The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 34.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

McBay must resign in students' interest

Shirley M. McBay came to MIT five years ago. Since then, the dean for student affairs has alienated most of the student body. Her office has continually acted to the detriment of students, their interests and their welfare. McBay must resign.

There are many capable members of the Dean's Office; their work, however, is overshadowed by McBay's incompetence. Her actions keep the ODSA from becoming the resource the students of MIT need and deserve.

McBay's handling of the pornography debate typifies her disregard for students whenever their goals conflict with her own. She did nothing last spring when the issue was foremost in people's minds. She then enacted a policy over the summer with little student input. Her policy gave her the right to appoint a screening committee which could limit the time or place of a disapproved film.

When the Lecture Series Committee announced its intent to show a sexually explicit film at the end of last term, McBay rewrote her policy to say a film has to be screened six weeks in advance, and then declared that the screening committee could not meet to review the film in time for any showing prior to March.

McBay chose not to enforce her policy, however, when it came to Not a Love Story, a sexually explicit film that fit her anti-pornography agenda. Students cannot trust or respect an administrator who selectively enforces her own policies to further her own goals.

Were McBay's handling of the pornography issue a lone instance of disregard, she could be excused. But she has assailed students, their groups and their needs for the past five years:

O+ October 1979: Vice President Constantine B. Simonides and Chancellor Paul E. Gray '54 reject the short list of names recommended by the Advisory Committee on the New Dean. The "qualifications of the final candidates did not match with the qualifications for the job," Simonides said. The advisory committee used much student input before making its recommendation.

O+ January 1980: After nearly 17 months, McBay is offered the post. She cites a need for coordination among the varied student services and a better definition of their relation to the Institute as a whole. Neither the students nor the advisory committee are consulted.

Sources within the Institute criticize Simonides for predeterming the new dean's job through his reorganization. They charge that the new dean would only be a baby-sitter for Simonides's agenda and would have little opportunity for independent action.

O+ April 1981: The Corporation Visiting Committee on Student Affairs announces it will hold hearings scheduled by McBay and committee chairman D. Reid Weedon '41. The only hearing open to students falls on a Friday night at the end of the term. Undergraduate Association President John De Rubeis '83 criticizes the "really poor planning on the part of the administration." A Tech editorial also criticizes the tentative decision and asks that the meeting be rescheduled. It is not.

O+ April-May 1981: The General Assembly votes to table the 1981-82 student activities budget because there is not enough money to apportion to the various groups. The budget, funded through the Dean's Office, amounts to $77,900, $100 less than the 1969-70 budget. When the GA asks for another $10,000, McBay answers, "You have to come and meet with me to justify why you need $10,000 more so I can make a case for it."

Former Finance Board Chairman Raj Tahil '81 says McBay "said to get a budget proposal in by the end of February, and in January we found out that the student activities budget had already been set completely without our input." McBay eventually grants an additional $11,000.

O+ May 1981: Seniors who have worked closely with the ODSA rate its performance as uneven, and all express concern over a lack of communication between the office and the students. Former UA President Jon Hakala '81 says, "The Administration does not seem to be interested in meaningful participation in decisions that affect policy."

Jason Weller '82, vice chairman of the Finance Board, criticizes McBay for being isolated from the students. "What we have here is a dean of student affairs, rather than a dean for student affairs," he says.

O+ December 1981-January 1982: McBay announces an open tuition forum to get student input. She schedules the meeting for the Thursday before final examinations and later expresses disappointment at the low -- fewer than 30 students -- turnout, adding that the student input would have had "more impact if more students had attended."

O+ April, 1982: McBay tries to justify cutting the student activities budget 20 percent over two years, claiming that the more wealthy student activities, such as SCC, LSC, and The Tech could help support the poorer ones. McBay said "It will be hard to make an argument for student activities when there are various rumors, supported in part by facts, that certain groups have large sums of money that could be, in some imaginative way, returned to the general student body."

LSC Chairman Jay Pattin '83 responded with a letter to The Tech saying, in part, "Coming from the Institute official most responsible for the well-being of student activities, this remark is inexcusable; the unwillingness of the dean for student affairs to argue against reduction in the funding of student activities because of `rumors' that `certain groups' have excess funds is an act deserving the contempt of the entire community."this could always go.

