Students will cast their votes next week for the 2013–2014 Undergraduate Association President and Vice President. The next UA President and Vice President will take office at the end of the spring term. There are two tickets running this year: Cory D. Hernandez ’14/John Kongoletos ’14, and Sidhanth P. Rao ‘14/Devin T. Cornish ’14. Voting opens on Monday, March 18 and will be open at vote.mit.edu until Friday, March 23.
Now that current UA President Jonté D. Craighead ’13 and Vice President P. Michael Walsh ’13 have stabilized the transition from a senate structure to the UA Council, neither ticket has major plans to change the infrastructure of the UA, but both teams have placed great emphasis on making the UAP/VP more accessible to the general student population by holding office hours on campus.
The candidates also agree that students would benefit from more information about MIT’s academic, mental health, and wellness services, and both tickets mentioned wanting to increase availability of public transportation such as the Safe Ride and the Boston Daytime Shuttle.
Kongoletos and Hernandez currently serve as Finance Board (Finboard) Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, and both have had considerable experience in UA committees and student groups. Hernandez serves on five committees total and is a leader in eight different student groups. “I’ve seen a range of student groups from cultural groups to advocacy groups to activism to academic groups… it really has given me a great amount of perspective from students,” said Hernandez.
Their three-step platform of recruitment, student engagement, and accountability places an emphasis on acting on student feedback. “The UA is not there to poke fingers into every student group, the UA is there to help the students support what they would like to see,” Kongoletos said. They would also like to get more input from undergraduates on topics such as the renovations in Kendall Square, changes to CPW policies, and diversity and inclusion.
Another initiative they are advocating as members of the Controlled Value Cards (CVC) Committee is the development of a CVC system for all student groups. Each card would be assigned a certain value through the Student Activities Office, and students could use the cards for payments rather than paying out of pocket and getting reimbursed later. They hope to have a limited number of cards available this fall for some beta groups which have both “demonstrated the ability to work with the funding system and have large enough events that we can see a variety of where the cards fail and where the cards succeed,” according to Kongoletos.
They want to engage greater student involvement and clearer communication by bringing back monthly newsletters and continuing dialogue to make sure that students are getting the information they want. Along with the newsletters, Hernandez said that outreach will happen in the form of “sending some more emails and more posters, more tabling beyond just the activities midway for recruitment purposes, and getting students interested as much as possible into joining the Undergraduate Association.”
As UA outsiders, Rao and Cornish want to take the UA “to the next level with renewed passion and vision” while keeping some members, such as the Chief of Staff and various committee chairs, in their roles. They believe that this balance is extremely important for bridging the gap between new and old leaders and maintaining the stability that was established by the previous president and vice president.
“Over the past three or four years, you’ve seen a lot of people who have been in the UA and led it to stability, but we don’t feel there’s really a message and a core to what is happening. I think stability is important, but we do feel that taking it to the next level comes from our providing it a little bit of vision, and people coming to it,” said Rao.
Rao has experience with the election process, having served as class president of his high school. More recently, he was treasurer of his fraternity, Chi Phi, and is a founding member of The Forum, a student group which hosts political discussions. Cornish was a co-chair of his living group, Chocolate City, and is involved in many academic support services such as academic advising and the Tutorial Services Room (TSR).
Their slogan is “Vision with a Checklist,” which includes mutual support, student spaces, and technology in education. The programs they would like to implement in student spaces range from providing door stoppers for all rooms in Maseeh so students can prop their doors open to transforming the Coffeehouse into a functioning café.
They are also interested in streamlining committees by selecting only five or six people per committee and giving more ownership to committee chairs. They would accomplish this by asking the chairs about their visions and letting them run with their ideas.
Regarding their interest in technology in education, Rao has been working at edX for 10 months and is very passionate about the transformations that edX can bring to MIT. He mentioned that edX can give students more resources and confidence in their academic performance, as well as provide the structural capacity to work out scheduling conflicts so that people can focus on an interdisciplinary education.
“We’re not so much saying these are our concrete ideas of how we want to shape the institute and we want you to carry these out. Instead we’re saying, ‘This is our process for carrying out your ideas, now bring to us your goals and visions, and let us help you bring them to fruition,’” Cornish said.
Candidate platforms and contact information can be found at http://elections.scripts.mit.edu/candidates/.