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UA Striving Toward Transparency

We are grateful to David Sheets ’09 for conveying his thoughts on the Undergraduate Association (“UA Needs Transparency,” Nov. 30, 2007). However, that he would take the time to criticize a body that he believes is “continu[ally]” and “consistent[ly]” irrelevant suggests that it is anything but.

We begin by issuing two concessions:

First, we acknowledge that the UA’s Web site has not been updated as expeditiously as it should have been. However, we have been moving swiftly to redress this state of affairs. On Nov. 5, the UA Senate held a discussion session on the topic of visibility and representation; one of the major topics that was addressed was our Web site. On Nov. 26, Senate convened an information session with our chief of information technology, Mason Tang ’10, and conveyed to him the importance of restoring its functionality and accuracy in a timely manner. We expect these updates — which will include sections for agendas, minutes, pending legislation, and past legislation — to be complete by the beginning of next term.

Second, we recognize that the UA needs to do a better job of publicizing its efforts. Again, however, we have been taking proactive measures:

Anyone can join ua-discuss@mit.edu to receive Senate meeting agendas and minutes.

The UA holds office hours every Friday on the first floor of the Student Center.

The UA Executive Committee holds “traveling exec meetings” in a new living group every week. We have visited Simmons Hall, MacGregor House, and Senior House thus far. All undergraduates are invited to attend.

We have started to publish monthly newsletters that summarize our progress and offer ways for students to become involved with the UA’s work (the first one was released on Nov. 13).

The UA Public Relations Committee recently hosted DormStorm at locations across campus, including Baker House, East Campus, Next House, Simmons Hall, the Student Center, and the SafeRide turnaround.

The UA Nominations Committee has established a precedent by convening town hall meetings where student representatives to Institute committees discuss the work that those committees are completing.

Furthermore, the UA has e-mailed undergraduates several times with surveys, requests for feedback on student life issues, and invitations to become involved in our work. Senators also offer a direct way for students to voice their concerns and opinions.

After criticizing the UA’s visibility, Mr. Sheets proceeds to argue that the UA should “spend its time doing what it was chartered to do: represent students.” The convenience of this claim is that it can be issued regardless of the work that we complete or initiatives that we undertake. Ultimately, however, it is vacuous — it is noteworthy that he does not specify a single specific issue that we are neglecting to address. There is much that remains to be done, and there are, as always, many ways in which we can better serve students. We invite Mr. Sheets and any others who aim to enhance undergraduate student life at MIT to join us as we undertake this work.

Martin F. Holmes ’08 and Ali S. Wyne ’08 Undergraduate Association President and Vice President