UA presidential candidates face off in debate

Voting to close Friday, winners to be announced Saturday

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The candidates for the UA President/VP election applauded at the end of the debate hosted by The Tech in the lobby of W20 Saturday, April 15.
Vivian Zhong–The Tech

The Tech hosted a public debate between the UA presidential candidates April 14 at 8 p.m. in the lobby of W20.

Candidates for this year’s elections for UA president and vice president are Sarah Melvin ’18 & Alexa Martin ’19, Daysi Gomez ’18 & Liz Cox ’18, and Malte Ahrens ’18 & Aron Ricardo Perez-Lopez ’20.

The third pair, Ahrens and Perez-Lopez, didn’t start their campaigns until Tuesday last week. Ahrens began the debate with an apology for not being visible via advertisements during the past week, since his previous VP running mate had to drop out because “life happens.”

Voting opened April 17 and will close April 21. Winners will be announced April 22.

Some key issues discussed during the debate are highlighted below.

On Academics

When asked for her guess for the source of academic stress at MIT, Gomez said “I don’t think the rigor of courses is the problem.” She pointed to a stronger advising system and more faculty training as solutions.

Ahrens was the only candidate who brought up, during the debate, the possibility of universal tutoring across departments at MIT.

Melvin wants to create an online platform for students to talk about faculty and staff who create a hostile environment. She also wants training for freshman advisors in unconscious bias.

On Dining

Melvin plans to push for accessible and affordable dining — including affordable grocery stores in the student center and in Kendall square.

Gomez also, according to her online platform, wants to bring affordable dining to the student center.

On Transparency of the UA

Ahrens stressed that most people come up blank when asked which committee chair they would reach out to if you had a problem with, say, health and wellness, and he wants to change that.

Gomez wants to create a “reddit-like” website to allow students to bring issues to the UA’s attention. A comment submitted through Google Forms pointed out that MIT already has a reddit-like channel,, and that it “has been dead for months.”

Both Gomez and Melvin want to hold UA office hours.

On Transparency of the Administration

Melvin’s ticket was the one that most stressed the “lack of transparency” and “miscommunication” between students at the administration. As president of Senior House, Melvin dealt heavily in administrative collaboration in putting together the “Senior House turnaround” kickstarted this past summer.

On Financial Insecurity

Ahrens was the only candidate who, during the debate, touched upon students facing financial insecurity. He discussed the issue of people he’s met who’ve had to choose between sending money home, buying groceries, or going to the doctor. He hopes to improve financial aid and health insurance to combat the problem.

On Mental Health

Melvin stressed wanting to bring mental health resources to student on west campus. She said that if it is a barrier for people on east campus to make the walk to medical, the trip must be much more of a barrier for those on west campus. According to Melvin, one year ago the plan seemed “too expensive” but now it seems “more achievable.”

On Candidate Weak-Spots

Since Melvin is the president of Senior House, one student expressed doubts about whether she would be able to represent the entire MIT community.

Gomez has been recorded as absent from several UA meetings during her past incumbency as VP of the UA.

Ahrens just came back from leave this semester, and did not provide a clear answer as to how he knows what is currently relevant to MIT students.

On Past Experience

Sarah Melvin was Senior House president and a UA Council and Dormitory Council representative. Alexa Martin is the UA secretary and 2019 Class Council treasurer.

Daysi Gomez is the UA Vice President. Liz Cox was on Dormitory Council and UA Council.

Malte Ahrens is the former chair of the UA Innovation Committee. Aron Ricardo Perez-Lopez is on the UA’s Student-Administration Collaboration Committee.