The two tickets running for UA President and Vice President faced off last night in a debate in the student center, co-hosted by the UA and The Tech. Running for President and Vice President, respectively, is the team of Cory Hernandez ’14 and John Kongoletos ’14, and the team of Sidhanth Rao ’14 and Devin Cornish ’14.
In the debate, both pairs praised the achievements of current UA President Jonté Craighead and Vice President Michael Walsh in bringing stability to the UA after the major restructuring that the organization underwent in recent years. However, they each cited the need for more student participation in the UA, and each spoke of additional areas in which they wanted to improve the UA and student life.
Rao and Cornish spoke of their desire to create a culture of mutual support between the UA and the student body, improve student spaces on campus, and examine the role of technology in education. Hernandez and Kongoletos emphasized recruiting more student involvement in the UA, strengthening communication between the UA and the student body, and increasing accountability.
In the area of student support, Rao and Cornish emphasized their association with student communities. “I’m from Chi Phi and Devin is from Chocolate City, so we understand the importance of a small, tight-knit community,” Rao said. Rao praised student-run support services such as MedLinks and Peer Ears and said that it is important that students feel ownership of the services available to them.
Hernandez replied that MedLinks is a good service, but limited, and requires active work with the administration to make it effective. On the issue of student support, Hernandez said he planned to increase S3 walk-in hours and publicize students’ end-of-term rights. Rao responded that those efforts are already in the works, and will continue regardless of which leaders are elected.
Rao also said he plans to revamp Athena clusters by creating more group study space, expand SafeRide service, and become involved in the way technology and edX are used in the classroom. Rao has worked for edX for the past several months and says that this experience will be valuable as UA President. “It’s important that your student representative understand the nuts and bolts of technology in the classroom,” Rao said.
Hernandez and Kongoletos spoke of their desire to increase support for student groups by improving room allocation, streamlining the funding process, and introducing controlled-value cards for groups so that members don’t have to front money themselves before being reimbursed. Hernandez also said he plans to increase undergraduate involvement in the MIT 2030 planning process and make sure undergraduate needs are represented.
Finally, Kongoletos said that increasing trust and communication between the UA and the student body is vital. “Two individuals cannot grasp the entirety of what this campus needs,” Kongoletos said, so the UA must make an effort to gather student input. Throughout the debate, Hernandez and Kongoletos spoke of their plan to hold regular UA office hours to talk to students, organize student dinners, and send out surveys to gather student opinions.
Rao spoke of his commitment to outreach by describing his strategy during campaigning: “Talk to five people about the UA every single day.” He plans to make sure the UA has a presence in busy locations such as Lobby 7, Lobby 10, and the Stata ground floor.
One audience member asked what approach each ticket would take to the controversial issue of dining on campus. Rao responded by emphasizing the importance of communication. “What happened last time is that there was a breakdown in communications between what the students wanted and what the student representatives were saying,” Rao said. He added that communication with Dormcon is key to understanding student opinions.
Hernandez said that transparency is key in everything that happens on campus. He would help students understand how dining costs are determined by working with Residential Life to break down expenses and show how money is being spent, and possibly identify areas where costs could be lowered.
Voting begins online at 9 a.m. on Monday at https://vote.mit.edu and closes at 11:59 p.m. on Friday.