Tao Pushes Student ServicesBy Eva Moy
Associate News Editor
Kai-Teh Tao '94 and Peter K. Verprauskus '94, candidates for Undergraduate Association president and vice president, respectively, emphasize "tangible student services" as a means of bringing the UA and students closer together. They want to show "that the UA can make a difference in the lives of students," Tao said. "I think that student life and tangible student services are just as important as the `big issues,' " he added.
"The most important thing is what every other student at MIT experiences daily ... that make their stay here at MIT more enjoyable," Tao said. If elected, Tao and Verprauskus plan to set up a non-profit student credit union, create a systematic program for major events including concerts and ski trips, and ensure equal access to course "bibles," collections of previous years' problem sets and tests.
Tao said a non-profit credit union would provide students with banking services as commercial banks do, but students would not have to pay to keep their money there. The credit union would be a "student cooperative run by students, managed by students, for students," Tao said. Students would be able to deposit funds, borrow money at a lower interest rate, and receive a patron rebate at the end of the year, like members of the Harvard Cooperative Society do, he added.
"People should recognize ... that it is our money ... and that's why we should take control of that aspect and make sure we have a bank for ourselves," Tao said. He is working with the employees' credit union to work out the economic details of such a plan.
Tao and Verprauskus feel that many students may want to attend concerts, to take short trips to shop in Freeport, Maine, or to ski, but may have difficulty getting tickets or transportation. If elected, they would like to provide a package-deal student service to arrange such activities as soon as possible.
For example, if the UA could buy bulk tickets for a local concert, then "for the price of a ticket ... not only do you get the better seats in the house ... [it] would include the price of [a charter] bus," Tao said. He also suggested a weekly or monthly ski shuttle, depending on student demand.
Another approach to increasing student services is the creation of a library for course bibles, Tao said. This would be a step toward "equal access to the same study aids," in contrast to the current situation, where there may be an unfair disadvantage for students living off-campus or in a dormitory where bibles may not be well-organized.
This would ensure the "non-repetition of problem sets and tests," Tao said, adding that "the least thing the professor can do is to offer new problems." Verprauskus added that professors would also have to present "fresh material each year that would more closely relate" to the lectures.
No alcohol policy
Tao and Verprauskus believe that the Institute should not impose an alcohol policy on the students. Instead of being mandated by Institute policy, the houses should "try to learn about responsibility" by creating their own policies determined by the residents of each house.
"If [students] want to act like mature adults ... then they'll have to bear the legal responsibilities," Tao said.
On a similar note, Tao and Verprauskus also want to promote education about safety issues. However, Tao feels that requiring every dormitory to have two Project Awareness representatives, as is currently done, will not accomplish this. Instead, the UA should "encourage dorms to care about their security ... to make every person aware," Tao said.
The team feels that the current housing system should not be changed. Both Tao and Verprauskus have been Residence/Orientation counselors, and believe that "the choice of housing is the fundamental right of every student here," Tao said.
"The key to it is that MIT recognizes that we are mature enough to decide where we want to live, and, boldly, it gives us that decision," Verprauskus said.
Tao views the "interaction between upperclassmen and freshmen ... sharing the MIT experience" as a positive aspect of the current system. He feels that it is "stupid to change something because of change."
Tao and Verprauskus have a similar attitude toward Independent Activities Period. "I'm sure that most of the students ... [say] `Keep IAP, keep IAP.' It's something that the students hold dear," Tao said. He added that after a three-year trial period of the current system, he would like to put out a student proposal for any IAP reforms.
One way to improve student-faculty relations, they feel, is to provide more recitations in tutorial format, where there is a lower student-to-faculty ratio. Tao cites the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science as an example, where both lectures and recitations are taught by professors, and there are teaching assistants as well.
They also feel that recitation representatives could voice students' input on the professor's pace or blackboard technique, among other aspects of teaching style.
Tao and Verprauskus feel that they will "bring a diverse outlook toward the UA and the student experience" with their diversity in activities coupled with a "good working relationship," Tao said.
Tao has been president of the Class of 1994 and a UA Council member. In addition, he has been a member of the UA Executive Board, where he has done research into some of the current UA issues and worked with the administration.
"I've gotten a good indication of both issues that involve the UA and the class governments," he said. However, he is concerned about the "lack of communication between the two areas."
Verprauskus has been a member of the Student Alumni/ae Council, which tries to "provide more experience and opportunity for the undergraduates." He is also the activities coordinator for Alpha Tau Omega, and works as an on-line consultant.