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The candidates for UA president and vice president participate in a debate in the student center on Sunday. Electronic voting will begin next Tuesday and end next Thursday; paper balloting will occur next Friday. For a video of the full debate, see http://tech.mit.edu/V130/N11/uadebate/video.html
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At 9 p.m. last night, UA presidential candidate Ian P. Tracy ’11 was officially removed from his seat in the UA Senate for lack of attendance at Senate meetings, according to Senate speaker Tim Stumbaugh ’12.

Tracy said that he is continuing his campaign for the UA presidency, but that he “hasn’t had the chance to sit down with [running mate Pall M. Kornmayer ’11] yet to discuss our final plans and final decisions.”

“We’ll have our plan more fleshed out within the next few days,” he said.

Tracy explained that he knew last term that he would not be able to devote much time to his Simmons Senate position because of other commitments. He said he decided to run for the position regardless because there was limited interest in the seat among other Simmons residents, and he still “wanted to maintain some level of contact with the UA.”

He acknowledged that his current situation “shows a lack of commitment.”

Tracy also said that he would also probably be moving to a different dorm, most likely Burton-Conner, over the next few weeks, and that “being a Simmons senator while in a different dorm would be inappropriate.”

He said of his removal from senate, “I know this is a controversial event, but if [Kornmayer and I] were to win [the election], our time commitments would change radically next year.”

Daniel D. Hawkins ’12 was appointed to fill Tracy’s seat by Simmons Hall president Christina R. Johnson ’11. Hawkins will represent Simmons for the rest of the Senate term.

According to UA Senate bylaws, a senator who misses more than two consecutive senate meetings will be assumed to have resigned.

In such cases, the president of the represented constituency will be notified and must appoint a new senator.

The presidents of the constituencies of five absent senators, including Tracy, were notified of their senators’ assumed resignations on Sunday evening.

By last night at 9 p.m. only the Simmons president had responded to this notification with a new Senate appointment.

Tracy, Kornmayer, and two other pairs of candidates debated their opinions on budget cuts, campus dining, and communication between administrators and students at the Undergraduate Association Presidential and Vice Presidential Debate on Sunday.

The other candidates for UA President are Vrajesh Y. Modi ’11 and Ariel A. Torres ’11; their running mates are Samantha G. Wyman ’11 and Jarrett R. Remsberg ’11, respectively.

Three tickets debated on Sunday

On Sunday night, candidates sparred at the UA Presidential/Vice Presidential debate.

In his opening statement, Modi described intentions to digitize add/drop forms, improve Saferide and freshman advising, create a UA blog, and run UA meetings in dorms instead of at the student center, and hold weekly meetings with leaders of other student government group such as the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Association, Dormitory Council, and Living Group Council.

Tracy and Cornmayer said they would work to run UA meetings more efficiently, digitize problem set submissions to reduce paper use, and investigate new dining options for the student center.

Torres said he would work on “dealing effectively” and “meeting proactively” with the administration at all levels — “Susan Hockfield if I can,” he added. He said he would help students become better informed of campus proceedings, since looming budget cuts make this a “very critical time for undergrads.”

Candidates responded to questions about the student body’s apparent lack of interest in the UA, an issue brought into focus last week as only one president/vice president ticket — Modi and Wyman — had filed for candidacy by the initial March 1 deadline set by the UA.

Tracy and Kornmayer joined the race as official candidates by the extended March 4 deadline, whereas Torres and Kornmayer are running as write-in candidates on the ballot.

At the debate, Kornmayer explained a need for increased transparency to let students know what the UA is doing, while Torres said that the there is already enough transparency, but that available information must be better publicized.

The UA posts meeting minutes online, but “no one really goes to the UA website,” Ariel said.

Wyman listed writing a UA blog and running UA meetings at dorms as two ways she and Modi would work to keep students in touch with the UA.

Candidates differed on which issue they thought was the most important facing the student body. Tracy cited a lack of a “strong link between the UA government and living group governments.” Runnning mate Kornmayer said that link could strengthened by visiting FSILG’s across the river.

Torres and Remsberg said that the administration is “out of touch with students” and that a “well-informed student body” mixed with “increased communication” will put pressure on the administration. “Apathy makes it that much easier for administration to ignore us,” Ariel said.

Torres, later in the debate, expressed a need to work with The Tech on a regular column about the UA, to which members of the audience responded, “it already exists!” The Tech publishes a brief from the UA in the Opinion section on Fridays.

Wyman said upcoming budget cuts will most affect undergrads, and called for “a fair, transparent and open process” with a “data-driven approach” as MIT makes these decisions.

On the issue of dining, all candidates stressed that any changes to the current system should accommodate students who get their food in different ways.

Remsberg classified MIT students into three categories based on their dining preferences: Those who opt out and rely on meals from FSILGs, those who have Preferred Dining, and those that cook for themselves.

Torres said he was “disappointed with how the administration dealt with the Blue Ribbon Dining Committee” and thought that the UA recommendations were “more supportive and in touch with needs of students.” The Blue Ribbon Dining Committee called for a $600 declining balance dining plan, while the UA suggested the elimination of mandatory dining membership and the installation of a centralized dining hall.

Wyman also complemented the UA’s work on analyzing students’ dining preferences.

Modi said that he and Wyman “support creating system that meets the needs of each individual living group.”

Tracy said he supported of the Institute-wide Planning Task Force report’s recommendation to reduce the financial aid allocation for food, a proposal which received a net 84 “thumbs up” vote on the UA website.

Tracy and Kornmayer said they were concerned that increasing the mandatory dining fee would cause freshmen to choose their dorm based on dining costs, not their fit with the dorm’s culture.

When asked what they thought were the most important recommendations from the Planning Task Force report, candidates agreed that proposed changes to add and drop dates would restrict undergraduates’ flexibility and freedom with choosing classes.

Tracy said that the proposal to install gas and electricity usage meters in dorms was important because it would help students take responsibility for their energy use.

One question from the audience asked the candidates what the UA would do to reach out to students who “don’t live in or care about the dorms.” Wyman explained that she and Modi have talked to IFC leaders about engaging such students, while Kornmayer said dinners and house meetings are good opportunities for direct communication.

The debate was jointly organized by The Tech’s editorial board and the Undergraduate Association, and moderated by Tech opinion editors Ethan A. Solomon ’12 and Joseph R. Maurer ’12.

After the debate, Eric A. Del Castillo ’13 said he thought the discussion “was pretty insightful.” “It seems like all the candidates have a clear plan as to where they’re headed,” he said.

Kevin A. Rustagi ’11 said, “I liked the fact that they talked about dining, but I wish that was more flushed out,” since to him dining is a “more pressing issue” than some of the other topics of the debate.

Tom M. Cervantes ’11 said he was impressed by the focus on student involvement throughout the debate. “I was happy that they had a lot of the student questions, both right in here and online. Been more aware of what the UA does through the year, curious what the candidates would have to say, especially since there was only one pair running originally.”

The debate was broadcast live online at http://tech.mit.edu/live and the recording is available on the Tech website at http://tech.mit.edu/V130/N11/uadebate/video.html.

Electronic voting runs from Tuesday, March 16, 12:00:01 a.m. to Thursday, March 18, 11:59:59 p.m. Paper ballots will be available in Lobby 10 on Friday, March 19, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The candidates’ platforms are available at http://vote.mit.edu.