SidPac Government Gets Mixed Resident ReviewsBy Beckett W. Sterner
NEWS AND FEATURES DIRECTOR
The Sidney-Pacific graduate residence government has received mixed reviews in reponse to its officer selection process.
The government consists of three types of officers, only one of which is directly elected by the residents. The other two are elected or appointed by the previous and incoming officers, according to the SidPac house constitution, which can be found at http://s-p.mit.edu/docs/constitution.php.
Benjamin M. Adida G, one of the SidPac residents who has raised concerns with the house government, said that in most graduate dormitories, the feeling has been “that graduate students are apathetic... as a result, the government is set up in a fairly isolated way.”
According to the constitution, the only officer that SidPac residents may vote on is the hall councillor for their section of the dormitory. The executive council, including the president, and a number of activity and facilities chairs, are elected by the government for the previous year.
One of the primary reasons why occupants of positions such as bikes, brunch, or information technology chair have votes is because they have extensive experience with the responsibilities of running the facilities, said Chair of the Halls Ryan A. M. Tam G.
He said that the student government must maintain facilities such as the computer lab, and hence the chairs have more responsibility than their undergraduate dormitory counterparts.
“You’re looking a lot for competence and dedication” when selecting a chair, said previous SidPac President Krishnan Sriram G.
“We get a lot of feedback,” and have a goal of “above all else, looking out for the residents,” Sriram said.
Some feel concerns are ignored
However, the lack of a more direct system of accountability to the students has led some to feel the government does not give enough serious weight to residents’ opinions.
Jonathan A. Goler G said that the officers “haven’t listened to the residents, and residents have no actual vote in anything but our hall counselors.”
He said that “they leave no time for discussion,” referring to the ten minutes alloted to general discussion at the end of house meetings.
“I think the problem is one of communication,” Adida said.
“There’s no communication channels between the government and the resident” beyond the hall councillors, and “they do a pretty good job ... but they only have so much power,” he said.
Current SidPac president Timothy Ching-Yee Chan G said that “as a new government, we will look at it” as an issue, but specifics have not been determined at this point.
SidPac made progress early on
SidPac opened in the fall of 2002, and the government received an award for its service to the community last year from the National Association of Graduate and Professional Students.
“I think this is a great government,” said SidPac Housemaster Professor Roger G. Mark. “It’s more participatory than some dorms.”
Undergraduate dormitories, such as Burton Conner House and McCormick Hall, usually directly elect their top officers by vote of the residents. Graduate dormitories are generally less directly representative. Tang Hall, for example, is having its previous government appoint the next one.
In order to gather residents’ opinions, the SidPac government relies on open-house meetings and its hall councillors. Krishnan said that typically 50 to 100 people attend house meetings, out of 698 residents.
“I think the hall councillors make a concerted effort to reach out to the residents,” Chan said.
In addition, Chan said that it is “without a doubt that the people on the executive council are some of the, if not the, most passionate people about this dorm.”