News

UA motion to hold presidential recall election fails to pass

UPDATE TO THIS ARTICLE: This article has been updated to include Sharma's response to one of the accusations from UA council members.

A vote to launch an undergraduate-wide recall election of Undergraduate Association President Shruti Sharma ’15 narrowly failed to pass in the regularly scheduled UA Council meeting on Wednesday, which at points bordered on disorder.

In a call for impeachment emailed out to the UA Council Sunday, four council members accused Sharma of multiple constitutional violations, including improperly authorizing UA funds to pay for a visit by rapper Lil B and using UA funds for personal expenses.

Sharma dismissed the second charge as “untrue” and “not grounded at all.” In an email to The Tech, she wrote that “the personal expenses were from the Bush fund which is a discretionary fund allocated to the President.”

A vote for impeachment could not be held at the meeting because the UA Judicial Board has thus far been unable to decide whether the charges against her warranted impeachment.

In place of impeaching her, council members moved Wednesday to hold a recall vote. Had the motion passed, undergraduates would have voted on whether Sharma could remain UA president. Voted on by secret ballot, the motion failed to garner the 16 yes votes needed to pass — 14 voted in favor, three against, and one abstained. The recall was apparently an attempt to at least temporarily remove Sharma from office until the recall vote despite the council’s inability to vote on impeachment.

UA Judicial Board Chair John W. Halloran ’15 said that the Judicial Board, which currently has only two members, has been unable to come to an agreement on whether the allegations against Sharma would merit impeachment.

He said that the other member Moriel W. Levy ’17 was “appointed by Shruti and has a close personal relationship with Shruti.” He said that he doesn’t believe that the potential conflict of interest would influence her decisions, but “only that it may be a factor in the speed in which we may deliberate.”

Sharma said she believes the motion for a recall election stemmed from “some miscommunication about the Lil B event,” and said that she had been hoping to address some of the concerns at Wednesday’s meeting.

“We did address JudBoard’s recommendations at the meeting, and I’m reaching out and making sure that the situation is clarified.”

The recall motion came after Halloran said that the board was not yet prepared to rule on whether all the violations were serious enough to warrant impeachment.

Though most language in the UA constitution lists a three-quarters majority — 14 of the 18 members present Wednesday — as the highest threshold for passing any measure, the 16-person requirement for the recall is a holdover in the language from when the UA council was larger, according to UA council member Obasi Onuoha ’17.

A motion to amend the constitution to change the 16-person requirement to a three-fourths majority was put forth and will be up for a vote at the next regularly scheduled UA meeting in two weeks.

Halloran told the council at the beginning of the meeting that the two-person board, whose constitutionally-mandated third member had previously resigned, could not reach an agreement on whether all the impeachment charges were constitutional violations. It was also unclear whether an incomplete two-person board would have the standing to issue rulings.

Halloran recommended the appointment of a third member, but said the normal process of appointment by the UA president would cause a conflict of interest given that the new appointee would likely be the tie-breaking vote on whether the impeachment could proceed to a council vote.

The council improvised and debated several alternative methods of appointing the third member. There was an agreement to send out applications to all undergraduates for the position and then hold an interview process for interested applicants. The interviews would be open to all UA Council members.

32 Comments
1
Council listener almost 3 years ago

For those who are wondering why financial affairs are getting everyone so riled up: financial affairs are not the entire story.

This semester and last, UA Council members have been getting increasingly upset with Shruti Sharma's failures at communication and transparency. On multiple issues - including mental health, student confidence, reacting to the recent deaths, and the Senior House RLAD - it has come to light that Shruti Sharma has been speaking with MIT's senior leadership and voicing her opinions, as if they were representative of the undergraduate body, without telling Council - or undergraduates at large - or asking for their input.

It seems to me that for many Council members, the financial irregularities in the Lil B case and other cases was the final straw, and that they would like to see Shruti gone as soon as possible - even though her term ends in a couple of months anyway - so that these secret or uncommunicated conversations go better.

