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UAP Candidates Carter, Rao Debate over Community Issues

Thomas R. Karlo -- The Tech
Undergraduate Association presidential candidates Sunil K. Rao '99 (left) and Dedric A. Carter '98 argue at the Tuesday debate.

By David D. Hsu
Editor in Chief

The two teams vying for the presidency of the Undergraduate Association faced off in a debate on Tuesday night.

A debate planned for last night was cancelled because of scheduling conflicts.

Around 30 students assembled in the Burton-Conner House dining hall to hear the candidates discuss issues. UA Election Commissioner Edgar H. Martinez '00 moderated the debate.

Both candidate teams stressed their campaign themes throughout the debate. UAP candidate Dedric A. Carter '98 and his running mate Sandra C. Sandoval '00 organized their campaign around the concept of MIT as a "patchwork quilt" of diverse activities and groups.

Their opponents, Sunil K. Rao '99 and his running mate Kari A. Bingen '99, stressed building MIT's school spirit. In his opening statement, Rao described a photograph in the Infinite Corridor of a group of MIT students participating in a tug-of-war contest. "That's what our campaign is about," Rao said.

"You don't know everyone in your classroom," Rao said. Students rarely meet people outside their living group. "Here are two people who are going to do something about it."

Rao and Bingen's campaign is about "less talk, more action," Bingen said. Bingen also presented a "Top 10" list of reasons to vote for their team. The list included a number of promises including a school-wide ski trip, student discounts with the MITCard, and a UAtextbook library.

Carter's opening statement focused on forming an MIT community patchwork quilt. "The Institute is a very diverse place," and everyone has their own patch. "I am proposing an Undergraduate Association that is a collection of patches."

Carter and Sandoval's UAwould also work to help personalize MIT by sponsoring faculty mixers and improving the Logan Airport shuttle, Sandoval said. These efforts would help make MIT more than just a place to concentrate on problem sets, she said.

Rao, Carter discuss services

After the opening statements, Martinez posed questions to the candidates. The first question involved the candidates' plans to improve the undergraduate experience.

Rao responded by pointing out that he and Bingen have been talking to many students and finding out student concerns, Rao said. If elected, they will place an emphasis on organization and delegate tasks.

Carter said that while the administration has been pretty devoted to looking at how students learn and live, there are still several improvements that can be made, especially on issues that do not directly affect students' grades but affect how they feel while they study.

For example, in 1987 the Institute had a 10-year plan to renovate all classrooms, Carter said. That has not happened yet. Carter will listen to students and work with the administration to help improve things, including the condition of Vassar Street and Amherst Alley, he said.

Confusion over recognition idea

Martinez asked the candidates how they could unite the MIT community in the absence of a single rallying point like an athletic team.

Rao said that he had spoken with Zhelinrentice L. Scott '00 before the debate, and she mentioned a recognition program for students who demonstrated excellence in community service activities.

That kind of program is a "really great idea," and would be totally supported by Rao's administration, he said.

Carter said he too agreed with the recognition program. At that point, Scott interrupted the conversation to explain that the recognition program was actually Carter's idea.

Teams suggest services

Another question dealt with services the UA could provide to students.

"The UAis about student services," Carter said. The Logan shuttle was one of his "brain children" as UAvice president, Carter said. A "Safe Ride Express," which would make runs every 15 minutes between 77 Massachusetts Ave. and Beacon Street, would work along the same lines.

Rao and Bingen also stressed student services. "The UA focus is definitely on student services," Bingen said. The team does not only want to identify the problems - they want to prioritize and act upon them. That is why they have a top 10 list, she said.

The UA should provide certain tangible services to students, Rao said. One idea the team is to negotiate student discounts on food and other items. MIT students should get a 10 percent discount, Rao said. "It's only reasonable."

Martinez asked the teams how they would represent student views to the administration.

Rao focused on improving the visibility of the UA to undergraduates. While Rao was talking with students about his campaign for UAP, many did not even know what the UA was, he said.

To that end, a UA newsletter would help inform undergraduates as well as keep the officers accountable, Rao said. A school-wide survey could be issued to gather student feedback.

While Carter agreed that many undergraduates are not familiar with the UA, he argued that the UA is much more productive and visible than it was two years ago. He cited the large number of students running for UApositions this year as an example.

Gathering student input is the responsibility of representatives, but the burden is not entirely theirs, Carter said.

Candidates question each other

The candidates were given a chance to ask their opponents questions.

Carter asked about the logistics of Rao's ideas of a textbook library and a school-wide ski trip.

"We're very determined people," Rao said. With the textbook library, $1,000 for 20 books could help 20 people a term for several terms. "That's significant."

In regards to the ski trip, there are companies that can plan everything and will have lower prices for larger groups of people, Rao said.

Bingen asked what Carter and Sandoval planned to do to increase school spirit.

The team will work to improve the level of comfort through conveniences like the Logan shuttle and improvements in the roads, Carter said.

Sandoval referred back to the patchwork metaphor, claiming that the more united MIT is, the more school spirit there will be.

Audience questions candidates

A few audience members asked about Rao and Bingen's lack of experience with the UA. Neither have previously held UA positions.

Rao and Bingen responded by saying that they would draw on previous leadership experience in Greek organizations and athletic activities to be effective in the UA.

The team will deliver on its proposals, Rao said. "You might say that's idealistic I'm saying believe in us, and we'll get things done."