UA restructuring is going too fast

Major changes to undergraduate representation demand student input

Dear Undergraduate Community:

We, your elected student representatives, have recently been reviewing a total revision to the UA Constitution — the same Constitution we were elected to serve under and whose integrity we were elected to protect.

While discussions on the motivation for change and initial solution generation took place two weeks ago, the proposed Constitution was drafted during the break, and prior to its public release early Sunday morning, many of the discussions with your elected representatives did not take place on the record. The proposal recommends Senate approval of the Constitutional changes this Monday, and expects the changes to take place immediately.

Concerned by the speed at which this process was moving, and by the fact that key stakeholders including the DormCon President had not been consulted, a few of us outlined a comprehensive review process via an Ad Hoc Committee on Restructuring. In addition to Michael Walsh (Senator for Fraternities), this group of co-sponsors included the Presidents of IFC, Panhel, DormCon (and VP), and LGC. While Senate approved this legislation, it ultimately decided to restrict the term of the committee’s operation to one week.

Considering that we, as your student representatives, have championed the case for earnest student engagement at MIT with statements that criticized the HDAG process as “not fair … thorough … transparent … or respectful,” and demanded that administrators observe a 60-day review process when “a major decision affecting students is under consideration,” I find it a bit inconsistent to recommend that we press for no more than a week to review changes affecting the fundamental means by which students are represented. To justify the timeline, many have asserted that because we were elected to decide on students’ behalf, we therefore have the right and responsibility to replace the Constitution. If students truly are in favor of these changes, why not submit to asking them via referendum?

The “unpreparedness” of the UA president and VP-elect has also been cited as a reason for why this process must move forward quickly — essentially, it is believed that the outgoing UA president and vice president should set up the new government and run it this semester to ensure success next year. First, if it is possible for an elected student representative to fail in implementing the proposed Constitution, doesn’t that speak to inherent flaws? Secondly, despite the criticism, I maintain that these two individuals would do an excellent job in upholding any Constitution provided they are properly transitioned on the intangibles concerning the politics of the Institute by the outgoing UAP and VP. With this said, though, I do not believe that you voted to have Allan and Alec, nor were the presidents of your dorms, of the IFC, Panhel, or LGC selected to serve under this new government regardless of their qualifications or willingness to do so.

It is only right that you, the students we represent, have a voice in deciding how we will go about representing you in the future. Having attended the first meeting of the Restructuring Committee, I am optimistic about what it may accomplish, though it cannot be successful or any change legitimate without your input. However this process resolves itself, I encourage you to read the proposals, to think about your rights as a represented student, to ask questions, and to hold your Senators accountable to the purposes for which they were elected. Because the minutes for this week’s meeting will not be available until Monday, I encourage you to speak with your Senators directly. If at all possible, join ua-restructure-listeners@mit.edu for detailed updates on the work of the committee.

Jonté Craighead ’13 is the current Speaker of the UA Senate, a former Next House Senator, and a current resident of East Campus.