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Design Team Plans For Activites Center

By Shang-Lin Chuang
News Editor

The re-engineering co-curricular design team has made a number of recommendations regarding student activities that will involve centralizing accounts management and expanding oversight of activities.

The recommendations will be presented at four open meetings held by the co-curricular redesign team over the next two weeks.

The co-curricular team, part of the larger student services re-engineering effort, focused on and analyzed how student groups manage their accounts, receive financial and other resources, obtain recognition for their groups, schedule space, and plan and register events, said Anthony J. Ives '96, team captain.

The team's recommendations include consolidating the functions of managing student activities into a Student Activities Center and an Event Management Center. They will be presented for approval by the re-engineering steering committee in October. The steering committee, which supervises all of re-engineering, consists of the Institute's vice presidents and Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams. Plans for implementation of the policies will begin early next month if they are approved.

Whether the nature of and relationship between the administrative offices primarily affected by the changes - the Campus Activities Complex and the Office of Residence and Campus Activities - will be substantially changed remains to be seen.

"All of the ideas are valid and seem reasonable," said President of the Association of Student Activities Douglas K. Wyatt G. "Most of these things have been suggested before, but we just never had the means to carry them through. Maybe that is what re-engineering is all about."

Goal is to centralize information

"Our goal is to present all the information about a student activity in one central database," said Assistant Dean for Student Activities Katherine G. O'Dair.

This database will contain the information on financial operations, event management, and fund allocations for the various activities.

Staff members trained to work with the ASA will assist new groups with new application processes and finding advisers.

In addition to new management of activities information, student groups will be assigned their own individual MIT accounts instead being a part of the current general account for student activities, said team member Ted E. Johnson, assistant director of the CAC. Activities may also choose to have accounts with outside banks. This proposal parallels the policy of the Office of Residence and Campus Activities that was approved this week by the Institute [see story, page 1].

MIT will also provide online access to an electronic accounting package for the activities' MIT accounts as well as outside accounts, and provide advice and support from MIT's accounting staff under the new system.

Activities will also be able to review their financial status 24 hours a day instead of waiting for their statements to arrive once a month, Johnson said. Activities also will be able to place electronic requests to spend money.

The recommendation calls for a Central Allocations Board, which would be led by students and consist of administration and staff members as well, Ives said.

Activities traditionally have received money from the Institute in two ways: by applying for and receiving money from the Undergraduate Association Finance Board or by "going door to door and convincing various departments to give them money," Ives said.

The board will provide a list of available funds from the departments on the central database.

By including both administration and staff members on the board, "we hope to encourage the departments to give money to support student activities," Ives said.

Students may still request funds from individual departments under the new system.

Students have doubts about plans

The design team has been collecting student input during the summer through various surveys, focus and advisory group meetings, and information booths on Registration Day.

The purpose of the open meetings in coming weeks is to gather student input, Johnson said. "It is important that the redesign recommendations have community support," he said.

Some students have serious doubts about the proposals.

"The team is ignoring politics and reality of making such changes and leaving them to the implementation teams," Wyatt said. "People may not be so willing to give up their control."

The implementation of the activities center will likely necessitate hiring more personnel to advise student groups, which, in addition to the planned activities database, will cost at least several hundred thousand dollars more, said Andrew J. Rhomberg G, Graduate Student Council member.

"I'd be heavily surprised" if the proposal gets total approval from the steering committee, Rhomberg said. The co-curricular team is trying to bill the proposal as worthwhile under the assumption that alumni donations will rise if MIT supports student activities more, he said.

But alumni will not necessarily be happy simply because MIT makes this one change. "There are so many other things that [MIT] just get[s] screwed up" and makes students unhappy with, Rhomberg said.

Student activities funding should take precedence over assigning new advisers to oversee groups, said UA Treasurer Russell S. Light '98.

More advisers would be "a valuable addition," but "advising is no good if you don't have the money" to have events in the first place, he said.

"I'd love a lot of student group advisers, but let's be realistic," Light said. "MIT is into cutting personnel, not hiring new" people, he said.

"I'm uncertain that MIT is going to be willing to spend the money," Light said.

Light also expressed reservations about the proposal to create a student-administrator board to distribute student group funding. "If MIT wants to increase funding to student activities, they should give the money to the student governments and allow it to be allocated as students choose," he said.

Student activities funding is currently $22 per undergraduate and under $10 per graduate student.

Rhomberg also expressed doubts about plans for an allocations board.

"I don't think the idea of having a Central Allocations Board will fly well," Rhomberg said. "There has been too little information and detail for people to voluntarily give the board their money."

Event registration will be online

The purpose of the Event Management Center is to provide one-stop shopping for space scheduling and event management services for the entire MIT community, including student groups, staff, and individual students, Johnson said.

"If the team can get it to work out, the space scheduling redesign idea can be a big win," Wyatt said. "It is one of the most annoying but easiest to fix problems."

Under the new system, students, faculty, and staff may look at and request available space online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Activities will be allowed to do event registration, which includes reserving equipment that will be needed, at the same time that they do space reservation. The event may even be listed on a master calendar as an option, Johnson said.

Copyright 19,95, The Tech. All rights reserved.
This story was published on 9/6/96.
Volume 116, Number 39.
The story began on page 1 and jumped to page 23.

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