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Criticism of Candidates Produces Nothing Positive

Guest Column by Erika L. Hanley

I am thoroughly disgusted at the treatment that this year's Undergraduate Association President and Vice President candidates have received from several of their more vocal peers and from The Tech itself. "Disappointing" appears to be the catchword in describing this year's election, and until now it has been directed at the candidates. I would like to redirect this adjective to point it at all those people who complained about the candidates.

Few people on this campus are entirely sure of what the UA does for the student body, or even what the UA is. I don't claim to know the bureaucratic intricacies of this group either, but I do know that the UA's accomplishments over the past few years have included pushing ARA towards a greater commitment to students, increasing the awareness of campus safety, and the installation of their most tangible and appreciated achievement, A Safe Ride.

Only a very limited number of students are currently active in the UA. These students probably have wonderful ideas on improving undergraduate student life, but have no support with which to implement those ideas. It takes an intense combination of motivation and human power to initially set these ideas in motion, let alone accomplish any goals.

So where are the motivated undergraduates willing to work for this change? This rhetorical question echoes down living group hallways and through rooms where people desperately study for their third exam in two days, or try to pass 8.01 before they graduate. MIT students may be politically apathetic, but the plain truth is that we're all busy with other activities, not the least of which is academics. However, apparently some of those who do discover the elusive treasure of free time have used it to complain about this year's UAP and UAVP candidates.

These candidates are not running in this election for their health or to "pad their resumes." Believe it or not, they actually care about what happens to the undergraduates at MIT, and have offered their time, effort, and dedication to improving student life. They have come up with ideas and motivated themselves to create a platform, and have invested their own time and funds to publicize it to the student body. In return for their efforts, they are rewarded by the moniker "disappointing."

With this single word, the political apathy of MIT students is not only condoned but supported, and the future of improving undergraduate life is sealed. After all, why bother caring about your four years here when you are publicly criticized for doing so? As Raajnish A. Chitaley '95 and Darin S. Kinion '94, as well as the editorial board of The Tech pointed out, any candidate will be criticized for even attempting to present a platform which doesn't measure up to pre-determined standards.

What are these standards? Apparently they are for the authors of the editorials to know and for the rest of the undergraduates, including the candidates themselves, to find out -- upon publication. If the candidates are not addressing certain issues, ask them to answer specific questions. If you have reservations about their past activities as elected officers in the UA or in their respective class councils, ask them to explain their decisions rather than lambasting them in a public forum.

If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. If you can take the time out from your busy schedule to condemn the pasts of the current UAP/UAVP candidates, you could probably accomplish more by personally expressing your concerns to them. Similarly, if you can flame to your friends about ARA schedules, locked gymnasiums, or snow removal, why not do the same to a UA representative who could actually help put your thoughts into action? Or even more constructively, why not take the time to join the UA yourself? Unfortunately, to many people the latter solution would require too initiative and motivation, especially when it is so much easier to complain about the existing system.

If the current UAP/UAVP candidates are "disappointing" or "not compelling," then why aren't their critics running for office? The candidates should be praised for their eagerness to implement their ideas, whether they be new or old, to help the student body. If the editorial writers believe they have a better understanding of the details or implementation process of these ideas, I encourage them to tell the candidates in a constructive manner rather than in the censorious ones used during the past week.

I am fortunate enough to know nearly all the candidates personally and would unhesitatingly praise their focus and their characters. They do not deserve the disparaging treatment they have received. As to their political effectiveness, the worst I can say is that any unpopular decisions they have made or taken were supported by an entire committee that should share any blame equally. Only the thorough letter written by current UAVP Anne S. Tsao '94 presents a non-judgmental viewpoint of both candidate teams, showing their strengths as well as their much-publicized faults.

I would like to thank all the candidates for having the courage, motivation, and idealism to run for these offices. You have taken time from your hectic schedules to attempt to overcome the apathy that exists here, and I apologize for all your detractors. They have done you and the MIT community a great disservice by subjecting your election to the negative, uncaring atmosphere that prevails all too often in our undergraduate lives here.

And to the new UA President and Vice President, congratulations. Please do not allow the opinion of a vocal minority to embitter you or dampen your enthusiasm for your office. Best of luck for the upcoming year, and I wish you all the support the undergraduate body has to offer.