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...08 Council President Discusses Activities, Outings

This is the fifth of a series of weekly interviews with members of the Undergraduate Association. These interviews will be conducted by The Tech’s news editors and members of the editorial board. A UA representative will be present during these interviews as well. Questions for the UA members should be sent to uaqa@the-tech.mit.edu the same week they are featured. Responses to these questions will be printed alongside the following week’s interview.

Martin F. Holmes ’08, the president of 2008 Class Council, along with UA Vice President Ruth Miller ’07 (also a Tech Campus Life columnist), was interviewed this week.

The Tech: For those of us who do not really know how the UA works or is set up, where do the class councils fit in?

Martin Holmes: Within the scope of the UA, I feel like class councils are really the event organizers. … Class council is a general body that supports everyone in an entire class of MIT, unlike different student groups that gear their events toward specific interests or purposes. We try to unite everybody and have a fun time. We don’t really have a political agenda or any type of real structural goals other than simply promoting unity. We feel the best way to do that is to throw events where people will have a lot of fun and just come out and socialize with each other and really get to learn about the rest of the student body.

TT: Describe some of the activities that the 2008 Class Council has done this past semester.

MH: We began kind of slow, just transitioning into the current class council. We started with two surveys; both were very successful. We had around 400 people respond to each of them. The first was an event survey, gauging student interest in different events we might be doing. The second was a class clothing survey. Both of those surveys had a huge impact on helping us decide what we would be doing this semester and next semester.

This semester, some of the things we’ve already done were really successful. Faculty dinners were incredibly successful. We had 135 students sign up for those. They were split up into 34 different groups. They went out to dinner with a faculty member. The entire event was co-sponsored with the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming. Julie [B.] Norman helped us put on that event, and we were able to really, I feel, improve student-faculty relations and give students a chance to interact closely with their professors in more of a non-academic setting, more of a social setting. We really hope that will help improve overall spirit of the students and help them have a fun time here.

Some of the other things we’ve done have been a little more low key. We went to a Boston Bruins game against the Toronto Maple Leafs; that was a lot of fun. We did a screening of “Borat” which brought about 150 juniors. We also went to see the circus — Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey — which was decently cool. And we just placed an order for class clothing. We’re going to be getting 300 some odd sweatshirts and t-shirts for the class. …

TT: For the faculty event, how were students and professors paired off?

MH: We had online sign-ups. Students would form their own groups, between three and five students. That group of students would take the initiative, take the necessary steps to invite the faculty member out to dinner. That was probably a good learning experience for the students in terms of organizing everything. Then they would go out to dinner on their own, whenever it was convenient for them and discuss whatever they wanted. We feel it was really up to the students to take the initiative and make it a good experience. Most of the students we’ve talked to have had an incredibly good time; they learned a lot.

TT: Did the class council pay for it?

MH: The class council paid for all the meals. We subsidized up to $15 per students and $25 per faculty member.

TT: What are some future events the 2008 Class Council is planning?

MH: For the rest of this semester, the events that we have left are the dodgeball tournament on Dec. 2 against the senior class. We’ll be going to see the Broadway show “Stomp” on Dec. 14. … Next semester, we have a lot of things in the works. None of them are really solidified right now. We’ll be doing a formal in the spring. We’re looking into Blue Man Group and a couple other shows. We’re also looking into a ski trip. A lot of class councils have done ski trips in the past, but we’re doing a new take on it. We’ll be doing a ski trip, hopefully, up to Montreal, to Mount Tremblant, which is one of the best mountains in the east. We’ll take probably a busload of students up there and they’ll just go skiing. And we’ll take another busload of students up to Montreal and just enjoy the culture of the city. We’re going to try to combine events there.

Next semester, we’ll also be looking into Red Sox tickets. I think that will be incredibly popular. And then, on the side, I’ve been working with the Office of Government and Community Relations. We’re trying to bring in speakers to MIT, and this is something that [President] Susan Hockfield has expressed interest in and seems kind of excited about. We’re looking into big-name political speakers, technology speakers … that should be a really fun activity if we can organize that and pull that off.

TT: What was the motivation to have these events?

MH: Our ultimate goal as a class council is to promote unity among the junior class, among that portion of the student body. Our ideas are to throw events that really bring together different portions of campus that normally don’t really interact. We throw events that unite East Campus and West Campus and others that unite the Boston [Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups] with the MIT dorms. … We hope it promotes respect and cultural awareness and just a broader awareness of different aspects of MIT in general. Along the way, we have a lot of fun in all of these events.

TT: Do you work with other class councils?

MH: Yes, this year we’ve worked specifically with Senior Class Council. The movie screening of “Borat” that we did, we split the entire theatre, 150 juniors went and 150 seniors. … The dodgeball tournament on Dec. 2 will also be a 2007 versus 2008 event, so we’ve been collaborating pretty closely with them on that. We feel that some of these events, where we are collaborating with other class councils, go the extra mile in terms of adding to class spirit and unity. Especially when you have competition, like a dodgeball tournament, you’re going to have the juniors cheering for the juniors and the seniors cheering for the seniors. It’s going to, hopefully, have a big impact on promoting class unity in general.

TT: Describe how this class council is different from the others.

MH: I feel like we’ve taken a much more active role than a lot of the previous class councils, just in terms of doing events and trying to promote unity, trying to throw events that really appeal to different interests. …

Another new initiative that 2008 Class Council has started up this semester is doing traveling class council meetings. We buy up a bunch of food, send out e-mails to dorms, and try to attract students to come down and give their feedback and input on some of the events that we’ve already done, what they liked, what they didn’t like, and some of the events that we’re planning. It’s always good to get some student feedback in terms of helping us decide how many seats to buy for a certain event, how much we should charge, what’s fair. Those have been incredibly successful. The first one was at East Campus. We got a ton of feedback there. We also did Baker [House] and McCormick [Hall], which were both very good. [This week], we’ll be at Burton-Conner.

TT: How much money does the class council get? How much do you have to spend on the class?

MH: The junior class council had a budget at the beginning of the semester of $30,000.

TT: Do all the class councils get the same amount?

MH: No, different class councils get different amounts of money. This is my first year on class council, but from what I’ve heard, freshmen class council and sophomore class council both get $25-30,000. … And then Senior Class Council gets some portion of the revenues from Career Fair, which can be very varying.

Ruth Miller: I’d like to add, though, that the money comes from the Student Life Fee via the Dean for Student Life, not the UA or Finance Board budgets.