Elections to Continue In Abbreviated Format
JudBoard Restarts UAP/VP Campaigning After Race Tainted by Postering Violations
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
In an attempt to repair an election process gone astray, the Undergraduate Association Judicial Board has issued a new set of guidelines and recommendations for the election of a UA President and Vice President.
The new rules provide for an accelerated two-day campaigning period, which will end today at noon. Following campaigning, a shortened three-day voting period will begin at 8 p.m. this evening.
Judicial Board members said that the motivation for reducing the level of campaigning this week was to allow the candidates to complete their school work, a rationale which some candidates strongly supported.
“I think that it’s a good solution. It’s nice to know that you can not campaign and that other people aren’t going to poster either,” said UAVP candidate Jason H. Wasfy ’01.
However, Wasfy’s running mate, Jennifer C. Berk ’01, does not agree that these rules will benefit the candidates.
“I understand that the reason for this is to let us do work this week, and that’s reasonable. However, there are a lot of grey areas” in the new election policy. “I like to be very careful, and this makes it harder,” she said.
Presidential candidate Sanjay K. Rao ’02 believes that the revised campaign rules will benefit both the candidates and the voters. He emphasized that this is an “issues-based election,” and mentioned that “what it really comes down to is meeting people.”
In a further complication, Judicial Board member Leah S. Schmelzer ’02 sent an e-mail to many of MIT’s public discussion mailing lists asking the MIT community not to send e-mails to public forums which show a preference of one candidate over another.
Several members of the MIT community were outraged by this recommendation, which they felt limited free speech in the MIT community.
Students protest e-mail
UA Vice President Lex Nemzer ’00 was unsure as to whether the Judicial Board should have discussed the e-mail issue with other members of the UA before issuing the request.
“The decision was made and publicized by the JudBoard. There isn’t really any precedent as to whether they should have sent it through other branches of the UA,” Nemzer said.
Shawn K. Kelly G was somewhat surprised by Schmelzer’s e-mail. “It seems inappropriate to try to limit discussions of the MIT community in general,” he said.
Although Nemzer did acknowledge that the Judcial Board has faced many campaign violations in the past, he believes that it picked an inappropriate solution.
“I think that they found a silly way of trying to solve their problem because it’s not really a problem that can be solved,” he said.
UA President Matthew L. McGann ’00 noted that the e-mail was only a request, and that “a kindly request is not a violation of free speech.”
Christopher R. Rezek ’99 voiced concerns that this policy will keep students who are currently uninformed from learning more about the candidates.
“What I’m afraid of is that students who are looking for more information about candidates will find it difficult to obtain it,” he said.
Kelly noted that “limiting the e-mail forums limits the only way that students have for discussing the forums.”
“I think that an open discussion of the candidates is healthy for the school. I don’t think that you should limit the students’ voices,” Rao said.
“I think that it’s clear that the Judicial Board is trying to ensure a fair election process. If I were on the commission this year, I would lean towards less restraints rather than more,” Rezek said.
Election marred by mishaps
This year’s election process has already been marred by several mishaps. On Wednesday morning, a major bug was found in the election software, requiring the online voting process to be restarted.
In addition, several candidates have been charged with postering violations, many of which may have resulted from poster tampering by unknown parties.
As a result of these alleged postering violations, the ticket consisting of Christopher D. Smith ’01 and Patrick D. Kane ’03 was removed from the ballot on Wednesday morning.
An appeal was issued to the Judicial Board, who decided to put Smith and Kane back on the ballot but temporarily suspend UA Presidential elections until the matter could be sorted out further.
Low voter turnout feared
Many people who are involved with the election process worry that voter turnout for the revote will be much lower than for the original vote. In 1997, the last time that the UA election was rerun, only 643 students voted.
“To have a weak election like we did a few years ago is something that just can’t happen. We need a strong mandate,” Wasfy said.
“We have got to make sure that people don’t lose faith in the UA,” Rao said.
“The UA is a critical aspect of student life at MIT, and I encourage everyone to go to the polls,” said presidential candidate Peter Shulman ’01.