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Re-engineering of Student Services Set to Begin Soon

By Shang-Lin Chuang
News Editor

Next month marks the official start of work for the team charged with re-engineering student services.

The team will endeavor to find ways to increase the value and the quality of services while decreasing the monetary and time cost of those services, said team captain Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Martin F. Schlecht ScD '77.

"The overall objective of the student services redesign effort will be for MITto become the world-class leader in terms of cost, quality, and timeliness, in providing administrative support services to students,"Schlecht said.

The group, which plans to address everything from registration to financial aid, has placed a strong emphasis on soliciting the opinions of students throughout the re-engineering process.

The team's work comes as part of the Institute-wide re-engineering effort, which is entering its third year.

The effort began in November 1993 with the goal of radically changing the way administrative services are delivered. The effort attempts to find new, more efficient ways of providing services in response to the decline in federal funding of research and the shift in federal priorities at the end of the Cold War.

The current team, which represents the review-minded phase one of the effort, will also look into services now provided by the Admissions Office, the Department of Athletics, the Bursar's Office, the Campus Activities Complex, the Graduate School, the Department of Housing and Food Services, the Libraries, MITMedical, the Office of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, and the various academic departments.

The four current members of the phase one team are Director of Special Services Stephen D. Immerman, Special Assistant to the Senior Vice President Jennifer D. Dougherty, Anand Mehta G, and Anthony J.Ives '96.

About five new faculty or staff members will be chosen after interviews are completed next week, Schlecht said.

Second group address redesign

A different but overlapping team will address the project's second phase, which will focus on redesigning programs. Targets for the phase two team include the registration, billing, financial aid, and admissions processes, Immerman said.

"At this stage, it is the strong communication between the team and the community and not the specific decision making that we are working on," said Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Rosalind H. Williams.

Williams sits on the re-engineering steering committee and is one of the project's two sponsors; Vice President for Administration James J. Culliton is the other sponsor.

The phase two team will begin by carefully studying what is presently being done in terms of student services and why it is done this way in order to understand what is important. It will identify the present processes that do not add real value to services to the students, and plan ways to provide increase efficiency, Schlecht said.

Phases one and two will be completed by the end of January, according to the project's schedule. The results and suggestions, once approved by the Williams and Culliton and the Institute's leadership, will then move into the implementation stage in the spring. The plan will then be tested on a segment of the MIT community, refined, and finally moved to full scale implementation, Immerman said.

The phase two team, which will also have about more members chosen in the near future, currently consists of Schlect, Immerman, Mehta, and Dougherty.

Opinions solicited

Throughout the project, the team will be in communication with the MIT community to determine which processes work well, identify those that do not function efficiently, and ask how to rectify problematic areas, Schlecht said.

"We intend to be in constant communication with students, administration personnel, people from the Dean's Office, faculty, alumni, and parents," Schlecht said. "There are many mechanisms, from individual discussions to focus group discussions to advisory groups, to large group meetings, that will provide communication," he said.

Focus groups will consist of about ten people from similar backgrounds, which will collect and consider ideas and suggestions. Large group meetings could involve people from the Graduate Student Council, the Undergraduate Association, living groups and dormitories, or academic departments.

An effort will be made to ensure adequate representation from affected groups, Schlecht said.

Union concerns addressed

The team has plans to talk with labor union representatives concerned about cutting services that are critical to students, Mehta said. Union representatives are also concerned about the 600 to 700 employees whose jobs the re-engineering effort has promised to cut.

"Some of the people who work for MIT are extremely talented and understand the Institute," Mehta said. "The goal is not to eliminate offices but to improve the services to train the service provider to do what the community needs to be done.

"The hard part is coming up with the answers that are right for MIT as a whole," Mehta said. "The jobs, along with the lives of the faculty and students that are affected, will very likely change."

Comments, questions, or suggestions can also be sent to studentserve@mit.edu.