This year, the Undergraduate Association debate was anything but a debate. With only one ticket in the running for the UA President and Vice President, candidates Allan E. Miramonti ’13 and Alec C. Lai ’13 took the time this past Sunday to answer questions regarding their campaign platform.
Only about ten students came to watch the debate, a majority of them members of the UA. Topics discussed included dining, orientation, student engagement, and the UA itself. Of the running pair, Miramonti handled the response to most questions asked by the panel of Tech editors.
Questions initially focused on the state of the UA. In the past two months, the UA has seen multiple resignations. Suan L. Tuang ’14 resigned as Senator for New House, William F. Steadman ’12 resigned as Senator for Senior House, Cynthia A. Bouldrick ’11 resigned from the UA Finboard, and Ellen B. McIsaac ’12 resigned as UA Treasurer. When asked about the resignations, Miramonti answered, “If we have a more efficient body, a body that gets a lot more done, people will be less likely to leave.”
Also, according to Lai, the UA Senate and Executive branches have been in conflict on some issues in the past year. Lai said that as UA VP, he will work more on internal issues, including conflicts like these. “If the two branches would get along more and work together more efficiently, more can be accomplished,” Lai said.
Miramonti added that, if elected, he would take a more external role. “We are going to have to rebuild some of the trust with the administration and the undergraduates.” And when asked to define the goal of the UA, Miramonti answered, “To advocate for students. Pure and simple.”
Miramonti and Lai did not outline too many specific plans they have going into the leadership of the UA. “We are open to suggestions. I don’t want to call the shots too far ahead, but we’re willing to work on things. We’re willing to do what it takes.”
However, the candidates did note their plan to establish an online UA “Help Desk” to more effectively provide information to students, and to evaluate how student spaces could more efficiently be used. They also emphasized the need to continue current UA practice of maintaining active communication with the student body, like through newsletters. Increasing student-administration engagement was also a top priority.
Indeed, the first thing Miramonti and Lai want to do as UA leaders is evaluate the slate of questions facing students today. “I’m going to start off thinking about what the students’ views on many issues are; I’m going to pick an issue and go for it — hit the ground running, I guess,” Miramonti said.
When asked about his plans for the UA presidency, Miramonti answered, “Actions speak louder than words. We need to have a series of actions. We have to do them.”
The session also touched upon the interaction between the UA and other student governments, including DormCon, Panhel, and the IFC. When asked how the UA fits in with the other student governments, Miramonti noted, “I don’t see the UA as a body that represents dorms or fraternities or sororities or any single group. We are a group that represents all undergraduates.”
Miramonti also said that he hopes for the relationship between the UA and FSILGs to be “tighter.”
A question from the audience raised the issue of the dining referendum, a survey in which students will give their opinion on the new dining plan and their approval of how the dining plan came about. Miramonti said that he voted in favor of holding the referendum — to coincide with the UA elections. “I think this is a good way to get hard data. It allows the UA to form a solid opinion around the issue. I think it’s crucial.”
Both Miramonti and Lai feel confident that they are prepared to take the positions of president and vice president of the UA. For more information on their platform, visit http://www.engagemit.com.
Elections for UA president, vice president, and class council officers begins Wednesday at 9 a.m. To vote, visit http://vote.mit.edu/.