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Vest Projects Losses Of $125M for MIT

By David D. Hsu
news editor

At the faculty meeting on Wednesday, President Charles M. Vest projected that MIT could lose $125 million per year because of dwindling federal support.

In addition to Vest's address, Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams announced the plans for the Task Force on Undergraduate Life and the Task Force on Undergraduate Learning.

Other agenda items included voting on the Masters of Science program in System Design and Management and discussing the attitudes of faculty toward retirement.

Institute to solicit private funds

With federal budget cuts and re-engineering, MIT is facing challenging times, Vest said.

"Our goal is to maintain and enhance MIT's excellence in an era of fiscal constraint and societal change," Vest said.

Projected figures show that MIT could lose $125 million per year. This figure includes $35.7 million dollars in reasonably certain annual losses: a loss of $3.5 million in National Science Foundation and National Institute of Health Fellowship subsidies, $2.2 million in proposed NIH graduate student tuition caps, $1 million in indirect charges on the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, and $29 million in indirect recovery costs on research.

Indirect research costs are shared by MIT and the government or other sponsors, but changes in contracts in recent years have cost the Institute money.

Other losses include projected student aid cuts of $8.2 million per year. A best-case scenario could have student aid funds dropping by only $1 million.

Congressional cuts in civilian research accounts may amount to $81 million per year. The figure assumes -- with some uncertainty -- that MITwill lose 30 percent in federal research sponsorship.

Although the figures are estimates, a good portion of the cuts have already been passed, Vest said. "The situation could possibly get worse and worse," he said.

In addition, the Bates Linear Accelerator Center and the Alcator C-Mod tokamak of the Plasma Fusion Center are specific programs that legislation could target for cuts, Vest said.

In order to face these potentially drastic losses, MIT must respond in several ways, Vest said. The Institute must rely on enhancing private fundraising and developing industrial partnerships. The Institute will also need to make budget reductions and reallocations of 6 percent.

Re-engineering may also save money. "We hope that if these things are done right" that we will be able to "provide improved service and get costs down," Vest said.

The cuts will not really affect this year, Vest said."This may be a year where we might squeak through with moderate losses." However, the Institute will experience the loss of real dollars next year, he said.

New task forces formed

Williams announced the purposes of two new task forces for Undergraduate Living and for Undergraduate Learning.

The task forces were formed to help update the Institute's framework for the incoming Class of 2000, Williams said. MIT's now-dated framework was applicable for classes with lower diversity and need for practical education than today.

The Task Force on Undergraduate Living will explore ways to enhance student life and motivate students to participate in an intellectual environment, Williams said. The task force will also work together with the Student Services Re-engineering team and help design residence and dining options.

"The task force must work with a high degree of community involvement," Williams said.

The Task Force on Undergraduate Learning will seek to provide "practice-oriented" learning to the already strong core curriculum, Williams said.

The task force will first assess the current status and needs of students by looking at the number of undergraduates as well as at teaching loads and career goals of students, Williams said.

Finally, the task force will work to expand educational options for students, particularly in the freshman and sophomore years, Williams said.

New masters degree approved

The faculty voted unanimously to approve the new Master of Science program in System Design and Management, a joint program between the Sloan School of Management and the School of Engineering.

Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics R. John Hansman Jr. PhD '82 presented the results of a survey aimed at gauging faculty attitudes toward retirement now that mandatory retirement has been eliminated.

A number of the faculty who responded saw part-time teaching as an attractive possibility during retirement.

Chair of the Faculty Lawrence S. Bacow '72 discussed possible changes in the professor emeritus title of retired faculty, since the title is often received negatively. Some professors emeritus have complained that it is more difficult to publish their work without the title professor. One alternative might be to allow faculty to retain the title of professor for the first five years of retirement.