The Tech has covered the extremely high rate of attrition in the Undergraduate Association (UA) previously, with Senators and members of Exec resigning in droves. In fact, this was one factor that drove the UA to restructure itself this past semester, in hopes of preventing such large-scale resignations in the future. It is ironic that the first individual to resign under the newly formed government is the UA President (UAP) himself, who spent the fall working on the solution.
Allan E. Miramonti ’13 was elected as the first non-senior UAP since at least 1994 and was the only candidate in the running last spring. Despite his lack of experience and the public resignation of his vice-president, Alec C. Lai ’13, Miramonti went on to engineer a largely successful semester, working effectively with the Senate and Restructuring Committee to create the new UA Council. This has put the UA in a delicate position; the transition period to this new government will set the precedent for how the council should operate in the future. It should be taken as an optimistic, fresh start to student-administration relations, and is a chance for the UA to finally become a functionally effective body. Yet now, the only individual suited to oversee such an important transition has abandoned his creation.
One would not imagine that Miramonti came to his decision easily or lightly, and perhaps it truly is necessary for his studies and well-being that he makes such a decision. But should he not have considered the time his classes would take when he ran for election last year? If he did consider his academic commitments and believed he would still be able to serve, then his decision to resign seems to indicate that, as many suspected, Miramonti was too young and inexperienced to take on the role.
Yet Miramonti is not entirely to blame for the situation that the UA is now in; rather, the undergraduates of MIT bear a share of the responsibility. Had Miramonti not stepped up and run, there likely would have been zero registered candidates on the ballot. Because of the infamous apathy of MIT students on issues of student government, an inexperienced, unprepared UAP was elected in place of someone more knowledgeable and better-suited for the position. Why was there no one who cared enough to step up and run against Miramonti? A primary goal of the new UA needs to be to kindle interest in student government through action, a positive reputation, and an inviting work environment so that we have candidates who are experienced, qualified, and knowledgeable about what they are getting themselves into when they run for UAP.
An additional problem with any UAP resigning halfway through the year lies in the relationship with the administration. The UAP is typically the one who handles meetings and negotiations with administrators, and this was true in Miramonti’s case. Presumably, he had build solid working relationships with MIT’s administrators over the fall. Yet now, the UAVP, who had focused largely on internal matters, will have to start completely from scratch, at least in external matters. This is disadvantageous to both students and administrators, for such a change is sure to slow progress, and it could allow the administration a window in which to take advantage of a new, inexperienced UAP.
Of course, this problem would have been mitigated slightly had, when Lai resigned, Miramonti selected as his Vice-President an individual who compensated for his lack of experience. Despite the application of individuals fitting just that profile, he selected TyShaun Wynter, an individual with absolutely no experience in the UA. In the email in which Miramonti announced his decision, he cited Wynter’s leadership positions in ROTC and New House and his abilities as a “quick learner and critical thinker.” Honestly, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone at MIT who does not satisfy the last two qualities, and while the first two are great, general leadership experience does not translate into the ability to maneuver through an organization as large and important as the UA; only experience in the UA, which Wynter lacks, would suffice.
The undergraduate government at MIT will be run by two students who were not elected to serve in those roles, which is certainly not a good thing.
Now, as the UA goes through arguably one of its most important periods in recent memory, it is being led by someone who has spent a single semester in the UA and whose selection as UAVP is not beyond question. A further problem lies in the fact that neither Wynter nor whomever he appoints as the new UAVP will have been elected by the student body. The undergraduate government at MIT will be run by two students who were not elected to serve in those roles, which is bad. As such, one of two things needs to happen: either Miramonti should reverse his decision, or Wynter should compensate for his lack of experience by doing what Miramonti failed to do. He needs to reach out to someone who has extensive experience and inside knowledge of the UA, someone who was intimately involved in the crafting of the documents creating the new UA Council and had been active in the UA even before that. If he fails to do this, it is very likely that Wynter will fail the UA and fail as UAP.