Trust Betrayed by Election Impropriety
The Undergraduate Association has plumbed new depths with the recent election debacle. The Tech editorialized in the past that the only way that the UA can improve its image and become a successful, relevant organization is by making measurable progress on specific issues. After the events of the past week, that goal has slipped further from reach.
In the wake of accusations of impropriety on the part of UA presidential candidate Paul T. Oppold '99, UA President Dedric A. Carter '98 made unethical nominations to a UA Judicial Board that he had allowed to lie dormant for a year. Students cannot have faith in any decision of this board because Carter was in a position to control the outcome of the Board's decisions. Particularly, Sandra C. Sandoval '00 is Carter's vice-president, and she stood to benefit from the decisions of the board. Carter should have accepted the decisions of the Election Commission or asked an independent party to make the Judicial Board nominations.
The board, once empanelled, made decisions that reinforced this image of impropriety. The board ruled that two mass e-mails sent to a few hundred students had an irreversible impact on the outcome of the election. This is a ludicrous overestimation of the effect of such e-mail. MIT students receive junk e-mail every day and simply delete it. The intention of the no e-mail rule is to reduce the nuisance factor, not to protect the "integrity of the election."
Furthermore, their judgement may have been clouded by knowledge of the election results. The UA election code states that the Judicial Board may not be barred from any meeting of the Election Commission, including the tabulation of votes. Even if the board did not exercise their right to view the results, it was common knowledge that Oppold had won. A similar case against Raymond W. Szeto '99, a candidate for president of the class of 1999, was dropped when it became clear that he lost the election anyway. Two similar incidents were dealt with in very different ways. This may lead one to suspect that the board was simply providing another chance for Sandoval to beat Oppold.
If the UA wants to be a useful and effective organization on campus, it must earn the trust of students. The UA stumbled badly with this election, and whoever is finally elected president will have to work hard to resuscitate the organization.