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Smith, Kane Plan to Incorporate UA, Battle for Student Rights

By Anna K. Benefiel

Christopher D. Smith ’01 explained his motivation for running for Undergraduate Association President with Patrick D. Kane ’03: “I’ve been in student government pretty much for all of my MIT years. In that time, I’ve seen the direction that student government has taken. The UA is very reactive, short-term, and unstable, and fluctuates with the enthusiasm of six or seven people who do all the work. I’d like to give the UA a stronger foundation, and provide it with long-term vision.”

“One of the biggest things we need to do is directly engage the student body to address the current communication gap between the UA and students,” Smith said. As the Smith/Kane Plan flyers floating around campus explain, this ticket reaches further into new and more controversial territory than others.

One of the things Smith and Kane want to do is to incorporate the UA, following in the steps of student councils at some other universities. Citing the “fundamental abuse of some of our basic rights as adults” by the MIT administration as the biggest problem facing the community, Smith feels strongly that the only way for MIT to remain viable is to make some “serious change.”

“Students have relied on the good favor of people in the administration for too long. Whenever the administration feels like not listening [to students] they can do so with pretty much full autonomy,” said Smith.

Smith, Kane discuss incorporation

Kane joins Smith as a freshman vice-presidential candidate interested in leveraging the power of the student body over the MIT Corporation. He hopes to “put student life at the center” of th e Institute’s agenda. Adding to Smith’s sentiment, Kane said that “getting independent funding will allow leverage” but until the students can obtain the attention of private industry for funding, “student rights aren’t going to be prioritized.”

As the President of the Class of 2003, Kane has 14 executive members on his Class council, and he says that “officer participation distinguishes our class council.”

According to Smith and Kane, incorporation is a “state legal process with a $50 application fee” which will allows the UA to “defend itself against attack.” Their intent is to then solicit money from private interests, allowing funding to be brought directly from corporate sponsors “without any middle administration” between the student and private industry.

Kane added, “Incorporation is a necessary evolutionary step. We want to advocate student rights’ and this is the best way to do so.”

Smith and Kane also advocate the appointment of student representatives to the Boston Licensing Board, the Cambridge Licensing Commission, and the Boston Globe. Kane said, “We’re adults, we’re responsible, we’re more than capable of interacting with the real world directly, and we should have the opportunity to do so.”

Smith hopes to “mobilize the student body” to make incorporation happen. “We’re bolder. We have a better sense of where the student body needs to go.” he said. “That’s the litmus test. Other candidates aren’t prepared to accept this model. You’ve got to be bold enough to openly promote incorporation, and we are. Also, Patrick will be around for a long time, to see our ideas to fruition.”

Smith, Kane discuss other ideas

Smith and Kane have other plans that extend beyond incorporation, such as “establishing student liaisons” to MIT’s Departments and “making UROP a GIR Substitute by partially replacing units currently held by HASS subjects.”

Additionally, Smith and Kane advocate a tuition freeze, funding to improve athletics support, “funding for tailgate parties [and] trips to road games,” and the creation of a “Student Life Honor Code.”