Any undergraduate can add themselves to the mailing list ua-council-listeners if they would like to receive emails about UA Council meetings and agendas - and any undergraduate may attend UA Council meetings, the next of which will be on April 15th. (Similarly, dormcon-announce is where Dormcon meeting announcements go.) I strongly recommend adding yourself if you are interested in getting more involved or learning more.

2
Anonymously disappointed almost 3 years ago

Wow

Seems an awful lot like the UA council is trying to impeach the president - several months after the fact - for allowing an event that was quite possibly the most hyped event of the year.

Also, this recall shenannigans is unreal. The UA is a joke - why don't you focus on real problems instead of impeaching the president with a month of school left. Has anyone noticed the admins attempting to eliminate floor rush? Hopefully dormcon doesn't lose sight of the bigger picture tonight.

3
Anonymous discontent almost 3 years ago

#2 brings up valid points. However, I would like to point out a few things.

First, it is true that the Lil B event occurred last year. However, the treasurer only found out that the UA had in fact funded the event in January, took some time to compile information, and finally discussed it at the UA meeting on March 18, as per the Tech article. So, though the event itself had occurred a while ago, Council's knowledge of this still seems to be a relatively current matter. Also, the only reasons these proceedings seem to be taking so long are because it is hard to find relevant evidence, an anachronism in the UA Constitution about 3/4 voting vs. 16 members, and due to potentially faulty JudBoard rulings (or lack thereof).

Second, the administration has a habit of making big decisions/changes towards the end of the school year, when students have too much on their plates to retaliate (RIP Bexley) - something counterproductive to their projected stance on mental health, but that is a separate discussion. So, good student representation this time of year is crucial, and having an allegedly incompetent UA president could have catastrophic consequences to student life. So, personally, I don't think the last month is too short a time period to consider impeachment.

Third, there is a very big difference between DormCon and the UA. Attend both meetings yourself and it's abundantly clear - they are run completely differently and and have starkly differing styles of leadership. Having several friends on DormCon, I can tell you that it is a thankless job. Students are not aware of all the issues DormCon protects them from, but DormCon failures are heralded by the Tech. Keep in mind that the big failures for DormCon are probably on issues that the administration has no intention of negotiating/compromising on. DormCon roles are also arguably less flaunt-able on resumes. The students involved do it because they care about student life - again, just attend a meeting and you'll see for yourself. The position of UA president, on the other hand - let's just say there are incentives for the role other than compassion for other students. Of course, I know this is a generalization. Anyhow, we shouldn't make the mistake of assuming UA ineffectiveness implies DormCon ineffectiveness.

4
MIT Student almost 3 years ago

Seems to me this mistake was largely due to foolishness and not malicious intent. Shruti wasn't sure wasn't sure what do and she should have asked, not just decided to pay $13k without talking to anyone.

It seems it was the BSU that signed the contract for something they couldn't pay for, then they had the gall to ask the UA to cover for them. Furthermore, student affiliated with the BSU falsely claimed to be a member of the exec board and convinced Shruti that the bill was the UA's responsibility. The BSU should be forced to refund the UA and be sanctioned for signing a contract when they didn't have money to pay for it.

Lastly, while Shruti's intentions were not malicious, she should still be impeached for exercising powers she didn't have. The only reason she hasn't been is because one of her close friends is on the judiciary.

5
MIT Student (again) almost 3 years ago

Correction to my previous comment. Apparently a junior was responsible for signing the contract, and was not affiliated with the BSU. However, the student claimed to represent MIT the BSU when signing the contract, even though he did not. (I believe this is technically fraud). I hope the Deans called him in and chastised him for being an idiot.

6
Constituent almost 3 years ago

If Shruti Sharma had any shred of respect she would tender her resignation immediately.

Of course, her sense of entitlement and elitism is so incredibly high she probably does not even feel remorse for her behavior; the only regret is getting caught.

7
Anonymous almost 3 years ago

Indeed. But hey, her UA P mission has already been accomplished. #Gates

It is a shame that she is wining that award over so many other genuine, more-deserving people. Such is life I guess.

