Godfrey, Tsao Win Top UA Posts in ElectionBy Sarah Y. Keightley
Hans C. Godfrey '93 and Anne S. Tsao '94 won this year's Undergraduate Association elections by a comfortable margin, in a contest marking the first year students could cast their votes on Athena.
The Godrey/Tsao team won 1026 votes, while Anthony R. G. Gastelum '95 and Zohar Sachs '96 received 603 votes.
Voter turnout reached 40 percent, up from 30 percent last year, according to Rohit Sharma '96, UA election commissioner. Of the 1815 ballots, 931 were cast on Athena and 884 were cast on paper.
Sharma was pleased with the voter turnout and attributed the increase to the electronic voting system. "This speaks very favorably for the future of electronic balloting," he said.
Allowing students to vote over a three-day period also factored into the increased voter turnout, Tsao said. The electronic voting began at about 1:30 a.m. Monday morning and lasted for about 48 hours. Paper ballots were available on Wednesday.
Godfrey said he is excited about his coming term. He hopes to clean up the structure of the UA and put the fun and education back into the organization. "I want to raise the quality of student life and increase the visibility of UA officers and class officers," he said. He is currently working on creating a Leadership Management undergraduate seminar, he added.
Godfrey said he ran for president because "things weren't happening that I'd like to see happen," and he was inspired by the UA history he has been researching for his book. "MIT in the past used to be much more of a community, more cohesive. ... I want to restore the pride," he said.
Tsao was happy to be elected, and said there was much work to be done. Though the new UAP and UAVP do not begin their term until May, Tsao said she and Godfrey are "definitely going to be active setting plans in place, such as the calendar issue and food service."
In a telephone interview last night, Gastelum said, "The issues that we raised are not going to go away. We wish Mr. Godfrey luck, and challenge him to address those issues -- all of them."
FinBoard, referenda results
This year's election also marked the first time that four of the 16 members of the UA Finance Board were selected in a general election. There were only four candidates -- Edward M. Drozd '95, Bridget M. Hanser '95, Mike H. Joo '95, and Umit E. Kumcouglu '94 -- and they were all elected.
The Student Life Fee proposal failed in a close vote. Of the 1815 ballots, 44.6 percent were cast against the fee and 42.3 percent were in favor of it. Thirteen percent of the voters abstained.
All three questions of the non-binding free speech referendum were overwhelmingly approved. In the first question, 76 percent of students agreed that MIT should guarantee students the same freedom of speech that students at public universities have, and 12 percent voted "no." The second question was, "Should students have the freedom to express unpopular or controversial views?" Eighty percent of voters said "yes," while 9 percent said "no." The final question asked if the MIT harassment policy should be "revised to provide protection for freedom of speech." Of the responses, 56 percent were "yes," and 27 percent were "no."
Electronic voting a success
Sharma did say that he "was hoping for a little bit better results" with electronic voting. He believes that if Information Systems had sent out a global zephyr over Athena, describing electronic voting on election day, voter turnout would have been even greater. Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith and J. Paul Kirby '92, who created the voting system, were unable to arrange this with Information Systems because of a lack of time. "It will be interesting to see what effect this has on the voting if we use electronic voting next year," Sharma added.
Elections went smoothly, according to Sharma. "Luckily no ballot boxes were stolen," he added humorously. He said there were no security breaches, although some people did try to vote twice, once over Athena and once in person.
Also, there were few problems with the electronic voting system. He noted one oversight was that voters could not write in candidates for uncontested offices on Athena; these positions will be appointed by the class councils of each class, he added. Sharma said some students had remarked that time was too limited for the electronic voting process. When voting began, students had ten minutes to vote from the time they entered their password to access the voting program. The time was then increased to 15 minutes.
The UA received quite a few enthusiastic responses from students about the electronic voting, Sharma said. Most were pleased with the convenience it offered.