Councilor Elections PostponedBy Matthew Kwan
The Undergraduate Association has decided to hold all councilor elections during the fall semester of each year.
The decision was instituted by the UA Election Commission with advice from the UA Council. While the schedule for the councilor elections has been changed, UA President, Vice-President, and Class Council elections will not be affected, and will still be held in the spring.
UA councilors are elected to represent dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups.
Change due to frosh on campus
One of the main reasons for the change was freshmen living on campus this year. This has created a situation where many students will be moving from dormitories to fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups after freshman year.
In the past years, councilor elections were in the spring, along with the election of the UA President and Vice-President. However, according to the election commission, “if this practice were to continue, it is unclear which council race(s) the moving freshmen should vote in, since there [would be] be no official residence list for next year [if] elections [were to] take place in March.”
The change “has been needed,” said UA President Josiah D. Seale ’03.
Another reason for the change is to help freshman councilors. In the past, freshmen who wanted to sit in the UA Council ran for office in the spring and had to wait until their sophomore year to serve. With the change being established, freshmen will now be able to serve during their first year.
The UA Council is in a lame duck session during the second half of the spring term, meaning council members usually have very little to do during this time period. Moving councilor elections to the beginning of fall will also “better channel the energy of the newly elected officials into doing good things for the undergraduates of MIT,” Seale said.
The change “will get [the councilors] into their job right away,” Seale said, “without losing energy over the summer.”
Feelings mixed about change
One issue that has surfaced regarding the schedule change is voter turnout. Students have expressed different opinions about the election schedule change.
“I think it’s a good idea for freshmen,” said Lucy L. Jin ’04. “I think I would be more interested in voting.”
“I think it’s a good move to get freshman involved,” said Maria E. Hidalgo ’04. “But at the same time, I can see how turn-out can be lower because the high profile elections [for President and Vice President] have been decided.”
Seth E. Dorfman ’05, UA election commissioner, acknowledged the problem and said the issue was “definitely something to be concerned about.” However, he also added that a lot of publicity could be the antidote. “With emphasized publicity, it shouldn’t be a problem,” Dorfman said.
But some students don’t quite agree. “People tend to put a lot of weight on publicity,” Hidalgo said. “Publicity can’t necessarily change people’s opinions. It [only] lets people aware that it is out there.”
Discussions of the changes started around November of the 2002 fall semester. “The whole idea is trying to make it better,” Seale said. “We would have to evaluate the effects next year.”