The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web

Editorial- $1 Million Infusion to UROP Is Laudable

Provost Mark S. Wrighton's gift of $1 million to summer UROP students is a laudable example of the administration's continuing commitment to the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program -- and to providing undergraduates with needed financial assistance.

The extra $1 million will delay the cuts in the number of students hired for UROPs that is likely when new rules for overhead costs and employee benefits go into effect. The new rules, which start on July 1, could have drastically reduced the amount of money students earned this summer.

Because UROP is a central part of the Institute's undergraduate program, it is no surprise that the policy change has caused such a wave of concern. The use of funds functioning as endowment demonstrates the priority placed on undergraduate involvement in the research laboratories.

Still, this funding is only a temporary solution. We cannot depend on annual cash infusions to keep UROP students working in the numbers they are now. To spend this kind of money at all is remarkable for an institution with a budget deficit of over $10 million -- but it is impossible for the long term.

Wrighton said that viable sources for funding, including federal government agencies, corporations, foundations, and MIT graduates and friends "will be vigorously pursued by the administration and faculty." These efforts are still important. In particular, these outside sources must realize that MIT's actions today do not imply that MIT can solve the problem internally.

While we as the student body should be relieved that MIT has voluntarily picked up the tab on this summer's UROP resources, we must remember that it only temporarily alleviates the task of providing funds for overhead and employee benefits costs.

Undergraduate Association Vice President Anne S. Tsao '94 is organizing a student effort to lobby the Congress. Student efforts may be the most effective way to win outside support for UROP; student's personal experiences with UROP will far more effectively persuade a legislator than the appeals of administrators.

Therefore we must not let up in our efforts to lobby the government and solicit funding from outside sources. Come September, the $1 million grant will have disappeared and UROP will face the same problem it escaped for the summer.