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Sankaran to Create More Open UA

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Associate News Editor

Vijay P. Sankaran '95 and Carrie R. Muh '96, candidates for Undergraduate Association president and vice president, want the UA to "serve as a forum for discussion, a basis for implementing student ideas, and a student government that affects policy decisions," according to Sankaran.

Communication is also important to the team, who want to "attend study breaks at dormitories and independent living groups to get input directly from the students and let them know that we're here," Muh said.

Another top item on the agenda for Sankaran and Muh is the creation of a supermarket shuttle in conjunction with the Graduate Student Council. "A lot of the students complain about the prices of food on campus," Muh said. "We feel that it [the shuttle] would give them the opportunity to get to a supermarket easily."

Candidates stress communication

"The first thing I want to do is improve communication with the student body," Muh said. She and Sankaran will set up an email address for student complaints and ideas, appropriately named complaints@mit.edu.

"One of the reasons that students are so apathetic now is that they don't know who to go to," Muh said. "Students will become a lot more involved and interested," she said, if they know that "we're there, we're accessible."

As leaders of the UA, Sankaran and Muh would have an "open door policy" at the UA office. "If anyone has any questions, they should feel free to come in any time," Sankaran said, and students should not feel intimidated.

Sankaran and Muh will encourage other UA officials to communicate with students. Muh would like to work with the UA council members to increase their enthusiasm.

"If we can get the UA council members really interested in the UA," Muh said, and get them to speak with their constituents, "students will become a lot more involved and interested."

Sankaran also wants to work on improving communication with the MIT administration. "The important thing is for them to respect us," he said, and the UA needs to show strength and the support of the student body to gain that respect.

Better Finboard relationship

A major difference between Sankaran and Muh and their opponents is that they want a close relationship between the Finance Board and the UA. Finboard allocates student activity funding from the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, subject to the approval of the UA council.

"I think Finboard should remain part of the UA," Sankaran said. "UA input to the whole thing would be valuable," he added.

The problems of the past year between Finboard and UA were "a special case," Sankaran said, and do not justify separating the Finboard from the UA. However, he wants to make sure that Finboard members "don't feel slighted."

Muh and Sankaran say they will not use the Vannevar Bush '16 fund, the UAP's discretionary fund of approximately $4,000, to benefit the UA or themselves. "We are only going to use it for student activities and student groups which we feel will benefit the majority of the student body on campus," Muh said.

Tuition, UROPs, and harassment

The current rate of tuition increase is "completely ridiculous," Sankaran said. "We need to mobilize our efforts better," he said, because "I don't think we get what we're paying for all of the time."

Sankaran also wanted the UA to play a greater role in saving the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Currently, UROP funding will drop significantly because of new federal regulations governing overhead costs.

Sankaran would like to institute a "directed letter writing campaign" from students to U.S. government officials. Muh said that the UA would work on sending student representatives to lobby members of Congress.

The candidates are also concerned about the issue of harassment. MIT's harassment policy should be changed so that it represents "the views of the majority of the student body," Muh said. Sankaran and Muh will "talk to as many students as possible" to find out exactly how they feel about the harassment policy, Muh said.

Food, overcrowding concerns

Two other important issues for Sankaran and Muh are the perpetual concerns about the quality and availabilty of food, and the overcrowding of the undergraduate dormitories.

"I want to make sure that Pritchett and the Next House and Baker dining halls remain open," Muh said. It is often difficult for students to get meals on campus because of the schedule of when dining facilities are open; multiple dining options are also important, she said.

"I think dormitory overcrowding is a very serious problem," Sankaran said. He cited the crowding in MacGregor House lounges and Baker House quintuplets, saying that the crowding problem would be "something that we would want to take to the MIT administration."