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UAP/VP Candidates Square Off in Debate

Three Tickets Tout Strengths, Blast Opponents

By Naveen Sunkavally


“I have been run over by an 18,000 pound dump truck. I crawled across the Infinite Corridor for 78 laps continuously. No one’s going to stop me from becoming UA president!”

So began Wednesday night’s Undergraduate Association debates, starting with the opening statement from presidential candidate Rhett Creighton ’02 and covering a range of topics from athletics funding and dining to mental health and confidential medical transport.

Candidate team Jaime E. Devereaux ’02 and Allison L. Neizmik ’02, consisting of the UA speaker from MacGregor House and the UA’s publicity chair from Alpha Chi Omega, respectively, touted their experience and the accomplishments of the current administration, including their resistance to the placement of the Technology Enabled Active Learning physics program in the Student Center and their involvement in searching for new deans.

Devereaux said their ticket’s goals were to create a larger sense of community, increase activities funding, and improve student-faculty advising. With their experience they said they could hit the ground running rather than spending a term acquainting themselves with administrators.

The UAP/UAVP ticket of Sanjay K. Rao ’02 from Next House and Jyoti Agarwal ’03 of Alpha Phi focused on their goal of increasing student representation and involvement in the UA. They said that the Shulman administration has been “sugarcoating” interactions with the administration and not involving a diverse enough range of student interests.

Rao said that his year off from the UA since his election bid last year has allowed him to take a step back and see the problems with the UA. His ticket said that it would work on issues of mental health, confidential medical transport, online learning, residence-based advising, and the freshman program.

Devereaux and Neizmik acknowledged that more student input is necessary but cited recent efforts for input including an online web feedback forum, the UA’s Question of the Week box in The Tech, and UA office hours.

The dark horse ticket of Creighton from Tau Epsilon Phi and VP candidate Margaret V. Stringfellow ’03 from Senior House functioned as their own sideshow to the debate. The ticket characterized the UA as mired in committees and said their highest priorities would be to increase the frequency and range of Safe Ride runs and bring back social activities such as UA Heart-to-Heart, the Infinite Buffet, and the Millennium Ball.

In the question-and-answer period Spring Weekend organizer Satwiksai Seshasai ’01 said that the UA is already working on a new Millennium Ball this year called the Odyssey Ball, to which Creighton responded, “So that part’s easy.”

Creighton challenges Rao

Perhaps the most lively part of the debate was the cross-examination period, when Creighton had the opportunity to “prove” that the Rao/Agarwal ticket should not be on the ballot. Citing an obscure UA election rule requiring all petition signatures to be gathered on UA paper and requiring the papers to be stapled with UA staplers, Creighton repeatedly questioned Rao, “Should you be on the ballot?”

Rao said, “I think students want more candidates on the ballot” and “it depends on how you interpret it.”

Creighton’s questioning followed an insinuation in his opening remarks that Rao was responsible for Creighton’s appearance before the Dean for Student Discipline and the UA Judicial Board.

In fact, in an e-mail to the mit-talk mailing list last night, Next House resident Raj S. Dandage ’02 said he filed the complaint against Creighton and Stringfellow. Dandage said the team was over 100 signatures short and that placing them on the ballot would set a “dangerous precedent.”

In their cross-examination periods, Rao and Devereaux focused almost exclusively on each other. Rao questioned why the UA took so long to act on TEAL and why the UA failed to represent MIT before The Boston Globe.

Rao also criticized Devereaux’s unwillingess to reach out to her constituents. “You want students to come to you, when you should be going to the students,” he said.

Devereaux, who appeared the most restrained of the candidates in her attacks, quizzed Rao about specific UA policies and relations with other student governments.

The debate was hosted and moderated by The Tech.

Online voting begins at 10 p.m. on March 4, and paper balloting is on March 9.