8
Anonymous almost 3 years ago

winning..apologies for typo

9
ashamed undergrad almost 3 years ago

I have always been proud of being an MIT student. Until now. I am so ashamed and embarrassed at how the many members of the student body have been responding to this. Regardless of my personal opinions of the matter, the behavior of my fellow classmates sickens me. Shruti is a PERSON. She is a fellow student. She is your classmate and neighbor. Regardless of how well or poorly she has acted as UA President, RESPECT her for that. She has been attacked and insulted, which should not happen in any situation.

When everyone learns to behave reasonably, respectfully, and appropriately we can discuss her actions as president. Until then, it is not only unfair but inexcusable to judge her personally or professionally when so many emotions are on the table.

I hope I am not the only disgusted by the actions and comments made about Shruti. And I hope one day I can learn to respect this institution and its students, but I am afraid that's a long way off.

10
Ashamed of UA almost 3 years ago

9 that is all fine and sweet but when Shruti abuses power, draws UA funds for personal use, and then covers up her activities, questions must be raised as to what kind of a person does such a thing.

And the UA president at that, the supposed the representative and model student for undergraduates. Hardly...

11
brandon avila almost 3 years ago

9 - your accusations are silly. and here is why.

We are all proud to be Americans, yet our leader, the president probably gets more shit than any other member. #thanksObama

Now if some one in the UA is going to transfer my money paid to MIT in the form of student life fees to lil B - some rapper from the west side, with lyrics:

"Eat that wonton soup I got the cash like chang, chang, chang/Bitches suck my dick because I come like 36 ways."

- for an event that I didn't even hear about or attend, then I will say no. Hell it wasn't 100 dollars. It wasn't 1000 dollars. It was 12000 dollars that could feed a family of 4 for a year. Its going into that rapper's pocket. Now please read his rap lyrics above again.

I, and all my MIT peers, have every right to attack and insult the president, especially since this article claims that she acted alone in this wrongdoing. So if you are disgusted with MIT, you can get out. Video relevant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fZZqDJXOVg

12
anonymous almost 3 years ago

Some idiots are here to release stress by venting on Shruti. She's a humanbeing and student like you. No need for the childish attempts at character assasination. I went to Lil B's show and it was a blast! I don't care about what any of you haters think. Let Shruti be.It seems like we've got some jealous folks after her. Calm the f down and let Shruti complete her term. Got complaints? File it formally and stop cyberbullying others.

13
Anonymous almost 3 years ago

Shruti's actions may be improper and she may have overstepped her bounds as president, but she hasn't "used funds for personal use" as some people in the comments have said. She's not embezzling to buy herself a car or something. She used funds for a student event.

As such, the ridicule should be tempered. It may have not followed protocol, but I don't see this as an obvious ethical breach. For this reason, I think something like impeachment is way too much of a punishment.

14
Anonymous almost 3 years ago

13 you are sadly uninformed. The lil B misallocation is a seperate issue from using it for personal items. Last time I checked the UA was in no need of Bras from Victoria's Secret this January. Not to mention the purchases in Paris. All on the UA charge card.

15
Anonymous almost 3 years ago

I think that we need to take a step back and focus on doing something positive for the MIT community. As students, we should work to making this an inclusive and inviting environment. Let's help build something positive. We are engineers :)

16
Freedom almost 3 years ago

OK, I get it now. UA is a resume padding tool, so it's pretty much impossible for its leaders to be corrupt anyway. It's too bad they use up money.

15- My proposal:

Step 1. Disband the UA

Step 2. Disband The Tech

Step 3. Disband co-ed housing

Step 4. Shame weirdos

Is that positive enough, or should I try to improve my message?

17
Michael McGraw-Herdeg almost 3 years ago

Hi folks - just a quick note.

The MIT undergraduate association president gets access to a fairly small amount of money, something like four or five thousand dollars per year, that is intended to be used for personal expenses. It's called the "Bush fund" in memory of Vannevar Bush, an alum who was a distinguished engineer.

