UA, GSC finalize members for two new student committees
The UA and GSC valued a diversity of perspectives when determining committee membership
The Undergraduate Association and Graduate Student Council selected student members for two newly-created committees, the Student Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements and the Student Committee on Campus Climate and Policies around Discrimination and Misconduct Nov. 12. Five undergraduate and five graduate student members were selected for each committee from a final pool of ten undergraduates and ten graduates.
Mahi Elango ’20, UA president, and Peter Su G, GSC president, will co-chair the Student Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements. Fiona Chen ’21 and Bianca Lepe G will co-chair the Student Committee on Campus Climate and Policies around Discrimination and Misconduct.
Based on an email to the undergraduate student body Oct. 29 from Elango, to select the undergraduate committee members, the UA had an open call for nominations. Then, the UA interviewed each nominee and narrowed the list down to ten final candidates for each committee. The undergraduate student body voted on these candidates prior to the UA finally choosing committee members to ensure that each committee had diverse perspectives.
According to an email to the graduate student body Nov. 5, Su outlined that for the graduate committee members’ selection, each student was allowed to vote for up to ten candidates for each committee. Based on this vote, the final pool was narrowed to ten graduate students for each committee with two students representing each of the five graduate schools.
The final committee members were determined by scoring each candidate using a weighted sum of the “yea” vote percentage of the GSC Nominations Board and the “yea” vote percentage of voting students. Student votes received a weight of 16.2, three times the student voter turnout of 5.4 percent. GSC Nominations Board votes received a weight of 83.8, one minus three times the student voter turnout percentage.
Su said in an interview with The Tech Dec. 3 that the UA and GSC chose not to base committee membership directly on student body vote as low voter turnout and a higher proportion of votes from inherently larger communities may result in a committee that fails to accurately capture the student body’s diverse perspectives.
Because each graduate school provides “a different perspective and is connected to a different community,” Su said that the “primary diversity point we ended up looking at was School.” There was one student who ranked in the top five for both committees but was selected for neither.
The votes for undergraduate candidates “were very close as well, and we did almost match exactly the committee membership to the results of the election,” Chen said in an interview with The Tech Dec. 4.
One undergraduate was elected to both committees but was assigned to serve on the Committee on Campus Climate and Policies due to projected time commitments. The person with the seventh-highest number of votes, rather than the sixth-highest, took their place on the Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements.
In an email to The Tech, Chen wrote that the student was chosen “because the sixth and seventh candidates had received nearly identical vote counts (one vote apart), and we felt that the candidate who had been ranked seventh would add a more unique perspective to the committee.”
For the Committee on Campus Climate and Policies, Chen wrote, “We switched out a student who had a very similar background to another member of the committee in terms of campus involvement in living group.”
The Student Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements will host student-only conversations Dec. 8 from 2–3:30 p.m. in 26-152 and Dec. 10 from 7–8:30 p.m. in 32-082 “to discuss how MIT should act in a series of hypothetical situations involving outside engagements, such as grants, gifts, and any other associations and collaborations,” Elango wrote.
“Dissent is really important,” Elango said in an interview with The Tech. “We recognize that perhaps there might be certain opinions that aren’t in the majority, but are still important for us to consider when we’re thinking about these engagements.”
In emails to The Tech, members of the Student Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements Bryan Padilla ’22, Max Langenkamp ’21, Amauche Emenari G, and Aiyah Josiah-Faeduwor G commented on their reasons for joining. Many centered around MIT’s lack of transparency.
Padilla commented on MIT’s mission statement to “advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.” Padilla wrote, “Simply put, I don't think MIT is actually embodying its mission statement.”
Langenkamp wrote that he plans to “use this position to advocate for a more democratic and inclusive dialogue around funding” and how it may influence research at MIT.
Emenari wrote that he joined to share the views of fellow students in the Media Lab that stemmed from anger and confusion following the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.
Josiah-Faeduwor hopes to “institutionalize student involvement in MIT’s decision-making processes.”
The general role of the Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements “is to figure out values and guidelines that MIT can use for determining whether they do a specific outside engagement or not,” Su said. “We want to make sure that the student voice is heard, not forgotten.”
The Committee on Campus Climate and Policies around Discrimination and Misconduct “have been interested in doing more short-term projects that we can at least implement within the next few months with tangible outcomes by the end of this school year,” Chen said.
The committees have met once thus far and are still solidifying their plans for the rest of the year. Both will generate a report by Spring 2020.
“We will definitely hold office hours throughout next semester, so at any opportunity, students are more than welcome to come in and individually talk to us about what they are thinking,” Elango said. Non-chair committee members will also be present during office hours.
The other members of the Student Committee on Campus Climate and Policies did not respond to The Tech’s request for comment.
Editor’s Note: Fiona Chen was an opinion editor for The Tech, stepping down before assuming her position in the UA. Max Langenkamp is an arts staff writer for The Tech.