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Re-engineering Team Issues New Services Redesign Plans

By Shang-Lin Chuang
news editor

In an effort to solicit community feedback, the student services re-engineering team will hold an open house today to present information on the seven processes recommended for redesign and its new proposed model of student services to the campus.

The team has examined a range of services that affect student life. It will recommend to the re-engineering steering committee on Tuesday the redesign of programs in career assistance, educational program support, residence and orientation, personal support, provision of supplies and materials, student housing, and support for co-curricular life.

The key ideas proposed by the team last week to reduce work and improve service include a new model of service delivery, a new centralized database location, and changes to the processes involved in on-campus student employment, balancing student accounts, and tracking student records, the last of which would be done electronically and with an earlier deadline.

The open house will be held in Lobby 10 and Room 10-100 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"There is so much overlap in student services," said Undergraduate Association President Carrie R. Muh '96. "There is no communication between departments right now, and that causes a lot of problems."

"Institutions grow to a size where the old methods of serving students is less efficient and less convenient for both the students and staff," said Stefanie L. Speaker '97, a participant in a Monday meeting at which the new redesign plans were discussed. "MIT has reached this point, and it is good that MIT is trying to make adjustments."

"Several student services can be made more convenient simply by making them into automated functions through the telephone," Speaker said. "I think most of the proposals will make life much easier."

Re-engineering "is a great idea in theory," said Nancy H. Chan '96. "I just really hope that things start happening and change visibly. I just hope it isn't fancy ideas on paper that end up being implemented incorrectly."

"Student services really need to be revamped. There seems to be so much red tape and hassle," Chan said."Students really should not be wasting their time going all over campus to remote offices and dealing with bureaucracy."

"I liked almost everything [in the redesign] except the ridiculous idea of moving pre-registration day to the eighth week of the term," said Sumit Agarwal '98. "By giving students less time to think about their classes, they will increase the disparity between pre-registration forms and finalized schedules."

"Student services, as they stand, are terrible," said Jeremy D. Sher '99. "A central office for student services would be perhaps the best favor MIT could do itself right now."

Seven processes may change

The opportunity assessment team, whose purpose is to review administrative and educational support processes and to recommend areas where changes are needed, has been holding meetings with various student, staff, and faculty groups to identify faulty processes since its appointment in October.

"The seven processes were chosen based upon a set of criteria developed by the team," said team coordinator Anand Mehta G.

The criteria include importance to customer, level of dissatisfaction, opportunity to complement the educational mission, cross-functional interaction, ease of implementation, cost, and volume, he said.

Alumni services and dining processes were not recommended for change because they dealt mainly with one office, and "they are not significantly broken," Mehta said.

"There was not much dissatisfaction with the admission process, and the space allocation process will be dealt with in some of the seven processes that are being recommended for changes," he said.

The team will be making significant recommendations about the seven processes to the steering committee, which is composed of the vice presidents of MIT who will be ultimately responsible for making the decisions on what needs to be re-engineered.

"We will make recommendation on making redesign teams or some other changes for these seven processes to better meet the needs of the community," Mehta said. "We are not sure what those changes will be exactly. Those plans will be sure within two weeks, after receiving feedback from the steering committee."

In addition to recommending the processes to be changed, the assessment opportunity team will also be recommending some general ideas to follow in dealing with student services, Mehta said.

Some of these include ensuring that student services support MIT's educational mission, that student needs come first, and that a better feedback mechanism on how the services are working be established.

New service structure planned

The redesign team, whose purpose is to design a draft of the improved administrative services to student in areas identified by the assessment team, proposed to the steering committee a set of preliminary redesign ideas early last week.

"The team will be refining the design with inputs by the community. The basic idea of the redesign will be fairly firm within the next week or two," Mehta said. The team will also be getting cost estimates during this time.

The team will then meet with the steering committee again on February 13 to go over the final draft of the proposed redesign, said Jagruti S. Patel, treasurer of Senior House and a member of the assessment team.

The implementation team will then be formed to define the details and implement the changes in phases.

"Changes proposed by the redesign team will start to be seen hopefully as early as this coming fall," Mehta said.

The overall student services re-engineering effort will come to an end in two to three years, he said.

The ideas have two major components: the new service structure and the new process changes.

The new model for service delivery includes automatic services, self services, general services, and specialist services. These services are ranked in order of the increasing cost of each transaction and decreasing number of transactions.

Automatic services are performed automatically on behalf of students, faculty, and staff without any intervention other than the initial set-up. They include electronic funds transfers, academic early warning notification, and the notification of impending deadlines.

Self services are routine transactions initiated online by students, faculty, and staff, including transcript requests and billing, inquiries regarding the status of student loans, filing MIT health insurance waivers, class selection, student address updates, and class list generation by faculty and department personnel.

General services will help students resolve situations that require counseling, approval, specialized knowledge, or interdepartmental involvement. They will provide assistance in using the self-service transactions that are available, cross-registration, and emergency short-term cash advances.

Specialist services will provide behind-the-scenes services and those requiring high-level policy decisions or negotiation with outside agencies. They will include federal regulation management and compliance, need analysis, loan processing, and enrollment statistics.

Student records will be kept in a central database that is complete, timely, and standardized to reduce the need for many separate database systems, which result in redundant paperwork. The central database will provide easy access to information to authorized users and appropriate security technology to provide privacy.

A student services center is a centrally located office where students can obtain assistance when the self services are not serving their needs. The center will be staffed by broadly-trained personnel who will be able to address a wide range of student needs. The center will be a centralized site where information and forms are easily available to students and where other services for students will be integrated.

Processes to be more efficient

The changes proposed for the processes of employing students on campus include data processing at individual academic departments, increased flexibility and use of electronic fund transfer from stipend to students' accounts, tracking of employment-related requirements on the central database, online availability of job reviews, recommendations, and evaluations; and electronic processing of student and faculty appointments.

Electronic submission of grades, online updates of addresses, and online availability of add/drop forms, transcripts, and requests for certifications are some of the proposed changes.

Students will be able to choose classes for the next term electronically about halfway through the term with lotteries that will be run immediately, reserving an appropriate number of slots for freshmen. Students also will be able to enroll electronically and have access to services involved in housing, Athena accounts, and the MIT Card.

Student account balancing will be changed by maximizing bill clarity to reduce questions, simplifying loan processes, and investigating the present financial hold policy. The changes will also include directly depositing student salaries into students' MITaccounts or personal bank accounts, reducing errors in the generation of financial aid packages, addressing the seasonality of work loads, and increasing automatic capability in the Student Financial Aid Office through online financial aid applications.