UA Candidates Spar Over Student Issues
Presidential Candidates Debate Dining and Transparency Before a Packed Crowd
CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: An article in Tuesday's issue about Sunday's Undergraduate Association presidential debate misattributed some quotes from Raeez Lorgat ’12 and Benjamin J. Agre ’12. Agre, not Lorgat, said “People should not be forced to eat.” Lorgat, not Agre, said “We believe we have more time and more energy." That same article wrote that Noah S. Jessop ’09 claimed the candidates did not fully understand the role of the UA president. He actually said that some, not all, candidates did not fully understand the role.
From the dining system to student-administration transparency, Undergraduate Association presidential and vice-presidential candidates discussed popular student government issues in a debate last Sunday night. The debate was co-hosted by The Tech and the UA Election Commission.
The UA presidential candidates are Michael A. Bennie ’10, Benjamin J. Agre ’12, and Ryan W. Jackson ’10. Their respective running mates are Margaret K. Delano ’10, Raeez Lorgat ’12, and Thomas W. Hay ’10.
Unlike in previous years, this year’s debate was packed. Students used the entire area reserved for the debate on the first floor of the Student Center, filling the seats set up for the occasion, with some crowding along the walls of LaVerdes to get a view of the candidates.
Head moderator and Tech opinion editor Andrew T. Lukmann ’07 (also a former UA President) first asked the candidates about how they would deal with an administration that is sometimes at odds with student wishes.
All candidates agreed that the student body must be better informed of administrative decisions before they are made.
Jackson and Hay said that it is important to solicit everyone’s opinions, even from those who they called the “silent majority.” “The most important thing,” Hay said, “is the ability to get out and communicate with the student body.”
Jackson and Hay described themselves as active participants in activities outside the UA, including greek life and the Freshman Leadership Program. They said that their involvement outside the UA would help build new networks across the entire student body spectrum.
Bennie and Delano agreed there needs to be better communication between students and the administration, adding that their experience in student government would help them work with the administration. “We’ve been here for three years,” said Bennie, who currently serves as UA Vice President. “We have the continuity and know the intangible, inherent knowledge that comes only with experience.”
Delano said that the problem is not the UA, but letting the students know what the UA is doing for them. “We want to make this a two-way street for students,” she said.
Bennie and Delano plan to create a website called “Interact” to increase communication between UA representatives, the student body, and the administration.
Lorgat and Agre took an aggressive stance during the debate by acting as outsiders and criticizing the efforts of the current UA council. When asked about the controversy of MIT’s dining plan, Lorgat said, “People should not be forced to eat.”
As freshmen, Lorgat and Agre tried to separate themselves from their competition by casting themselves as the more energetic and fresh-faced candidates. “We believe we have more time and more energy,” Agre said. He continued by suggesting that the junior candidates will have less time to devote because they are working towards their graduation.
Agre and Lorgat said that they are running for the students’ benefit. “We may not always succeed,” admitted Agre, “but if in the end of the day, we fought and worked by your side, then it will be a success.”
Some spectators were disappointed in the candidates’ lack of energy. UA President Noah S. Jessop ’09 thought that the candidates did not fully understand the role of the UA President.
Jessop said that the candidates should have done more background research on the topics.
At one point during the debate, Agre said that the UA should work with the Campaign for Students. Jessop was quick to shout out from his seat in the audience, “That’s why we meet with the CFS leaders all the time.”
More information on the candidates and their platforms can be found on the election website, http://vote.mit.edu. Online voting will take place on March 16-19. Students will also have the chance to vote by paper ballot in Lobby 10 on March 20.