Freshman Elections BeginBy Jennifer Krishnan
Tonight marks the beginning of the Undergraduate Association elections for the members of the Freshman Class Council.
Despite last year’s elections fiasco, in which a candidate for UA President was disqualified for postering violations and then reinstated, the UA Election Commission has not issued a concrete policy dealing with postering violations and punishment.
Candidates were given no information regarding consequences of poster violations in their candidate packets. Although there was initially a rule requiring all campaign posters to be approved, this was revoked partway through the campaign.
Election Commisioner Zhelinrentice L. Scott ’00 said that the Association of Student Activities had taken over control of dealing with postering violations.
However, ASA President Jennifer K. Chung ’01 said, “We’re not related to UA elections at all, really.”
After last year’s election, during which two commission members resigned, the election commission decided to drastically reduce their duties. “We are evolving from a judicial body enforcing rules into a purely administrative committee of the Undergraduate Association,” Scott said.
“Elections reform is at the top [the UA’s] agenda,” she said. “We had quite a bit of trouble forming the Elections Commission this year. People are unwilling to give so much time. We want to make this activity less time consuming, since it is just a volunteer activity.”
Of the 19 freshmen running for office, over half participated in preorientation programs, and nine were in the Freshman Leadership Program. Since FLP’s inception in 1996, participants have made up a large part of the UA class councils.
“FLP is a self-selecting group,” said Scott. According to her, it is inevitable that a lot of FLP participants will end up in the UA. “People interested in leadership attend FLP, and FLP encourages students to get involved with student government.”
Jerry Ing ’04, running on a team for Social Chair, felt that not having participated in a preorientation program would “dramatically” affect his chances of winning the election. “Having that strong base of supporters would really help,” said Ing. “If all 100 people from FLP vote in a block, they’re pretty much guaranteed a victory.”
Presidential candidate and Freshman Urban Program participant Patrick Y. Kim ’04 said that his participation would definitely help his campaign. The people in FUP “had an opportunity to see that I was a reliable, responsible person,” said Kim. “I made a lot of close friends who are willing to support me.”
“I’ve met a lot of people on my own,” said Maria B. Hidalgo ’04, a vice presidential candidate, who doesn’t think that her participation in FLP will be a factor.
Another issue of concern to several candidates was the fact that they will not have an opportunity to make a speech. “I’m opposed to the idea of a popularity contest, so I was dismayed that there were no formal speeches,” Kim said. He worries that candidates will “worry about getting their names out” rather than discussing issues at tonight’s Study Break.
“As freshmen, elections are completely based on who you know,” said Ing. “Speeches would give us a chance to establish our character, so that people would know who we are.”
Anand B. Patel ’04, who is running with Ing, said that “it doesn’t matter too much, since we did write platform statements.”
Hidalgo said that speeches might even be “a disadvantage to some people. Not everyone can convey their ideas well. People might also vote based on appearances rather than ideals.”
Students can meet the candidates and learn about their platforms at tonight’s study break in Lobdell. The candidates’ platform statements are also available on the web at <http://web.mit.edu/ua/elections/index.html>.
Electronic voting will begin after tonight’s study break, and will continue through midnight on Thursday. Paper balloting will occur on Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This year’s election is earlier than usual to allow the newly elected president and vice president to attend the first annual UA Council and Cabinet retreat.