Institute Policies Noble - but Feasible?
The quality of student life on campus is an issue often addressed informally. In the walkway conversations of students, in meetings of student activities, and over dinner at the local dining hall, the resounding consensus is disappointment.
We are certainly not the first to deem MIT devoid of a strong campus spirit. But some opinions must be repeated. The level of attention and interest that the Institute has given to the activities and lives of its student body has been nothing short of dismal. The reciprocation of loyalty the students express is thus not surprising.
Two administrative innovations of the last few weeks, however, are worth applauding. Although independent in their origins, both moves are small steps directed toward a much-needed boost in the quality of student activities.
In the short term, student activities will benefit from less financially restrictive treatment from the Office of Residence and Campus Activities. Since it is estimated that more than half of registered activities maintained accounts outside of MIT in the past, the move to accommodate these "illegitimate" accounts by RCA makes a stronger statement than an any real impact. For one, it allows students to take ultimate responsibility of the finances of their organizations. At the same time, it recognizes RCA's faulty handling of accounts in the past, and will hopefully prevent further botching.
On a longer term, the re-engineering co-curricular design team has made a number of recommendations that aim to consolidate over-managed activities. For most, re-engineering at MIT is an entity too nebulous to be grappled with. In the past, the wealth of re-engineering benefits has taken form in rechanneled mail distribution, closed offices, and consolidation of obscured administrative groups; things that the self-serving student, faculty, or staff member would unlikely lose much sleep over.
This most recent effort finally brings re-engineering onto the front burner of daily life. The proposed Central Allocations Board would act to coordinate and conserve the resources that are presently spread about the Institute, and potentially cut down on bureaucratic holdup. The Events Management Center would help student activities to sort out planning and orchestration of events while minimizing redundant paperwork. On the high-plane mission level of re-engineering, we heartily support the intent of these proposals.
Ultimately, however, the day-to-day quality of student activities will depend not on organizational and administrative shuffling, but rather, on the availability of funds from a thus far tight-fisted Institute. Hiring new personnel to oversee under-funded activities seems clearly misguided. Policy change and reorganization is important, but money, as is often the case, is the bottom line.
Changes that are intended to improve alumni satisfaction and bring money back into the Institute must be realistic. If MIT is truly devoted to this end, it will meet re-engineering's policy goals with a commensurate sum of funding. After all, MIT may well be successful in trimming the fat, but at some point the question will remain: "Where's the beef?"