Vest Announces Major MIT RestructuringBy Stacey E. Blau
Editor in Chief
President Charles M. Vest announced yesterday his decision to massively restructure many key offices related to students in the Institute's administration.
The changes, confidential until their announcement yesterday, will involve "structuring the entire future of the Institute," said Senior Vice President William R. Dick-son '56.
Specifically, about 10 offices that previously reported to former Vice President for Administration James J. Culliton and two that reported to Dickson are being moved under the purview of the Dean's Office, headed by Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams.
The changes involve a shift of responsibilities away from MIT's corporate and operations end. "It's a statement that all these areas are educational," Williams said. "That's why it's important that it's the Dean's Office and not some administrative office."
Stephen D. Immerman, formerly the director of special services in the office of the senior vice president, has been made the director of administration and operations in the Dean's Office.
The only two areas formerly under Culliton that were not subsumed by the Dean's Office are the Office of Sponsored Programs and the Medical Department, which will report to Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Glenn P. Strehle '58 and Vice President for Human Resources Joan F. Rice, respectively.
Specifics crystalize only recently
Many administrators reported that the specifics of the plan, an initiative of Vest's, took shape only very recently, and that few administrators were aware that the decision would be made now. "Two weeks ago, none of this was even on the table," Dickson said.
Despite the relatively quick decision, Vest and Provost Joel Moses PhD '67 said that the framework of and the idea behind the changes has been in place for quite some time.
"This is consistent with the recommendations that were made when we hired Roz in the first place" in the summer of 1995, Moses said. "It's been changing, so it's taken a while."
The same report issued in the summer of 1995 that recommended Williams to assume her current post also devised a plan for the future of the Dean's Office with most of the same ideas that will now be implemented, Vest said.
The Tech was denied access to the report because it is still confidential.
The need to reorganize offices became urgent when Culliton died in June, Vest said. Culliton supervised the Admissions Office, the Bursar's Office, the Registrar's Office, the Office of Student Financial Aid, and several other offices.
The decision to also include the Department of Housing and Food Services and the Campus Activities Complex - two offices that previously reported to Dickson - in the changeover to the Dean's Office came because of "a real driving force is to put activities in one general area," Dickson said.
Vest consulted the heads of all of Culliton's old offices in making his decision. But Director of HFS Lawrence E. Maguire and Assistant Director of Programs in CAC Ted E. Johnson said that they knew nothing about the decision until this morning.
Vest said that he spoke to no students in making the decision. "I don't normally consult students about who administrators report to," he said.
Dickson echoed Vest's feelings on student input. "Did we take it and put it to a ballot? No, we did not," he said. "I don't believe that you do everything with a democratic vote."
Vest said that he was "uncharacteristically confidential" about the decision because he wanted the affected offices to know about it from him first and not through indirect sources.
Decision brings power shifts
The decision brings a big increase in the domain of the Dean's Office. Under the new arrangement, the office will grow from about 50 to several hundred people.
"It certainly means a stronger Dean's Office," Vest said. "There will be a lot more decision-making power at the Dean's Office."
But while the decision may mean more power, "it is not a coup for me," Williams said. "I would use the word Œresponsibility'."
The idea of a coup "puts the decision in the context of a power play, which it isn't," Vest said. "This is not a very hierarchical place."
Vest said that the Dean's Office is prepared to take on new operational functions. Whatever problems that the office has had, "I've got great confidence that they'll sort it out," he said. "Let's look ahead, not back."
"Steve is a big key" who will hopefully bring operational experience to the office, Williams said.
The new structure will involve a lot of rearranging of the functions in the subsidiary offices that fall under the Dean's Office. Williams said that she will look to students for input on this restructuring.
For example, the Office of Residence and Campus Activities - which already fell under the Dean's Office - and HFS will likely be merging some functions "to avoid duplication," Williams said.
"I'm not saying you only need time" to make such mergers work, Williams said.
Encouragement and leadership will also be necessary, said Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates.
Re-engineering will continue
Williams, Immerman, Bates, and the soon-to-be-appointed Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs will be looking to make changes now that so many offices with related goals and functions will be in the same domain.
Such restructuring will likely touch on many of the same areas that the Institute's student services re-engineering process is currently examining, like the potential RCA-HFS merger that the housing and residential life re-engineering team was examining independent of Vest's plan.
But the new plan does not render re-engineering moot, said Immerman, who has been leading student services re-engineering efforts since their inception last fall.
"The change is meant to enable re-engineering" and give it a better structure in which to continue the process, Immerman said. "It doesn't supplant or supersede it."
Some said that the re-engineering process will be helped by the restructuring decision.
"I am very positive about it," said Bates, who is the team captain of the HARL team. "It gives us an opportunity to create something very integrated."
"A lot of students will be involved," she said.
Faculty are positive
Some faculty members are pleased with the restructuring plan.
"I don't think there's a problem from a faculty standpoint," said Chair of the Faculty Lawrence S. Bacow '72. "What's being done makes a whole lot of sense."
"What's being done is in part a response to what's been done on student services re-engineering which involves integrating processes," Bacow said.
"In all likelihood the direct input of faculty has been minimal," said Associate Professor of Political Science and McCormick Hall Housemaster Charles Stewart III. "But the reorganization as it stands is pretty much consistent with what I've heard" at meetings.
"There has been some input, but there haven't been open meetings about the organization of student services," he said.
Erik S. Balsley, Shang-Lin Chuang, Anders Hove, Russell S. Light, and Dan McGuire contributed to the reporting in this story.