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Muh, Balsley Enjoy Strong Win in Elections


Juan P. Vernon--The Tech
Erik S. Balsley '96 and Carrie S. Muh '96 are the newly-elected Undergraduate Association Vice President and President following Wednesday's campus-wide election. Muh and Balsley won about 40 percent of the vote.

By Shang-Lin Chuang
Associate News Editor

In an election marked by an unusually high voter turnout, undergraduates chose Carrie R. Muh '96 and Erik S. Balsley '96 to be the next Undergraduate Association president and vice president.

Many class council positions were left unfilled, while the winners in other class council races have not been declared yet since ballots still need to be counted.

The referendum showed that a large majority of students are opposed to any change in the grading system.

Muh and Balsley received 42 percent of the votes, outdistancing the other candidate teams of Sheldon W. Myrie '95 and Jennifer K. Johnson '98 (22 percent) and John S. Hollywood '96 and Jennifer A. Pinson '98 (17 percent). The remaining 19 percent of the voters did not vote in this race.

About 35 percent of the undergraduate student body turned out to vote, a total of 1,589 ballots, including paper and electronic ballots.

"I am really happy with the voter turnout," said current UA President Vijay P. Sankaran '95. "The UA elections usually have only 30 percent of the students voting. I think the grading referendum definitely had a good impact," he said.

The newly elected candidates will be installed in early May, Sankaran said.

With the elections over, Muh said she is relieved and ready to work with Balsley on improving the UA.

"I basically want to keep the students thinking about the UA and keep them involved to help out," Muh said.

Muh said that her first course of action as president will be to change the structure and constitution of the UA to make it a more effective and efficient organization.

"Right now it is too bogged down with administrative details which should be taken care of by the Executive Committee so the UA Council can focus on more productive and beneficial issues," she said.

"Second, I want to find a UA secretary general, treasurer, and [judicial committee] members so all the positions are filled. Then the UA can get to work immediately," Muh said. In addition, she will continue working with the administration to raise funds for student activities.

The grading referendum was added to the ballot to provide student input to the Committee on Academic Performance, which is considering a chance to the grading policy.

Four grading options were presented on the referendum:

A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D+, D, F

A, AB, B, BC, C, CD, D, F

A, B, C, D, F (the current system)

completely pass/fail

Students noted their approval or disapproval of each option. The current grading scheme was the most popular, with 899 approvals, while only 57 students found it unacceptable.

The pass/fail option received the second highest number of approvals, though it was still much lower than that of the current system: 194 students approved and 631 disapproved.

The two intermediate grading schemes received similarly low votes of approval, about 135 votes. But the plus-minus system collected 848 votes of disapproval, compared to the A, AB, etc. system's 673 votes.

"Student voices really spoke out about the pressures in MIT," Sankaran said. "I really hope the faculty take student opinion into account. It will be a pity if the results are ignored because they represent the feelings of such a large group of people."

"I hope the administration realizes that students will turn up to give opinions when they are given the chance," Muh said.

The results have already been presented to the CAP, Sankaran said. They will also be shared with the Chair of the Faculty Robert L. Jaffe.

Class council elections

Many class council positions were either uncontested or had no official candidates. Although these ballots have not yet been counted, it is possible for a write-in candidate to receive over 10 percent of the vote and win the election.

If there is still not a winner, the class council will appoint students to these positions, except for the graduating senior class positions which will be appointed by alumni.

In the Class of 1995 elections, vice presidential write-in candidate Amy K. Koo '95 won with 39 out of the 271 votes. Ranjini Srikantiah '95 won uncontested in the race for secretary. No candidates were on the ballot for president, treasurer, members-at-large, and class agent.

In a close race, Matthew J. Turner '96 was elected junior class president with 172 votes. Surekha Vajjhala '96 lost the election with 163 votes. Forty-three juniors abstained in this race. The remaining positions had no official candidates.

For the Class of 1997, Pardis C. Sabeti '97 ran for president, Charles I. Morton IV '97 for vice president, Richard B. Coelho '97 and Sean A. Levin '97 for publicity chairs, and Leah M. Lieber '97 and Lily J. Koo '97 for social chairs.

All positions were uncontested, but the UAC still has to count all of the ballots to make sure that a write-in candidate did not receive enough votes to win.

After the third round of preferential balloting, Dedric A. Carter '98 was elected president of the Class of 1998. Carter received 42 percent of the first round votes.

An error in the ballot preparation left vice presidential candidate John DiBacco '98 off of the ballot.

"This is very unfair to John. We will see what he thinks about a re-race which will probably take place both electronically and on paper ballot for one day after spring break," Sankaran said.

"This is a human error that shouldn't have been made. We will also try to reach some kind of compromise," Sankaran said.

John Gavenonis '98 won as the class treasurer in an uncontested race.

The elections were conducted with preferential voting. One could rank as many candidates as he felt were qualified for the position. If no candidate wins a majority after all of the first-rank votes are counted, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated.

The votes of the eliminated candidate are redistributed to the second-rank candidate on the ballot. The redistribution continues until a single candidate has a majority of the ballots.