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Unanimous Apathy

Stephanie W. Wang

The results are in and some people won in the UA elections but does it really matter? Before you start citing the propaganda and the buzzwords of student government, has anyone really figured out what the UA does? If the election campaigns are any indication, I suspect most candidates don’t know either. Yet they continue to stress the importance of voting in the annual beauty pageant in disguise. They want to be confirmed as the popular people, the beautiful people, the changing-MIT-one-inane-social-event-at-a-time people. Curiously, too many students seem to willingly oblige the candidates’ narcissism.

I don’t know about you, but I consciously chose to not vote in the UA elections. After all, what is the point of deciding who will lead a superfluous organization and its puppet subsidiaries? I have been at this institution for close to two years and not once have I felt that the UA’s work has any bearing whatsoever on the lives of the student body. Come to think of it, I don’t understand why the UA is not abolished all together in favor of a much more pragmatic, non-indulgent system. No doubt the UA supporters would be up in arms over this “preposterous” suggestion that undermines all of its “countless accomplishments.” Surely, they would ask: what about the abolition of the meal plan? What about ... uh ... getting funds ... and stuff ... to do other things? Despite certain individuals all too eager to take absolute credit for these supposedly monumental gains for the students, it was really the voice of concerned students and the collective efforts of many that precipitated any changes. The bottom line: the UA doesn’t have any power and Chuck Vest and the MIT Corporation make all the decisions. Unless there is a gargantuan student movement for a certain issue from the grass roots level, the UA itself is completely muted.

Furthermore, for all their pleas of “community building” and “bridges of communication,” I don’t believe for one second that the leaders of the UA actually care or can do anything even if they did. Granted, those who are not on a committee or a council for the resume-whoring may be delusional enough to actually hope that they can make a difference here at MIT. Nevertheless, despite the good intentions, the resultant futility of being involved in the UA is the same. Before you accuse me of not giving credit to the many hours they sacrifice “slaving” for the students to represent their interests, I have to ask: what have they done in these many precious hours? The overbloated meetings and self-righteous plans which never seem to be implemented result only in the resolution to talk more about “building a community,” “working with the administration” and “getting student input.” Here is my input: I couldn’t care less about class councils that organize purposeless study breaks and the myriad of UA Committees on Discussing Doing Something or Other.

The election campaigns have become an increasingly nonsensical farce. They always disintegrate into a competition of having the “cutesiest” slogans and the “slickest” posters while the platforms with no substance are conveniently obscured and questions of effectiveness are consistently dodged by empty pronouncements of “experience” and “empathy.” Apparently, most of the candidates have not been informed that they are no longer in high school. Oh wait, when it comes to these elections, the high school dictates of position monopolies and sophomoric calls for unity and spirit still apply. Therefore I have been forced to suffer through the weeks of nauseating happy faces defacing the sidewalks not to mention the pretentious “model poses” posters that scream “Look! I’m so pretty! I’m so suave! Vote for me (even if I have no idea what I will do once I am elected)!” I tried to suppress my gag reflex as I glanced at a poster which dared to exalt the mob mentality of voting for a candidate because someone else is. After a while, I can only be amused by all the ludicrous, pathetic attempts at gathering support for essentially nothing.

Yes, I am the person who once harped upon the importance of voting for Nader out of principle even if that vote would not alter the outcome of the election. However, I adamantly believe in affecting change through the democratic process only when possible. The U.S. government can become better with a change in the leadership, but the UA is beyond repair and thus should be overthrown in favor of a system that has any semblance of ambition and efficacy. This is why I answer no to the suggestion that I run for a UA office to change the system rather than criticizing it. When the system is this broken, it’s time to destroy it rather than hide its faults with multi-colored glossy propaganda.

Without the self-important Undergraduate Association, the undergraduates certainly won’t suffer. I am not proposing “anarchy;” I am simply suggesting a long-overdue “revolution.” If student groups need funding, then let’s keep the mechanism in place for them to acquire this funding as quickly as possible. If an issue arises where students believe their voices are not being heard, then the students can willingly organize a group to represent them on the matter. If the issue is class-specific, then naturally the group would be comprised mostly if not all of members of that class. All the other unnecessary red tape of having UA/class councils and impotent committees should be eliminated. With the dissolution of the UA, the Bush fund can be subsequently granted to the group with the best proposal for utilizing the money. Yes, I know this “revolution” won’t occur at MIT. After all, the UA is better for the students than the World Bank is for the impoverished in developing countries, and the World Bank hasn’t been abolished. In fact, its president gets invited to speak at commencement here.