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Corporation election rules unfair

If I told you about an election process in which the candidates are placed on the ballot by a closed committee of insiders, the candidates are prohibited from responding to questions from the voters, and the voters themselves are admonished not to even ask any questions, would you guess that the election must be in Iran, communist China, or some other undemocratic venue dominated by a self-serving dictatorship? You’d be wrong. These are the published rules which have been imposed by the Corporation Screening Committee on the election of a recent graduate to the MIT Corporation.

Titled “Electioneering Policy,” this policy instructs candidates that they must limit their communications to “the electronic poster page on the ballot that is made available to each individual who is selected to be a candidate on the ballot.” It warns that any other interaction with voters “will be considered inappropriate and may subject a candidate to disqualification.” Candidates are advised “if asked why they can’t talk about the election, inform voters that there is a policy which prohibits campaigning by both candidates and voters;” and they are encouraged to snitch on one another in e-mails to ballotviolations@mit.edu. Voters are also subject to the gag order by “a statement on the ballot which advises all voters that they must abide by this policy as well.”

This despicable policy offends in every way the fundamental concept of a democratic election. It ensures that the voters are denied the most basic opportunity to inform themselves about the candidates by limiting them to the officially sanctioned ration of candidate information published by the same committee which chooses the candidates. This is hardly a method to ensure that voters would be able to cast their votes on an informed basis. Why even bother to hold an election when such a complete gag rule is being imposed?

This is yet another reflection of an administration which appears to be far more concerned about its own convenience and perpetuation than in fostering the kinds of vigorous civil discourse and open processes which are indispensable if the goal is for MIT to maintain its leadership as a top institution of its kind. This process seems to be carefully designed to minimize the chances of electing to the MIT Corporation a recent graduate who may bring an independent, perhaps dissenting, viewpoint. It appears that the Administration wholeheartedly endorses the Orwellian truth: “Slavery is Freedom”.

The Electioneering Policy is accessible here: http://alum.mit.edu/sites/default/files/IC_assets/benefits/docs/CandidateElectioneeringStatementtoNominees.pdf

Richard Kramer ’75

The Dollar Pledge supports MIT students

When we read The Tech’s report on the developments in Orientation and Residential Exploration (REX, formerly known as R/O), we decided that, as alumni, we had to support the students. We created the Dollar Pledge for this very purpose.

By donating a single dollar through the Alumni Association, alumni can show their concern for the well-being of students. Every one of these dollars in the donation books is a powerful vote in support of students. Moreover, by donating what you would have given to MIT to another foundation or charity, you can still have a positive impact on the community, while standing up and sending a strong message to the administration.

The Dollar Pledge is about much more than just REX. The slashing of REX is just one of many attacks on student affairs in the past few years. These controversies have ranged in scale from the abrupt laying off of a single individual, Dean Simonis of Student Support Services, to the debate on mandatory dining, which affected the entire student body and stretched out over the course of years. Students have rightly pushed back through official channels, and protested in less orthodox ways. We stand by them; the administration must give students a legitimate say in the decisions which significantly impact their everyday lives.

With the Dollar Pledge, we aim to provide MIT alumni and other donors with a positive means of supporting MIT’s mission and unique student body. Further, we wish to quantify the cost of decisions which make MIT students unhappy, and ultimately, unhealthy. It is no secret that happier, empowered students make willing alumni donors down the line.

Please support the students of MIT by taking the Dollar Pledge at dollar-pledge.mit.edu. As of writing, a few days after launch, we have more than 50 donors, giving a combined total of more than $4,000 to charitable institutions other than MIT.

Drew M. Altschul ’08