Running on Empty

THE NEW UNDERGRADUATE COUNCIL

Michael P. Beys '94 pledged to "hit the ground running" when he was elected chair of the Undergraduate Council last week. But how--and where--he's going to run is anyone's guess.

Campaigning on "perseverance and hard work," Beys tried to downplay his past record, which is about as spotty as a student politico's can be. Through Beys' efforts, the council incurred a loss of over $10,000 on last spring's De La Soul concert. Beys also encouraged the council to endorse a for-profit party organized by his friends.

That the council gets little respect is by now a tired fact. Earnest plans for improved public relations--such as the appointment of a student press liaison--haven't helped to keep the council out of the negative spotlight.

The council will never gain credibility if it continues to stick to Beys' old ideas of high-profile, high-risk, disaster-prone concerts and social events. Council members have to learn that some of the places they can really make gains--and gain real appreciation--are through student service programs and student-faculty committees.

Mere press releases and posters won't help when the campus is scoffing at council members' behavior. Certainly, that behavior has not all been Beys' fault. Last fall, an already beleaguered council sank into absurdity when Maya G. Prabhu '94--who narrowly defeated Beys in the fall vice-chair election--resigned over ballot fraud.

And now barely a week after Beys' election, another scandal has shaken the Council. A student appointed under questionable circumstances to fill a vacant seat voted in last week's balloting to elect Beys.

That scandal has not been linked to Beys, but it has stained the council as a whole, lending weight to charges of an old boys' network. Beys needs to change that image. With every new semester and new set of officers, the council has the opportunity to clean the slate. But far from being able to forge substantive gains for oft-neglected undergraduates, the council seems forever unable to keep itself from public ridicule.

Last fall, Beys was subdued, and some council members believe him sincere in his plans to lead the organization in a positive direction. Council representatives can only hope he makes the right choice.

He can hit the ground running--or he can run the council into the ground.