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Visiting Committee to Examine UESA

By Deena Disraelly
Staff Reporter

The Visiting Committee on Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs will begin two days of meetings today to discuss the state of student life at MIT. The committee conducts reviews of student life every few years and presents a report to the Corporation.

The committee will hear from deans, faculty, and students. Based on the problems and concerns raised in the meetings, the committee will formulate a set of recommendations for President Charles M. Vest and Provost Mark S. Wrighton.

"I can't tell you that it will be effective, but there have been committees in the past that came in and made recommendations that affected the entire MIT community," said Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith.

The leaders of many student organizations will join the visiting committee for a reception this evening at the Faculty Club.

Smith hopes that students will meet with the committee at an open forum tonight at 7:30 p.m. in W11, the religious activities center main dining room. "If you have something you want to say, drop by and say it," he said.

Smith hopes to avoid a repeat of the 1993 visiting committee meeting, when less than 10 students participated. "It made the committee think that the students don't care, and it's not true. They've proved it time and again," Smith said.

"We want the students to say what they feel," Smith said. "It's a communication mechanism. If students come out and talk, [the committee] will get a sense of what student priorities are."

Tomorrow, the committee will continue discussions about the selection of the new dean and issues raised in tonight's student meetings.

Committee meets every two years

The visiting committee, a group composed of deans from other schools, Corporation members, and former MIT President Howard W. Johnson, visits MIT every two years.

The committee last convened in 1993, when it discussed issues including student advising, harassment, the Office of Minority Education, minimum standards for teaching assistants, suitable classroom environments, graduate student issues, and dormitory overcrowding.

"I don't think they expected we would solve these problems in two years, and we haven't, but I think we have made some improvement in each of them," Smith said.

An address by DuWayne J. Peterson Jr. '55, chair of the committee, will open this morning's meeting. There are approximately 19 members of the committee, but only 14 or 15 are expected today, Smith said.

Smith will review the actions taken on recommendations made by the Visiting Committee on Student Affairs in 1993. He will report on the state of the search for a new dean for undergraduate education and student affairs, and on plans for re-engineering student services. He will also introduce staff members who have come to MIT since the committee last met.

The committee will hear presentations on the progress of the new system for dealing with harassment at MIT, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, changes in the chaplaincy, and the new Physics I (8.01) teaching format.

The committee will view a student discussion video made about last year's senior survey and discuss dormitory overcrowding and available housing options.

Members of the committee received background information on a range of issues, including a brief history of UROP and data from last year's survey.

Undergraduate Associate President Vijay P. Sankaran '95 and Graduate Student Council President Roger G. Kermode G will address the committee as well.