This fund was covered aggressively in 1993 during a brief controversy:

http://tech.mit.edu/V113/N55/council.55n.html

http://tech.mit.edu/V113/N56/fund.56n.html

http://tech.mit.edu/V113/N57/finboard.57n.html

http://tech.mit.edu/V113/N57/godfrey.57o.html

http://tech.mit.edu/V113/N58/kessler.58o.html

http://tech.mit.edu/V113/N59/chung.59o.html

I can't find a copy of the relevant issue of The Thistle (the former MIT alternative weekly), which is a bummer as it reportedly had a copy of the letter explaining what the fund was originally supposed to be for .

The existence of the Bush fund returned to popular consciousness in 2002 when candidates promised to pay $10 out of the fund to each student who voted for them, http://tech.mit.edu/V122/N11/11Elections.11n.html . Clever but it got them banned from the election, http://tech.mit.edu/V122/N12/12ua.12n.html .

I don't see why someone would call for the impeachment of the UA President for spending money on personal expenses from their discretionary fund that is allocated for personal expenses.

I do see why there is some concern over why someone unilaterally paid $13k for a rap artist to avoid embarrassing the BSU or MIT. Hmmm.

18
Student almost 3 years ago

Politics is politics.

Let's remember the good we do as students. We are in mit to make this world a better a place. I know that sounds cliche, but I'm so pleased by my fellow students. We need to be one, as a student body, to help make not just mit, but also the rest of the world a better place!

19
UAC almost 3 years ago

Michael McGraw-Herdeg, that is fine, except that Shruti Sharma's outrageous personal expenses like ballet tickets in Paris and bras from Victoria's Secret were drawn from the UA card, and not the small discretionary Bush fund. This is a fact.

20
Response almost 3 years ago

Actually, she can expense the card to the bush fund. Get your facts straight.

21
Freedom almost 3 years ago

"We are in mit to make this world a better a place."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA you so funny

Wrong. Universities exist to make the world worse. That's their current purpose.

22
Student almost 3 years ago

21 -- I disagree. Yet, you're in a university. What's your purpose then?? See, people like 21 make a bad name for mit. Come on folks!

23
Freedom almost 3 years ago

22- The devil says he's making the world a better place as he ruins it as quickly as he can. He whips individual people as he cries out in pain. And the majority of people cheer him on.

The devil cannot be opposed openly, though. So take it easy and keep your head down. Maybe give a couple dollars to poor kids in Africa so you look like a good guy.

24
chastize_haters almost 3 years ago

Damn. so many dumb haters here. Shruti DID NOTHING WRONG. yes she paid $13,000 to lil B, so what? I was at the show and had a very good time. If you are stressed go have sex or something. Stop trying to blackmail someone. Damn.

'ondeed. But hey, her UA P mission has already been accomplished. #Gates '

Jealous much? SMH

I fucking dislike cyberbullies. Go get a life please.

25
Freedom almost 3 years ago

24- You are right that such behavior is acceptable in your home continent. But it isn't acceptable here. If you don't like it, book a ticket back.

26
brandon avila almost 3 years ago

ok here's the deal

lets take out the trash first

15, 18, 22 is exactly the type of shit post that should be deleted by the Tech Comment Policy TM. The whole point here is that we want to figure out what is going on. Taking a step back not only fails to contribute to the discussion but actually detracts from it. Yadda yadda do something better yadda yadda. That sounds like the bullshit director of techx would spew in his inauguration speech.

On the way other side, freedom is a fucking troll and we should just ignore him. Post 21 is bad. Post 23 is worse. It's cute that he thinks he can do fantastic allegory comparisons similar to that of Dante and Voltaire. It's not cute that Lil B could do better, keep in mind lil B came up with this:

"Eat that wonton soup I got the cash like chang, chang, chang/Bitches suck my dick because I come like 36 ways." (c.f. post 11)

12, 24 should be the same person. Come on what the fuck. Typing the exact same option twice does not make it twice as relevant. Saying how much you like lil B does not make it better for people who didn't go to the event. Saying that you hate cyberbullying doesn't make this a cyberbully event. With that said, I'm not sure whether you are retarded or delusional. Blackmail? Please.

