SHPC Should Have Sought a Consensus
"You don't do anything on this campus unless you build a consensus," said Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Robert M. Randolph. Randolph was talking about including student representation on an administration committee formulating plans to move undergraduates out of east campus dormitories.
Unfortunately, the workings of Randolph's Strategic Housing Planning Committee and the process that will determine the fate of the east-side dormitories seem to have been planned from the outset to avoid building any kind of a consensus.
Tomorrow, the SHPC is scheduled to make its recommendation about the future of Senior House to the senior administration. The timing could not have been better planned to stymie input from MIT students. In order for any renovations to be made at Senior House next summer, important decisions about the status of the dormitory will need to be made by the end of Independent Activities Period. This schedule severely limits input from graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and alumni.
Given the short timeline one wonders how much time, if any, the administration would have allowed for community input had The Tech not broken the story about the plans four weeks ago. If the SHPC's activities had not gone public, would student groups have been allowed more than a meek protest after a decision had already been made?
Randolph said students could be most effective by meeting with individual SHPC members. President Charles M. Vest said that the committee will see that Dean for UESA Arthur C. Smith and others are informed of concerns and ideas. If Randolph and Vest see the SHPC as a vehicle for transmitting student concerns, why was it kept secret from the people whose input it will now supposedly convey?
Many members of the SHPC don't seem to recognize that the issues involved are larger than a minor reshuffling of students to different residence halls. While those who will make the final decisions seem ill-equipped at this point to evaluate broad changes in the fabric of student life, they have continued to assert that they alone can gauge the "totality" of the issues involved, and that residents' concerns are either not helpful, or have already been considered.
If administrators had been more forthcoming earlier, and if they had cooperated fully with students in making their proposals, they would have found student input more useful. They might have even built a consensus. However, it would seem that the planning so far is still geared toward shutting off the student discussion at the very time it would be most beneficial.