UAP/UAVP Candidates Show Little Promise
I am writing because of a strong personal concern that this year's elections are not serving the undergraduate student body. As Chairman of the Election Commission two years ago and Undergraduate Association Council Floor Leader last year, I have the experience to confirm my fear that significant issues are being ignored or confused. The recent UA President/Vice President debate is an excellent example, though only a symptom.
The debate, unlike last year's rather animated exchange, could have been (and perhaps was) scripted. Words like "communication," "inclusion," and the ever-present "tangible student services" could have easily been extracted from the debates of the last three years. The mostly meek questions (though Counterpoint's were an exception) and near-zero attendance did little to expose the candidates, their skills, or ideas to the electorate. The poor debate has muddied the campaign waters, saving the candidates from having to explain themselves.
Both teams have much to explain. Colin M. Page '95 and Michael R. Evans '95 must be held accountable to a dismal record of leadership on the Class of 1995 Council; to include office in the Class of 1995 as an "accomplishment" is comparable to pinning a scarlet letter on yourself. Vijay P. Sankaran '95 cannot escape scrutiny: he speaks of improving communication and prodding leadership, and yet, as Floor Leader of the UA Council, many would argue that he has squandered a unique opportunity to do so.
But past failures worry me less than the prospect of future ones, especially with respect to the UA's relationship with the MIT administration. Both teams have shown an amazing ignorance on all levels of how the UA is connected to MIT.
In one swift stroke, Page proclaims in campaign material that "Everyone Else is Just Putty in the Administration's Hands," although I suspect that he has little understanding of the relationship between the UA and MIT.
Sankaran and Carrie R. Muh '96 are likewise unprepared, though their involvement this year will reflect in a more sound awareness of MIT/UA relations. Neither team offers the electorate candidates with a history of dealing extensively or intensively with the faculty or administration.
In terms of specific proposals made by the candidate teams, I believe that Page's rather thoughtless desire to make the UA Finance Board "independent" is implausible; while easily stated, such a proposal could only be the product of an extensive and comprehensive review, and has implications far beyond Page's immediate political concerns.
Sankaran and Muh's proposals are neither here nor there. His "firstname.lastname@example.org" idea is sound to the point where one wonders what the UA will do differently with the complaints that it can't (or perhaps hasn't) done now.
Sankaran must offer more ideas than electronic mail addresses, and he must prove that his ideas can be implemented.
Both teams have also wasted much effort castigating "UA exclusiveness;" this notion is empty rhetoric. More importantly, "inclusion" -- the popular phrase this year -- necessitates that undergraduates actually give a damn. I am a firm believer in the philosophy that those who care and have the time, will get involved or already are involved; we are all busy here, and no one can reasonably be expected to care about every issue or have the time to do so.
The candidates are welcome to spend their campaign expenses lambasting "UA insiders" and making promises about openness. Such promises are really nothing more than opening doors to people who don't want to come inside -- the material question is to how to interest an apathetic and busy electorate.
I believe that the democratic process produces precisely what the electorate deserves. Quality leaders and effective representatives are the product of an attentive and involved electorate. Only a committed electorate will produce a successful student government at MIT.
In the final analysis, our leaders will be no better (and no worse) than we expect them to be.
I encourage everyone to vote next week and stay involved next year. Best of luck to all the candidates, especially the UAP/VP teams -- we all appreciate your participation in the process. "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game."
Raajnish A. Chitaley '95