O+ July 1982: In a further attempt to justify activity budget cuts, McBay requests five student organizations give reports to the Visiting Committee the following fall. Besides the three she had singled out earlier, the Finance Board and the InterFraternity Conference were added to the list. McBay specifically excluded all of the cultural groups, the competitive groups, and the small activities, and is accused of making a one-sided selection that ignores student activities having trouble with membership and financing.

O+ August 1982: UA Finance Board Chairman Charles P. Brown '84, in a draft report prepared at the request of the ODSA in preparation for the Visiting Committee, charges McBay with inadequately funding student activities, negotiating with the organizations in bad faith, and attempting to undermine student control of the groups.

O+ November 1982: The Visiting Committee on Student Affairs hears criticism of the Dean's Office from student activity leaders. Judith L. Passman '83, chairman of the Association for Student Activities, says, "The Dean's Office has a limited perception of what is happening" in student activities. Other activities complain in the report:

Finance Board -- Brown repeatedly states that the Dean's Office is trying to gain financial control over student activities.

LSC -- Pattin writes, "In general, the atmosphere when meeting with staff is adversarial, and it should not be. We feel that the Dean's office's understanding of student activities is lacking, and we sincerely hope that the change in the organization within the ODSA will bring with it improved relationships."

Technology Community Association -- "TCA is an organization with some serious troubles at this time. One might expect to get some support from the ODSA. Instead, they have thrown us even more troubles, further over-burdening our leadership and moving any solution to our other problems further down the road."

O+ November 1982: Nine months after the assistant dean for women students' affairs resigns, McBay finally names a replacement, but only as a one-year staff associate.

O+ April 1983: The Visiting Committee on Student Affairs reports that the ODSA "is making commendable progress in building greater awareness with both students and faculty, [but] should improve the quality of its contacts with students. ... Conscious, programmed steps should be take by ODSA to improve the perception of being approachable."

O+ May 1983: Once again McBay schedules an important event for the end of the term. She and LSC schedule Not a Love Story and a forum on pornography six days before the beginning of final examinations. "It was either May 10 or next [academic] year," McBay says. A Tech editorial suggests showing the film again at the start of the following term when some students might actually attend. Nothing is done.

O+ September 1983: After 2600 people pay to see LSC's sexually explicit Registration Day film, the Student Center Committee announces it will show an X-rated film. "We're going to be surrounded by pornography," McBay declares. "I can't imagine 2600 people going to" the LSC film, she says. It appears a segment of the MIT population needs and wants pornographic entertainment, she observes.

O+ October 1983: At a meeting of deans and activity leaders, Assistant Dean Stephen D. Immerman notes that the duty of the Dean's Office is to support student activities, but "we have not gotten to the point where we are good" at it. It is now 45 months since McBay was hired.

O+ October 1983: Activity leaders note declining participation due to academic and financial pressures. The Dean's Office merely shakes its head in sympathy.

O+ November 1983: After six weeks of prodding by students, student activities and the UA, McBay recommends that student activities be exempted from contributing to the MIT employment fund. The recommendation is accepted, giving McBay her only victory as an advocate for the students.

O+ November 1983-January 1984: McBay dismisses popular Assistant Dean Mary O. Hope. While McBay's actions are not censurable because of Hope's refusal to release the letter explaining the dismissal, students and minority groups demonstrate in opposition.

O+ April 1984: The ODSA again freezes the Finance Board's budget, allotting $65,000 for student activities. McBay gives no specific reason for the funding freeze, but attributes it to the MIT budget process, according to Michael Vid'aurri '85, Finance Board chairman. Student organizations requested $120,000.

O+ May 1984: The ODSA, as part of its mounting campaign of harassment against LSC for showing sexually explicit films, questions the validity of LSC's longstanding monopoly on charging admission to commercial films.

O+ August 1984: The ODSA releases the MIT Policy on Sexually Explicit Films.

From her record, it is clear that McBay is either deliberately or unintentionally incapable of managing her office in the interest of the student body. Her ineptitude and bungling have made the office an object of mistrust and ridicule, a stigma not easily erasable. Even members of her own office are privately critical of her performance.

One does not lightly call for the removal of an important official. But the only way for McBay to undo her damage is to make way for someone more aware of student needs, more sensitive to student problems, and more willing to work with students. MIT needs and deserves a dean for student affairs, not against them.

[PP1652.4][EJ]