__

With the shit swept clean, let's look at the two primary topics.

1. Lil B 1. MIT 0

Lil B got a lot of Money. MIT UA lost a lot of money. And before you go on saying how large the budget is, we are looking at absolutes here. Shruti says this is all a misunderstanding. I'm ready to say OK to this. What really piques my interest is this student who claims that he is on the Black Student Union.

A couple of question this raises. What does UA have to do with BSU in the 'funding' of lil B? How does this student play into the equation, and did he do anything wrong other than misrepresentation of his group affiliation?

This is a tight knot and where I believe the crux of the problem is. There is no point in speculation until this clears up.

Continued

27
brandon avila almost 3 years ago

2. Bras Tickets Paris Oh My.

Thank you to 14 for bring this up. The charges are so oddly specific that I'm inclined to believe this as truth. This looks really bad.

Michael brought up points that there is the Bush fund and a couple of links. They were helpful. From what I gathered a couple of UA Presidents from 93 spent this fund on their own housing of MIT or food for the UA. But, as they allege,

"I do not know exactly how Shally spent [the money]," Kessler said. "We agreed that the money should be spent on the general welfare of the students. That was the choice we made and not a restriction that was made on the Bush Fund."

So I guess that's the bottom line that has been set. For the welfare of the students. I'm pretty sure those are not going to be beneficial to me unless Shruti wears them to the next cover of Sports Illustrated. Let's not even go to the Paris tickets.

Therefore it wouldn't be out of the way to assume that she has misappropriated public funds into personal gains. That is not grounds from impeachment. That may be even grounds for a repaying the UA.

28
Freedom almost 3 years ago

Let me fill any confused people in:

1. UA is a resume padding tool, so it's impossible for its leaders to be corrupt.

2. According to unverified accusations in these comments, Sharma has a robust private life; hope her parents and church approve lol.

3. Good thing we elected UA leaders tactful enough to avoid impeachment for fraudulent use of funds. Good endorsement, Tech!

4. There's no media narrative about the UA being a corrupt organization, so there's no use trying to punish them.

5. As we learned at Ferguson, stealing money is no big deal if a certain category of people are taking it.

As we learn more about these events, comment 23 will make more sense. Hopefully the UA will release a statement containing some non-information soon.

29
A Student almost 3 years ago

I think the fundamental thing that a lot of people are missing here is that, yes, she has a discretionary fund, but by approving Lil B, which was not a line item on the UA budget nor sponsored by any portion of the UA, she was exhausting her entire discretionary fund $8K. So not only are her personal purchases inherently inappropriate and not beneficial to the student body, she didn't have that money to spend because she'd already more than exceeded her personal fund. Although her decision may have been reasonable - to make a decision on Lil B with quick turnaround - she didn't have enough money to do that.

Most importantly: clearly the SAO agrees that this was inappropriate because THEY TOOK AWAY HER CVC CARD. That should really be all the proof you need.

30
Anonymous 13 almost 3 years ago

14- You're right. I was somewhat uninformed. I missed the part about personal expenditures. I don't think it was mentioned in the original article, and it's sort of vague in this one.

What a mess! This Bush fund seems to be an odd thing. Is it supposed to be spent on only UA-related things or not? The guidelines for its use need to be revealed in full. Once that is established, I would think there would be a record of what payments were made with this fund as well so it should be clear whether those rules were violated. It should be a black-and-white case.

31
Anonymous House of Cards almost 3 years ago

Looks like we have our very own Frank Underwood on campus! A little psychopathy, mixed with incompetence, delusion, and self-aggrandizement makes for a superb dictator!

Ms. Sharma - you have a future career with HBO.

32
Freedom almost 3 years ago

Haha, I've heard Season 1 of that show was great (but later seasons just got too unrealistic).

Bill Clinton once said House of Cards was just like real life, so I think I agree with your assessment. :P

Leaders in a democracy end up being psychopathic and incompetent. No doubt about that.