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Senior Gift to UROP is Timely, Laudable

A year ago the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program was unsure of its future - caught in the controversy between MIT and the federal government over indirect cost recovery regulations. One year later, on the 25th anniversary of UROP, the future of the program is no more certain. Given this uncertainty, the decision of the Class of 1995 to give its senior gift to UROP is especially timely and laudable. Seniors should be congratulated for a gift with genuine importance to the Institute.

UROP is one of the most valued parts of undergraduate life at the Institute. Bringing together renowned faculty and energetic students, it lies at the heart of MIT's mission as a research university. From a student's perspective, UROP offers the chance to make a difference outside the classroom and benefit from the chance to explore various research fields. Faculty benefit from the research work that is often at little cost relative to hiring a research assistant or graduate student.

UROP is also notable as a program that encourages women and underrepresented minorities to get involved in research. It seems that these students are more likely to go on to graduate school, and perhaps even more likely to become faculty members - a trend MIT has been trying to encourage for many years. And for all students, it is unofficial (and usually better quality) financial aid.

With its broad significance, the class gift will contribute to the larger goal of building an endowment for UROP. As MIT attempts to re-engineer and reduce it's budget deficit, UROP will face increasing scrutiny. The continuing decline in government support for research will also have an impact because the vast majority of UROPs for pay are supported through federal research grants. Only when UROP has a foundation of endowment funds will these annual crises be avoided.

The significance of the Class of 1995 gift goes far beyond government rules and MIT budget problems. Rather, it reflects an exemplary attitude of service that should be emulated. Instead of something that temporarily enhances the physical campus, the gift to UROP will be valuable to generations of students to come. And the Class of 1970, the first class to have UROP, should also be congratulated for offering to match any contribution above $19.95.

By most measures, 1994 was a far-from-outstanding year for UROP. And it seems that 1995 will not offer any relief from federal government pressures. The senior gift to UROP represents a vital effort to move beyond budgets and regulations. The Class of 1995 gift should be remembered for years to come.