GSC pushes again for ABD status
By Lakshmana Rao
The tuition paid by doctoral students while they are working on their dissertations is not likely to be reduced in the near future, Faculty Chair J. Kim Vandiver told the Graduate Student Council at last Thursday's meeting.
Vandiver, who is a professor of ocean engineering, said that the Institute would consider lowering the tuition for doctoral students with All But Dissertation (ABD) status if it could afford to.
Currently, all graduate students have to pay full tuition even while they are writing their doctoral dissertations and not taking any courses or using any Institute facilities. The GSC has been asking that tuition be reduced for these students on ABD status.
MIT is one of four universities in the country which funds graduate students' tuition out of the Employee Benefit (EB) pool, which is normally used to pay faculty and staff members. To do this, the Institute charges federally-sponsored research projects an additional 40.5 cents for every dollar spent on salaries. In addition, all research funding sources must pay indirect costs of 57.5 cents on every dollar to cover the Institute's operational budget.
Vandiver said that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently suggested that graduate student tuition be funded from a source other than the EB pool. If that happens, Vandiver said that professors who hire graduate students would have to pay their $20,000-a-year tuition instead. "If this happens, the cost of hiring a graduate student by a faculty member could go up from $30,000 to $50,000 per annum. The faculty will then be under pressure to reduce the number of graduate students hired by one third," he said.
Vandiver was relieved that "currently, the burner is off the tuition part of the total employee benefits charged on salaries," but he was concerned that the OMB might raise the issue next year.
"Being a private institution, we have to raise every dollar that we spend. Budget cuts of the type considered by OMB will seriously affect the decisions that we make regarding ABD status of doctoral students," Vandiver said.
ASA operations discussed
Regarding the appointment of students to faculty committees, Vandiver said that he has asked committee chairpersons to chose their graduate student representatives from the list of candidates submitted by the GSC. The chairpersons were asked to seek fresh nominations from the GSC if the candidates on the original list were not found suitable for their committee.
The GSC wants more input in the nominations process because it feels that graduate students were denied committee appointments because of their political views. "Personally, I would not disqualify a student member if he had a political philosophy that is different from that held by the Institute," Vandiver said.
The council also discussed a resolution demanding that the GSC have greater control over the operations of the Association of Student Activities. GSC President Furio Ciacci G told the council that on two separate occasions, the ASA was not responsive to points he raised at ASA meetings, and that the ASA had ceased to be a representative of the student body.
The council could not vote on the resolution because too few students have been elected to the council this year to meet the quorum necessary for voting. According to the recently-amended GSC constitution, all members have to be re-elected to the council by October 15 each year.
The GSC also had a brain-storming session to identify the issues that are of primary concern to graduate students this year. The ABD status of doctoral students, housing of graduate students and the implementation of the Institute's sexual harassment policy were among the few issues that were mentioned in the session.