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In Defense of the Election Commission

After reading your inflammatory editorial [“Yet Again, UA Elections Disappoint,” Feb. 23], I write in response to the most offensive accusation you leveled. You write: “That the commission didn’t try to publicize the elections gives the impression that it willingly avoided publicity in order to preserve the ruling order’s grip on power.” This is an affront to both the integrity of the members of the commission and to the actual functioning of the elections process.

Members of the commission have recused themselves from every position for which a conflict of interest might be suspected, and to suggest otherwise is slander. If The Tech were to actually look and see how the elections process works, it would realize that the commission is selected through the Judicial Review Board, the UA’s impartial judicial body. Neither the executive branch nor the legislative branch are involved in the UA Elections process at all. Members of the board have gone so far as to avoid even social contact with candidates to maintain the level of impartiality necessary to run this election smoothly.

Because of your level of circulation and privileged voice to the student body, The Tech bears the obligation to report accurately, and even in its editorials, not produce misleading “speculations.” Most editorials are well done; this one was just a little over the top.

Peter A. Shulman ’01

Undergraduate Association President

Apparently there are a number of students who are displeased with the election process this year. The Election Commission feels the accusations made in the editorial on behalf of these students are false, and we would like to address them.

1. The editorial states, “in the process [Election Commissioner Zhelinrentice L. Scott] and other members of the election commission have designed a process offering little choice in democracy to students.”

The Spring 2001 Election Commission is following the election code very closely. The Spring 2001 EC did not “design” any part of the election process. The election process is outlined in the Undergraduate Association Election Code, which can be viewed at .

It clearly states on page 2 that there are choices for the candidates to challenge the process and to defend themselves. In the candidates’ meeting on Wednesday February 21, the candidates were encouraged to email with questions.

2. The editorial states that the commission committed the greatest crime this year by scheduling an accelerated election, and that public notices on petition deadlines were virtually non-existent.

The calendar is clearly outlined in the Election Code and the commission strictly adheres to it. On December 4th, the election commission issued a statement announcing the elections via the usual channel, . The commission received several replies to this email asking questions about the upcoming election. In addition the calendar was reviewed by the Undergraduate Association Council. The schedule has been online for months. Notice of the elections has been given on several occasions since then, by email and in Council meetings, Black Student Union meetings, Interfraternity Council Meetings, Dormitory Council Meetings, and Black Women’s Alliance meetings. Additionally, all current UA councilors were given flyers at the meeting on February 12. Posters are in the dormitories, East and West Campus and the Infinite Corridor.

3. The editorial asserts that the commission violated its own rules by starting elections one day before the required minimum start date.

Article III, Section 5A#1 states, “Spring elections shall be held no less than four weeks after petitions are available and no later than the sixth Monday of the term.” The election packets were available on February 5 and the day electronic voting begins is March 4. There are exactly 28 days between the time petitions were made available and the beginning of the voting period.

4. The editorial accuses the commission of “discouraging candidates from complaining about campaign transgressions by charging these candidates a $25 fee for prosecuting an election offense.”

Yes, the election commission is trying to discourage candidates from filing complaints with them. We want them to go to the Judicial Review Board with those issues. The Judicial Review Board is the official mediating body of the UA and the election commission. They can be reached at .

The election commission is an administrative body following the process outlined in the election code and answering to the Judicial Review Board. The commission’s goal is to run a smooth election. This is why ballot counting this year will be televised, and have many witnesses representing all parties involved. The Spring 2001 EC wants to make this process transparent to all. In addition, no information regarding how many people have voted during the course of the elections will be released. The Commission is accountable to the candidates, and that is why we have met with many of them to get feedback.

5. Finally the editorial demands that “the UA should relinquish control of the debates immediately.”

This is an unconstitutional proposition. All candidates deserve the elections to be administered by an impartial body. The commissioners have gone out of their way to stop personal contact with candidates and even refused to sign their nomination petitions. The commission is reasonable, however the process outlined in the election code is the one we must follow.

In closing, the editorial said “that the commission’s performance gives students reason not to care.” The commission thinks that tasteless, juvenile, and vindictive editorials such as The Tech’s give people every reason to care and be upset. This isn’t the first time, though hopefully the last, that the editorial board has made unfounded accusations to the damage of fellow MIT students and their efforts to improve life at MIT.

It is the hope of the commission that The Tech’s leadership will focus on the candidates and their platforms, and do a stellar job on reporting on the debates that it helped to organize.

Zhelinrentice L. Scott ’01

Dustin P. Muniz ’03

Terry A. Gaige ’04

Spring 2001 UA Election Commissioners

[LTE]Death, Live[body]
I don’t intend to argue with Michael J. Borucke [“Tonight on Fox: Death of a Madman,” Feb. 23] the point of whether a mass murderer should be executed. But I do believe that if this man is to be executed, it is entirely right that the proceedings be televised.
When an American court judges an accused criminal, it is acting as the agent of the American people. That’s you and me. When that court sentences the criminal to death, it is acting as our representative. And when it carries out a sentence of execution, it is carrying out our collective will: yours, mine, and that of every other citizen of this country. We can’t foist responsibility for it on the judge, or the executioner. We elected the lawmakers who passed the laws and appointed the judges to act in our name. When a murderer is legally executed for his crimes, it is we who execute him. How can we then refuse to watch our order carried out? How dare we demand the easy excuse of refusing to televise the execution?
I cannot imagine wanting to watch an execution. But I do approve of executing criminals such as the Oklahoma City bomber--and I feel some guilt about contributing my voice to those who demand his death, when I have so little knowledge of what that really means. Given the opportunity, I will face the results of my support for this execution. I hope that other responsible citizens would do so as well.
And, Mr. Borucke -- maybe if we see an actual execution, we might change our minds about supporting them. I think you would approve of that outcome.
Brian Bermack ’95[sig]
[LTE]Avoid Online Spending[body]
After reading “MIT Discusses Online Courses” [Feb. 23], I did a bit of quick math in my head. One hundred million dollars over ten years for a school with about 10,000 students comes to $1,000 per student per year. I was a TA for a class last year which had a good web site, and it has an even better one this year. However, I bet that if you asked any of the students if they would rather have the Web site for the course, or $1,000 off their tuition, almost all would rather have the latter. We are here to get the best technical education in the world, not to blow our money on computational eye candy.

Torrey O. Radcliffe ’97[sig]