Melvin and Martin elected UA president and vice president

‘One of the hardest things in student government is fighting apathy,’ says Martin

The UA announced Saturday that Sarah Melvin ’18 and Alexa Martin ’19 will serve as its president and vice president for the coming academic year. The pair, who will take office at the end of the academic year, have already begun the process of transitioning into their roles.

“I’m excited for Alexa and I to start working on all the things that we care about and campaigned about,” Melvin said in an interview with The Tech. She added that she is nervous, but thinks that nervousness is important for her position because “it’s a big role.”

Melvin, who has served as a representative on both the UA Council and DormCon, said that “there’s a lot of potential within the UA organization” and that she wants to “release that potential.” She plans to continue a number of projects initiated by current president Sophia Liu ’17.

These include improvements to MIT’s advising and career development systems, such as revamping both freshman and departmental advising to make advisors more useful and approachable and bringing a wider variety of employers, including non-profits, to Career Fair.

Melvin also plans to make student support and wellness a focus of her term. “Mental health resources will still be a huge thing for us going forward,” she said, specifying that she will push for more resources on the west side of campus.

Melvin’s third focus is on expanding undergraduate relations with local and national government. “It goes both ways. There are a lot of policies … that affect MIT students, from when can we have parties, what those parties can look like, to how immigration policy affects students’ ability to be here. And then it goes the other way, where MIT has a lot of influence particularly on our local area.”

At the national level, Melvin hopes to develop a better relationship between the UA and the MIT D.C. office, perhaps by sending representatives to the Washington office as the Graduate Student Council does. More locally, she plans to find “a point person” to serve as a liason between MIT student government and the Cambridge city government.

Additionally, Melvin will try to take an active role in negotiations for MIT’s new dining plan, placing emphasis on affordability first, flexibility second. “We have to consider the fact that [a rollover meal or dining dollars system] may bring external costs,” she said.

Melvin and Martin both expressed the desire to reform UA communications, both within the association and with the student body. “The UA represents and advocates for the entire undergraduate body, thus we must do a better job getting input and understanding the needs and desires of all students,” Martin wrote in an email to The Tech.

Melvin, who served as president of Senior House in 2016, said that one of the biggest differences between the east and west sides of campus in relation to student government is that “people on the east side really like to fight for things, and they really do see things as changeable.” She said that this perspective is important to have in the UA, and that she hopes to encourage more east side residents to join.

The UA president serves as an important liason between the MIT administration and the student body, two bodies which often have conflicting wishes. Melvin hopes to work through these issues by reframing discussions so that both sides can see the positives.

“I really do think that almost all of the time the students and administrators have the same fundamental goals,” Melvin said.

The UA has also been criticized for its ability to enact meaningful changes for the student body. Melvin and Martin hope to solve this problem by recruiting more invested officers.

“One of the hardest things in student government is fighting apathy,” Martin wrote.