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The FLP Lobby in the UA

The Tech has observed a number of disturbing trends within the government of the Undergraduate Association. Those trends involve the type of people elected to positions within the UA and also the process of the elections themselves.

We are concerned that seven out of the eight people elected to the Class of 2002 executive committee attended either the Freshman Leadership Program or the Freshman Service Program. Of the 37 candidates running for office, 19 were from FLP and four from FSP. In the single race won by a person who attended neither program, no one who attended FLP was running.

These statistics are more startling when they are placed in the context of last year's results. Last year, FLP participants captured five of the six available positions. FLPhas only existed for three years, but the trend for participants to dominate the freshman elections is already disturbingly clear.

It appears that these pre-freshman programs, FLP in particular, are serving as direct feeders into student government positions. At the same time, they hinder the ability of students who do not participate in FLP to pursue UA positions. There are likely many students each year who are interested in student government, who didn't go to FLP due to other commitments, and then found themselves shackled with a sizeable disadvantage. Without a network of associations in the freshman class, their ability to campaign for office is inhibited, often terminally.

It is worrisome that FLP participants can not only virtually dominate the pool of candidates running for student government positions but also can dominate the electorate. Given that only 227 freshmen voted, that about 140 freshmen attended FLP, and that 19 of the 37 candidates attended the program, it is not hard to believe that a significant proportion of those voting were also from FLP. By the mere virtue of a label, FLP candidates find a group of supporters in the FLP bloc. Other candidates must confront a throng of voters who have already made up their minds. Bonded together by a pseudo-leadership program, FLP participants mobilize to vote for FLP candidates, and the result is that non-participants interested in student government are kept out of office.

In the middle of voting this past week, a group of hackers spread flyers across campus, encouraging students to not vote for FLP candidates and lamenting the middle-management mentality of FLP's participants. While these posters were presumably meant to be a joke, all jokes are based on a germ of truth, and, in this case, the humor was based on more than a mere germ.

The dominance of FLP in the election was not the only disturbing trend. The elections were remarkably poorly run. Given the debacle that occurred in last spring's UA presidential election, the UA should have taken exceptional care to assure that the next election was not plagued by any similar problems. However, that was not the case, and the freshman elections suffered under several severe problems.

On the first day of voting, a candidate for president was left off the ballot, and election officials apparently did not become aware of this fact until other presidential candidates complained. As a result, the entire first day of votes were ignored, and people who voted before the error was fixed were informed that they needed to complete the entire process again if they wanted their votes to count.

In addition, the UAabandoned a perfectly sound Athena-based voting system this year for a glitzy web-based system that failed miserably. Despite its prettier electronic format, the new voting program lacked the most useful feature of computer balloting; the new system required that the votes be tallied by hand. This produced extensive delays and prompted recounts that would have been totally unneeded under the old system.

To their credit, UA officials did painstakingly count the votes in the close elections several times, and we believe that the overall results were almost certainly accurate. However, the whole event, when combined with the problems in the last election, serve to make the UA elections seem almost farcical.

The influence of FLP and the problems with the election's implementation worries The Tech a great deal. The first is turning the UA into almost a private club for people from one pre-orientation program, and the second erodes confidence in the UA's effectiveness as a respectable student government.