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Community Forum Set for Today

By Hyun Soo Kim
News Editor

MIT administrators will hold a community-wide town meeting today at noon to answer questions about the effects of MIT's budget cuts. The meeting is in the Sala de Puerto Rico and is scheduled to end at 2 p.m.

The plan will force reductions in administrative and support staff, faculty, and the rate of graduate admission, according to President Charles M. Vest.

"The idea of the town meeting is to listen to the questions and comments people may have and get some suggestions on how we can [streamline the budget] better," said Kathryn A. Willmore, director of public relations and executive assistant to the president.

"We hope that faculty, employees, and students who are interested in these issues will be there," Willmore said.

Vest will first give a brief overview of the budget situation. Provost Mark S. Wrighton, Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56, Vice President and Dean for Research David J. Litster, Vice President Constantine B. Simonides '57, Vice President for Financial Operations James J. Culliton, Personnel Director Joan F. Rice, and other administrators will be present to answer questions.

The town meeting will be broadcast live on MIT cable, Willmore said.

Reductions concern employees

Rice said that the 400-employee reduction will not exclusively be through layoffs. "There will be a certain amount of attrition as people leave to go on to other opportunities. I don't think there will be 400 layoffs," Rice said.

Many employees were concerned about whether there would be any early retirement incentives, Rice said, but additional retirement incentives have not been planned yet.

"I think it's impossible to tell which jobs are threatened," said Manager of Labor Relations David B. Achenbach, who represents the Institute in negotiations with unions.

"Various unions that are involved with MIT have brought up this issue, asking, what is the financial picture like at the Institute during collective bargaining. I think everyone is concerned about the budget cuts. I think everyone fears that their positions will be cut," Achenbach said.

"The most important aspect of tomorrow's meeting is to hear directly from employees the kinds of concerns [they have]. So the feedback is invaluable, especially to the administration," Achenbach said.

Cuts threaten quality of life

The Institute will decrease the number of faculty members about 5 percent by attrition over the next decade, Vest said in a Tech Talk report.

Chairman of the Faculty Robert L. Jaffe feels this will diminish intellectual renewal at the Institute. "The driving force behind the faculty is the young people," Jaffe said. "Our older faculty are no longer required to retire, which means that we will have a real downturn in our ability to bring in bright, young, productive faculty members."

"It is also hard to meet goals of diversifying faculty if we lower the rate at which we can hire new people," he added.

Budget cuts will further decrease the faculty "quality of life," Jaffe said. "Already we perceive that the job of being a faculty has become much more complicated in the past few years. ... There is less flexibility to do research and teach the students and do the things that [faculty] do best."

"There are so many demands on our time. Each individual faculty member is required to do more," Jaffe continued.

Jaffe said entitlements, like the faculty travel fund, had already been cut by previous budget reforms. "Each one of these things seem to be minor, but they add up to [affect] the quality of life for faculty, and there is a threat that it will be diminished further," he said.

The possible reduction in the support staff will also hurt faculty. "There may be more pressure on faculty to take up support staff duties. This will be a burden for a lot of people," Jaffe said. He added that younger faculty already do their own secretarial work because of reduced support.

Graduate students not worried

Christopher M. Gittins G, vice president of the Graduate Student Council, said that graduate students were not very concerned about the budget cuts, even though the Institute plans to decrease graduate enrollment as part of budget reform.

"There hasn't been a real high level of concern expressed in the graduate student body as a whole. I sent a letter to The Tech and the grad student e-mail list, and I got only one letter in response so far. I think it's because it doesn't affect them right now," Gittins said.

Gittins said that cutting graduate student enrollment should not occur without considering the overall distribution of populations at the Institute. "If you cut back the overall number of graduate students, it will have an effect on the size of grants, research volume, and the number of teaching assistants," he said.

"Part of MIT's reputation is its ability to crank out a lot of top quality research. If you cut back on the number of people doing research, then you risk seeing that reputation slip," Gittins said.