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Office Reshuttling Endangers Student Needs

Column by Thomas R. Karlo
Contributing Editor

If you're a student like me, and you're not involved with re-engineering committees or the student government, you probably think this whole reorganization is about as interesting as filling out registration forms. Every time you pick up The Tech there's a story reporting that such-and-such committee has decided to reorganize some department and that it's going to be the best new thing since sliced bread when they're done.

A lot of this shuffling about of organizational charts and task flow diagram seems to fall under the dreaded umbrella of the "re-engineering" process. If you've been around MIT for any amount of time, you're probably tired of hearing about re-engineering, and how it's going to change the Institute. A lot of the students I talked to about today's big news - the integration of many of MIT's student services - didn't care who reports to whom in the administration. All they wanted to know was, does it make any difference to our lives?

Sadly, the answer is often no. That's why students increasingly choose to ignore the administration's continual reshuffling. And that's a sign something is badly wrong with what the administration is doing.

Students definitely should worry about what administrators are doing. Even if they don't care about this particular reorganization, they need to be aware of how the administration uses its resources. These folks are being paid out of student pockets. And with students paying one of the highest tuitions in the nation, there should be an awareness of where all that money's headed.

Administrators say that they do reorganizations like these to improve their ability to provide students with the services their departments are supposed to. The goal is commendable, but the fact is that when someone is in a meeting trying to re-organize their department, they're not thinking about the very issues they are supposed to take care of for students.

Every time the administration decides to remake itself to satisfy the needs of various people for power and territory within the organization, the most basic needs of students fall by the wayside as employees adjust to the new structure. At some point the cost of constantly changing the administrative organization begins to outweigh the benefits. After that point, additional change exacerbates the situation, leaving student needs unattended.

This new set of changes that have been announced touch the offices and departments that manage the most crucial parts of student life outside of class. Administrative departments risk failing student needs while they are being tossed between different sections of the MIT organization. For them to ignore a single student because administrators want to change their power structure would be reprehensible.

If MIT thinks that this structure is an improvement over the old, then it should promise that it will exist for a long period of time, without change, in order to allow these departments to concentrate on their assigned purposes. If the administration does not have the confidence to promise to use this structure for a long period of time, they should not endanger student interests. Continually reworking and reorganizing the administration may be fun for those at the top; for students, it means putting their needs second.