While we agree that the UA Senate is a broken, inefficient system and we would certainly like to see it reformed, we do not believe that compiling and implementing a hastily constructed proposal in the last few weeks of term is the way to fix it.
During this process, there has been insufficient time to get the relevant members of the administration and the student body together to brainstorm ideas and work through issues that both sides may have with the proposal. Instead, individual members of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Implementation of Potential Restructuring (CIPR) met with different administrators and then returned to the committee to share their interpretation of each conversation. As such, there was concern that members of the committee were allowing their own opinions on whether or not the restructuring should pass to influence how they interpreted the positions of administrators they met with.
Furthermore, brainstorming new ideas didn’t seem to be high on the list of priorities in the restructuring process. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the short time scale afforded to the two restructuring committees. While students regularly demand extensive amounts of time and transparency from administrators while working through issues, it seems that they are hypocritically not applying that standard to themselves. Rather, the committees that were charged with formulating and implementing the fundamental documents of student government at MIT were given two weeks to conduct their work.
Another obstacle to brainstorming was the reluctance of UA President Vrajesh Y. Modi ’11 and CIPR Chair Rachel E. Meyer ’10 to allow for the development of a new plan or substantial overhaul of the proposal. When members of CIPR expressed their desire to modify the implementation proposal in response to feedback they’d received from members of the administration, they were told that the charter for the committee did not allow them to develop a new plan — despite the committee’s charter indicating the opposite. This meant that, despite their desire to do so, the Committee was prevented from creating a strong timeline that would lay out a framework under which the restructuring could be further studied.
Furthermore, meetings were often scheduled on short notice (the same day as the meeting, and even during CPW) and CIPR minutes were not published. This neglect was again demonstrated this past Saturday night when Modi scheduled a restructuring meeting for the morning of the next day, Easter Sunday. For all the UA’s talk of transparency and thoroughness, does this strike you as a transparent and thorough process?
As is logical, such a flawed process has led to a flawed product. Because the process more closely resembled going through a to-do list with the goal of reaching implementation at any cost rather than focusing on the meaningful incorporation of ideas, it is not surprising that — according to DormCon Executive Vice President Meagan A. Roth ’11 — most housemasters expressed serious concerns with the proposal. The point has also been raised that absorbing a functioning body (DormCon) into a poorly-functioning body (UA) would not address the student representation problems at MIT. Another concern, expressed by many stakeholders in the process, was that dorm presidents had not signed up for the responsibility of representing students on a UA Council.
Equally important, the student body did not vote the dorm presidents into these new Council positions, just as the UAP and UAVP were not elected to head the new body that would result from this proposal. One question that was seemingly pushed aside was whether the UA actually needs fundamental structural changes. Instead, UA senators could be mandated to attend their house government meetings, which would allow a more accurate representation of the student body — one of the goals of the restructuring.
Those who attempted to push this proposal through before the end of term claimed that if it was not done quickly, crucial momentum would be lost. They feared that the group of students who will sit in student government positions next year will not be as energized to get something passed. This fear is unfounded, because dorm presidents are generally elected by calendar year, which means that they can easily continue to push for change come fall. The newly elected UA President and Vice President also support the goals of unifying the student voice and making whatever deliberative body results more efficient.
DormCon made the right decision voting down a flawed proposal, which was the result of a flawed process. By not acting hastily, DormCon has ensured that we will not receive a product that may not actually solve the problems facing student governance. Rather, a new committee should be formed in the fall which will more fully incorporate the feedback and ideas of the MIT community, provide transparency throughout the process, and, in the end, deliver a product that will address the fundamental problems of the UA Senate.