Staff Cuts Affect More Than Meets The EyeThe likelihood of a 10-20 percent reduction in graduate student enrollment and the planned elimination of 400 staff and faculty positions raises a number of issues and concerns. Unfortunately, most of these were not addressed in last Friday's article ["Institute to Trim 400 from Payroll," Nov. 2].
A reduction in the graduate student population will not necessarily have an adverse effect on the quality of life, research, or education at the Institute. Potential benefits include lowering the number of graduate students per adviser and alleviating the overcrowding in many labs and offices. A decrease in the sum spent on graduate tuition might make it feasible to provide longer guaranteed financial support or improved benefits packages for the reduced number of research assistants. Of course it makes little sense to propose new expenditures without first tending to the Institute's operating deficit. Contrary to the statement which appeared in last Friday's article, the Graduate Student Council does not support the idea of reducing graduate student stipends as a means of balancing the Institute's budget.
Decreasing the volume of research done on campus is one of the possible harms of downsizing. Not only could cutting back on research cause MIT's standing as the world's premier science and engineering research institution to slip, but the loss of grant income might make it difficult to maintain the MIT physical plant as a high quality facility in which to conduct research. Will a reduced research volume lead to higher overhead rates? The effects of downsizing on teaching assistantships needs to be further investigated. Many graduate students holding research assistantships first hold positions as teaching assistants. If the number of teaching assistants is held constant (in order to maintain the current number and size of recitation sections as well as the teaching assistant's workload), would more graduate students compete for a reduced number of research assistantships once their teaching assistantships expire? Would graduate students have to spend more of their time teaching instead of doing research? Graduate students should be as concerned about reductions in faculty and staff as with the thinning of their own ranks. A decrease in the number of faculty will likely reduce the variety of available research projects and graduate level courses. Those of us in departments which depend upon the assistance of technical staff can hardly look forward to the upcoming "payroll cuts."
The Graduate Student Council hopes the administration will seek our assistance, feedback, and advice over the next few years as MIT seeks to implement the proposed cutbacks. By working together and communicating openly and often, we hope that the forthcoming changes can be made as painless as possible.
Caryl Brown G
Christopher Gittins G
GSC Vice President