers it a barometer of student opinion. If he is wrong in that assumption, it is not his fault for making the assumption, but the fault of the students for not making this reasonable assumption correct. You've all got a chance to try to keep anyone you think is an idiot out of the UA office (or run yourself), and if you turn that chance down, you've got to shut up and live with the idiots.

It might frighten you that anyone listens to the UA. If you are scared, you've got a couple of choices. The first is to get involved in it. Then maybe you can have a UA which puts water fountains in the Infinite Corridor and provides girlfriends on ValiDine, as the author of a recent "revolutionary manifesto" would seem to like. Or, you can help get rid of it and put something else in its place. But if your supposed purpose is to, say, show that the UA takes itself too seriously, then stealing the ballot box is, in itself... taking the UA too damn seriously.

If you really don't care, just avoid the UA like the plague. But it took a lot of effort -- and caring -- to steal and break into a ballot box. Hacking a UA election for a while would've been hysterical. But if there was a point to genuinely destroying a UA election, it's lost on me.