The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 25.0°F | Overcast

Candidates Face Off at Sunday UA Debate

By Eva Moy
News editor

The Undergraduate Association presidential debate Sunday emphasized the differences between the two teams of candidates.

Hans C. Godfrey '93 and Anne S. Tsao '94 represent years of working with the administration through the UA. Although Anthony R. G. Gastelum '95 and Zohar Sachs '96 have not had direct UA experience, they feel they are still qualified to do the job. "I don't think we need to have worked through the UA to give us our legitimacy," Sachs said.

"The vast majority of undergraduates feel excluded" from the UA, Gastelum said. It is a matter of "insiders versus ourselves, participation versus elitism, energized process versus passive do-nothing body," he said.

Godfrey and Tsao rely on their past UA experience in seeing what has worked or not worked. "It's a matter of strategic planning, and that is what we can offer to you," Tsao said.

This is a "very good election, very clear cut," Gastelum said. "It's up to you to decide which is better -- the status quo or a fresh perspective."

About 20 people attended the debate. UA Election Commissioner Rohit Sharma '96 commented, "I was hoping it would be a little better. I was hoping they could have spent some more time on the life fee issue, but other than that I thought it was pretty good."

Goals of UAP/VP candidates

Godfrey and Tsao want to "bring in people who have energy" and delegate authority, while Gastelum and Sachs would like to make changes at the top as UAP/VP.

Godfrey feels that the role of the UA is "always to serve the students." If elected, they plan to improve communication between the students and the UA through advertisements in The Tech and on MIT cable. In addition, they would directly visit dormitory and independent living group house meetings.

In addition, the UA will offer leadership seminars for freshmen and sophomores to teach them how to look for and solve different issues, Tsao said. This program "gives people working knowledge" early on, she added.

"What needs to be restored is student confidence in the UA," Godfrey said.

On the other hand, Sachs feels that "the students need issues that they care about. ... Before we advertise, we need to get into the issues."

Gastelum and Sachs want to improve the quality of undergraduate education. To promote more student involvement, they propose to rotate UA Council meetings through the living groups to make them more accessible to students. They also pointed out that many people may not be interested in the fine details of UA and Institute policies, but everyone has opinions on these issues.

Gastelum said that he "believes that people who ... have participated in a system that they've literally written the Constitution for ... are less able to change."

"The UA already has legitimate claim" to represent students, Gastelum said. "All we have to do is change the philosophy of the UA, not the rules," Sachs added.

Tuition, HASS-Ds are issues

Oversubscription of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Distribution classes and tuition increases are main issues that Gastelum and Sachs emphasize on their platform. "What we need to do is reevaluate the respect that undergraduates have under the administration," Sachs said.

However, Tsao feels that the UA does not have power regarding these issues. "If President Vest can't change tuition, do you expect to?" she asked Gastelum and Sachs.

Tsao said that creating more recitation sections would raise tuition. "There I don't have a current solution," she said, adding that they would work out a solution with faculty and the Faculty Policy Committee.

However, Gastelum feels that "it's not a problem of finance; it's a problem of priority." Their team would like to offer HASS-D classes according to student demands, since the Institute has to pay for professors for the same number of students in either case.

The Institute, however, does not allocate funding for HASS-Ds on a per student basis, but rather at the section or department level.

Tsao, who has worked on the calendar committee, feels that "we need to stop the academic calendar proposals from going through" which would push R/O Week to second semester. This would create problems dormitory overcrowding and independent living group undercrowding problems, as well as affect minority programs, sports, and student activities, she added.

Gastelum countered that there are currently plans for dormitory expansion right now. But with a dormitory being built in another five years, there will still be a crowding problem, Tsao said.

The UAP/VP "need to know the ins and outs of the [calendar] proposal before fighting it," which the Godfrey/Tsao team already does.

Both teams are in favor of free speech protection in the Institute harassment policy, one of the referenda on the ballot.

"I'm all for a safe environment," Hans said. But peer pressure should be the controlling factor, not MIT policy superseding the U.S. Constitution, he said.

Our personal opinions are irrelevant, Sachs said. "It's up to the students what side of the fence we want to fall on," she added.

(Yueh Z. Lee contributed to the reporting of this story.)