Opinion letter to the editor

UA President/VP Election

Vote Sarah Melvin and Alexa Martin for UA President and Vice President

For the first time since 2015, voters will have a choice between not one but three tickets for the future of the Undergraduate Association’s leadership. With our choice of a UA president and vice president, we have the power to dictate the future of the organization, its priorities, and its behavior. The challenges that the UA will face in the coming year—both internal and external—necessitate a president and vice president with experience, dedication, and perhaps most importantly, vision. Only the ticket of Sarah Melvin ’18 and Alexa Martin ’19 clearly satisfies all of these requirements.

Melvin and Martin are running on a platform that prioritizes increased student engagement with the administration and with the UA. Their platform addresses a wide range of issues, including reforms to academic advising, strengthening the presence of cultural groups, and increasing transparency within the UA (just to name a few), but in each of their points, the guiding principles of engagement and collaboration shine through. Melvin and Martin promise not just to advocate on behalf of undergraduates, but also to push for direct inclusion at all levels of decision-making.

One of the most striking aspects of the Melvin/Martin ticket is its breadth of experience. I struggle to imagine a pair more well-balanced than Melvin and Martin. Melvin’s unique experience as president of Senior House during the chaos following the decision not to allow freshmen in the dorm this past fall offers a perspective that perhaps no one else in the entire undergraduate student body shares. As a result of this role, Melvin has the skills necessary to have incredibly difficult conversations both with members of the administration and with her constituents. These skills are not just poetry for a campaign website: they have translated into concrete outcomes. She led the charge in facilitating heavy involvement of Senior House residents and alumni as well as MIT community members in general in advocating for the dorm, which shaped the turnaround process and forced the administration to become more transparent about its goals and methods. As DormCon i3/RAC chair, Melvin has worked with the Rainbow Lounge to improve Gender-Inclusive Housing and implemented training for individual dorm RACs to increase their involvement in the rooming process beyond the dorm level. Melvin’s unique perspective comes with the caveat that she is something of a newcomer to the UA; however, her proven dedication to cross-campus issues and wise choice of running mate more than compensate for her relative lack of experience in the organization’s highest levels.

Rather than pander to the played-out dichotomy of insider vs. outsider, Melvin instead chose to work with Alexa Martin, a well-established member of the 2019 Class Council and the current UA secretary. Martin’s deep understanding of the inner workings of the UA will be critical to enacting the pair’s ambitious platform and accomplishing the critical task of increasing student investment and engagement in the affairs of the UA. Additionally, Martin’s strong connections with current members of the UA will facilitate a smooth transition to new leadership should the ticket be elected.

Melvin and Martin are the only candidates that can be trusted to do more than just pay lip service to the notion of increased student representation in conversations within the administration. Melvin’s aforementioned experiences as Senior House president lend a salient backdrop to the pair’s campaign promise to fight hard for undergraduate voices to be heard. As UA president and vice president, Melvin and Martin will not only act as intermediary advocates for the undergraduate body, they will also effect more extensive and valuable direct interactions between students and administrators through proposed initiatives to increase administrators’ office hours, develop the presence of the Student-Administration Collaboration Committee, and implement a follow-up system to promote accountability. Their dedication to promoting both UA and direct grassroots involvement in decisions in the administration should resonate with anyone who has felt marginalized or underrepresented in developments at MIT in recent years.

We are fortunate this year to have a choice between three enthusiastic tickets for UA leadership. With this opportunity to choose comes the responsibility to reflect on our needs as a student body and the traits we value in our most powerful advocates. Sarah Melvin and Alexa Martin have the potential to breathe new life into the UA with broad experiences and a proven dedication to student autonomy and representation, and I unequivocally endorse them for the positions of UA president and vice president.

—Allie Stanton ’18, president of East Campus and housing chair of the Dormitory Council. 
Emma DeSoto ’18, president of Burton Conner, and Jacqueline Liu ’18, president of Simmons Hall and REX chair of DormCon, are also signatories.