The recent Undergraduate Association elections have once again proven the incompetence and negligence of the UA. The outcome lacks any hint of credibility because of the blatant missteps of the organization. Not only did the UA disenfranchise 30 percent of the undergraduate population in one class council election, but it seemed to implode on itself when making a simple decision on whether or not to allow one student’s candidacy in another.
The UA should have taken measures to ensure that no potential voters lost their voice due to logistical difficulties. Members of the class of 2009 who had moved into off-campus housing after their freshman year were unable to vote in the election unless they sent an e-mail to the UA requesting the right to vote. With an already low voter turnout, it is naive to expect the few who actually try to vote to go the extra mile and request the ability to vote. Moreover, students who are unable to vote in one election are less likely to try to vote in subsequent elections. The UA should be fostering activism, not apathy.
In addition, those disenfranchised voters were members of the Greek community, a community with which the UA already had a weak relationship. A competent UA system would have made the effort to remedy this mistake. It would be interesting to see what would happen if Burton-Conner, Baker, and East Campus residents all lost their right to vote, as these dorms have significantly more UA representation than do those across the river. This negligence was a strong factor in the election, as no off-campus Greeks were elected to contested class council positions. The bulk of their supporters were silenced at the polls. Through its negligence, the UA has failed to accurately represent MIT’s undergraduate demographic.
Our leaders in the UA should be decisive and consistent. The election for Class of 2008 vice president proved them instead to be incompetent and irresolute. According to The Tech on March 16, vice-presidential candidate Prashant K. Dilwali “was granted an extension for his petition by a UA representative. Afterwards, Dilwali was removed as a candidate by the UA Election Commission Rules Board, then reinstated by the UA Judicial Review Board (JudBoard). Finally, in the hour before the election began, the Rules Board decided that Dilwali violated election rules, appending “violated election rules” to his name on ballots.”
This incident demonstrates the red tape and confusion that currently hinder the UA. Different branches of the organization were not on the same page, did not communicate with each other, and even went so far as to undermine each other. The UA Vice President, the UA Election Commission Rules Board, the UA JudBoard, and the UA senate all seemed to be working against each other rather than towards a common goal.
After the final decision was made, the UA Election Commission Rules Board gave Dilwali a campaign violation because he created a Facebook group in support of his campaign before he was an official candidate. Dilwali made the group only after he was told by the UA that he was a write-in candidate. The UA penalized him for the existence of the group during his appeal process to become an official candidate. The appeals process called for an emergency session of UA senate to make the decision. How is Dilwali supposed to know when he is an official candidate when the UA can’t answer that question for themselves? The UA should be going through internal reforms instead of taking out frustrations over their own misgivings on candidates.
The recent UA elections were simply a mess. What is more disturbing than the actual missteps of the UA is the fact that it took no actions to right its wrongs. In the case of the Class of 2008 debacle, the UA should have sent an explanatory e-mail out to the class and extended the deadline to vote by at least a day. In the case of Dilwali, the UA should have made a prompt and decisive decision — even if that decision had been to deny his candidacy.
I hope that Martin F. Holmes and Ali S. Wyne, UA incoming president and vice president, respectively, take the time to understand the apparent failings of the UA election process and to ensure that these events do not repeat themselves.