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Shulman, Chuang Push UA Credibility

By Alice J. Suh

“We decided that [the Undergraduate Association] is one group that should speak for all students,” said Peter Shulman a junior from Alpha Epsilon Pi and UA presidential candidate. “People who choose to be in the UA are generally self-selective.”

Shulman’s running mate and VP candidate, sophomore Mendel Chuang, believes a common criticism of the UA is that it is not representative enough of the student body. Unlike other teams in this election, Shulman and Chuang emphasize the differences between them in perspective and focus -- Shulman’s interests lie in education, Chuang’s in funding. “We’re very diverse,” said Chuang.

Both have experience in the UA: during his freshman year, Chuang noticed that his dorm, McGregor, lacked a UA rep and volunteered himself. He was also his freshman class’s treasurer and is currently a member of Finboard. Shulman started last semester by attending forums sponsored by the Student Committee on Educational Policy, which he now co-chairs and is also a member of the Institute Committee considering Pass/No Record grading and AP Credit.

Focus on administration distrust

The candidates’ platform focuses on student distrust of the administration, improving the credibility of the UA to students, faculty members and administrators, and speaking for all students.

The candidates singled out student distrust of the administration as the most serious problem currently facing the MIT community. “Unless that trust is rebuilt again, student efforts are going to fail,” said Shulman.

They believe this distrust can be traced back to miscommunication and differences in perspective. Shulman believed that the intentions of administrators are good, but that they don’t heed the student voice enough. “This means yelling a little louder ... but yelling nicely,” he said.

Shulman believes that understanding rather than conflict will lead to greater gains for students: “There’s one path [that students can follow] which is a lot more confrontational and the other is a more reconciliatory path ... which one is more likely to succeed in getting students’ opinions voiced?”

Another problem Shulman and Chuang said they would address is better representation in the UA. Chuang discovered at this year’s Leadershape (where he met Shulman) that for administrators and faculty members the biggest credibility issue for the UA was that it did not represent the entire student body.

“[Currently, it seems that] you represent the dorms, or you represent the IFC or you represent your living group,” said Chuang. “You don’t represent just your living group, you represent the people that live in your living group.”

By involving more students, they believe the UA could increase its credibility with the administration. Shulman, however, also said having more focus groups and committees wouldn’t necessarily involve more students. The proposed alternate means of involving students. “Whether it’s e-mail communication or posting to a site on the Internet, there are ways of getting students’ opinions such that the actions of the UA can reflect what students actually think.”

Policy tied to social events

For Shulman and Chuang, these policy issues are tied to other UA actions such as social events. “Through addressing the policy issues, we will be addressing the social issues ... you can’t just force in a culture,” said Shulman. While commending past successful social events such as the Millennium Ball, he believes that “one great social event isn’t going to compensate for a daily grind of unpleasantness for students,” and stresses the significance of speaking “for the students on policy issues that affect them on a daily basis.”