As MIT faces more and more budget cuts, the Undergraduate Association will need strong and effective leadership to make student voices heard in the decision-making process. That leadership will face students that are often apathetic towards the UA as it rallies support on critical upcoming issues concerning dining, add/drop dates, the continuation of the Athena program, and the implications of future changes in enrollment. In contrast to past years, the challenges faced by the UA and its constituents will be broad and far reaching, serving to unite the student body more than divide it. All of these requirements dictate that next year’s UA president and vice president have experience, enthusiasm, and a firm grasp of the realities of the job. There is only one ticket that clearly exemplifies these traits. The Tech endorses Vrajesh Modi ’11 and Samantha Wyman ’11 for UA president and vice president.
As the only candidate pair to register before the election cutoff date, Modi and Wyman demonstrated from the start that they took their candidacies seriously. But The Tech commends the opposing tickets for their service to the MIT community — without them, this race would be uncompetitive and a failure of the democratic process.
Come next semester, UA President Michael Bennie will be leaving the UA in a moderately strong position. Pressing changes are not needed simply to ensure the Association’s viability. All three tickets were clear that their plans for the future would not represent drastic departures from the status quo.
What next year’s president and vice president need is a clear grasp of how the UA and the MIT administration function. Modi and Wyman bring significant experience to the UA’s top executive positions. Both have served as dormitory senators, and Modi has proven he can bring ideas to implementation. The pair are deeply knowledgeable, consistently able to cite the specific committees and administrators involved in any of a multitude of issues. And, at a time when dining continues to be among the biggest issues for undergraduates, Modi and Wyman have followed or been involved with the policy making process for the last few years — from the Blue Ribbon Dining Committee to the newly formed House Dining Advisory Group.
Beyond their considerable political knowledge, Modi and Wyman have an effective plan to divide the responsibilities of working with administrators and internal UA management. They also demonstrate an understanding of the complexities and subtleties of undergraduate life at the Institute. We applaud their desire to hold Executive Committee meetings in dorms and to meet individually with each UA committee chair on a weekly basis — two campaign promises that we are looking for them to keep. Their main goals of online Add/Drop forms and improving SafeRide seem worthwhile and feasible. We also support their efforts to reform freshman advising, though such reforms have proved challenging in the past.
The write-in ticket of Ariel Torres ’11 for president and Jarrett Remsberg ’11 for vice president presents something of a paradox. They are both outsiders to student government and unfamiliar with its workings, but they don’t have the fresh perspective of outsiders. Their platform aims, for the most part, to maintain the status quo. Why should students not instead turn the UA reins over to Modi and Wyman, who have already helped guide the organization?
Torres and Remsberg’s platform has strong points, though. In particular, there is the excellent idea of a chief of staff position, improving UA workflow by allowing both the president and vice president to focus more on long term projects and objectives. The chief of staff position should be considered seriously by future UA leaders as a way to better manage the numerous committees and groups needing attention.
The ticket of Ian Tracy ’11 and Pall Kornmayer ’11 seems unprepared to assume the full responsibility of the top UA positions. Though Tracy has past experience with the UA, the pair lacks a broad vision for the future of the Undergraduate Association and seems uninformed about key aspects of the Senate and of campus culture. Some of their plans, such as creating a liaison committee between the dormitory governments and the UA, are ill-conceived and redundant.
Voters should take note of Tracy’s recent removal from the Senate for poor attendance. Tracy said he ran for senator despite his other commitments because Simmons was facing a vacant Senate seat. He did Simmons a service. But the more responsible choice would have been to encourage an enthusiastic freshman or member of the Simmons community with the time to fully devote themselves to Senate.
In the coming year, the Undergraduate Association will have a unique chance to make lasting impressions on MIT and it will need to prioritize its goals. A strong incoming administration will build on what has been done by Bennie and Delano’s UA, and succeed in addressing student concerns and strengthening administrative ties. Vrajesh Modi and Samantha Wyman are the pair most suited to this task.
Natasha Plotkin has recused herself from this editorial.