Campus Profile -- Pius A. Uzamere II
UA President-Elect Discusses Race, Communication
Associate Features Editor
Ask Pius A. Uzamere II ’04 any question about MIT, politics, weather, or sports, and you’re likely to get the same response: “Hold on, I’m busy.”
Most of Uzamere’s days are spent dashing about not just from class to class, but from meeting to meeting in each of which he will likely hold an important leadership position.
Since coming to MIT, Uzamere has been a vice president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, on the student board for the Coop, a resident associate advisor, a MedLINK, and an Undergraduate Association councilor. Come this June, he will add the title of UA president to that list.
Miraculously, The Tech was able to sit down with Uzamere recently and discuss his plans for his upcoming term.
The Tech: Were you equally involved in offices before MIT?
Uzamere: I was very involved in my high school as well.
The Tech: Are you worried that your history will make you appear as more of a politician than a man with the public interest in mind?
Uzamere: Not at all.
The Tech: Do you think as a dorm resident that you can serve as a successful spokesperson for the Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups at such a crucial transition and why?
Uzamere: Absolutely. Issues that affect FSILGs impact all MIT undergraduates in some way or another. It’s absurd to think that one has to be a member of an FSILG in order to effectively serve that community. Jacob [W. Faber ’04] and I are well versed in all campus issues, and we are currently working on improving the lines of communication between the UA and the students so that everyone feels that they are properly represented by the government.
The Tech: Why is daytime SafeRide such a priority when it is mostly a problem of convenience for Boston residents?
Uzamere: Daytime SafeRide is a service that many undergraduates have wanted to see implemented for years. If the UA ignores issues that students care about just because they are simply matters of convenience, then the UA has lost its way. I consider it the UA's job to make life better for students.
The Tech: You and your running mate have been involved in the ILTFP campaign sponsoring dorm rush. How do you plan to push for their goals as president?
Uzamere: ILTFP is a lot broader than fighting for dorm rush. ILTFP is about increasing student input in administrative decisions that affect student life at MIT. In my view, if the UA is doing its job perfectly, then ILTFP should be superfluous as an organization.
I plan to increase the student body's confidence in the effectiveness of the UA and thereby increase the likelihood of undergraduates to give their valuable input to the UA committees, officers, and senators who are charged with representing their interests.
The Tech: When you accepted the MLK oratorical prize, you mentioned that the campus is self-segregated and seemed to conclude that the answer will reside with each individual making a conscious choice to change that or discuss it openly. How will your views carry over into policy?
Uzamere: Self-segregation is a hard problem to solve anywhere. I think that the most feasible way to approach the problem in the short-run is to facilitate interactions between disparate groups without imposing a large, additional time commitment.
One concrete step in this direction is the framework I am working on, tentatively entitled the Cultural Groups Coalition. The CGC is a framework for encouraging the cultural groups on campus to regularly support the efforts of the others and co-host events. Many students already spend many hours participating in cultural groups. By harnessing this already present time and energy ... I believe we can make great strides in improving the cultural climate on campus.
The Tech: It’s often been said that MIT has a bright and energetic body but is subject to a lethal apathy about politics and policies. Many people in the past have tried to change that. Do you hope to?
Uzamere: Of course I hope to change it. I think that much of this apathy will be broken down by making people [see] the UA as a strong, effective organization. This image change will be a great source of empowerment for students who want to make MIT better and will attract the interest of these apathetic students who have traditionally stayed out of the government simply because they are not convinced that their efforts will make a difference.
The Tech: With such a bold statement as “We guarantee that after a year ... no one will answer the question ‘What has the UA done for me lately?’ with a blank stare again,” are you at all nervous that your term will not be able to accomplish that high a standard?
Uzamere: Not in the least. Jacob and I have talked for years about the things we want to make better. This is our chance to accomplish these things and we are very focused on doing our jobs well. We will take input from the students, present a clear set of goals, dispatch the UA’s resources as appropriate, and keep the students abreast of our progress.