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Secret Decision-Making Process Provokes Student Frustration

By Anders Hove
Executive Editor

Just a few hours after the MIT News Office released plans for the complete reorganization of several administrative departments, student leaders expressed a variety of reactions to the new plans. Although there was no consensus as to the plan's merits, all expressed surprise at the announcement.

Like most, Undergraduate Association President Richard Y. Lee '97 first learned of the announcement from an e-mail message distributed yesterday by the News Office. "I had not known anything about this," Lee said. "I just saw the co-curricular team's recommendations, and nothing was this extensive. At no point do I remember hearing anything about combining whole offices."

The changes also came as a surprise to Dormitory Council President Christopher H. Barron '97. "From the MIT News Office release, it's really unclear the magnitude of change and how much of this will even be visible to students," Barron said.

"This came as a complete surprise to me," said Association of Student Activities Douglas K. Wyatt G. "My biggest problem with it was that no one knew that it was going to happen."

Anthony J. Ives G, captain of the co-curricular re-design team, expressed little surprise at the announcement. "I don't think the announcement change our [team's] plan. We're still planning to move ahead with same agenda."

Students not consulted

Several students expressed frustration at having been left out of the loop until the decision had been made by President Charles M. Vest.

"For my part, I don't think there was that much student input," Lee said. "I think there's good and a bad with this. It was good that they were able to move quickly and efficiently. But at the same time, it would have been informative and beneficial to hear students' voices and their input on these ideas. If not the entire MIT body should at least try to get a couple students involved in this process."

Other students agreed with the assessment that student input would have been desirable. "There does need to be concern about how they did it," Barron said. "We're just now getting comfortable with finding out what the various re-engineering teams are doing. When something like this happens, it just pulls the rug out from under you and makes you wonder what's going on."

"This kind of a reorganization just didn't seem to be a possibility, so no one commented on it" Wyatt said. "I would have had some things to say about it, but I never thought it would happen. It's pretty scary that they are doing this magnitude of stuff without public discussion."

One of the re-engineering groups that will be most affected by the changes is the housing and residential life team.

Several members of the team, including student member Jen Peltz '98, also learned of the reorganization from the News Office e-mail. There was no mention of the impending announcement at a meeting yesterday morning between HARL members and the Re-engineering Steering Committee, according to Peltz.

The steering committee includes Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams and Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56.

"Some of the people on the team did know before me," Peltz said. "We all knew that a decision would be made in a couple of weeks. I don't know that President Vest consulted any students. I guess it was within his power to just make just make the decision."

Manager of Graduate Housing Linda L. Patton, also a member of the HARL team, expressed surprise that no students had been consulted about the move.

"My initial impression is that there was no [consultation with students]," Patton said. "I would think there is already a pool of students involved with re-engineering - there is already a set group that could have been approached - but maybe it's a decision that's beyond students. I don't know."

Variety of reactions

Perhaps because of the suddenness of the announcement, student leaders expressed a variety of opinions about the reorganization decision. Most felt that the new plan would generally help the re-engineering effort, if only by consolidating the offices to be redesigned under the Dean's Office.

"If consolidation means easier access for students, I think this is a very good move overall," Lee said. "I hope that the integration of these new offices into student life will go smoothly, especially since the Dean's Office and the office of Residence and Campus Activities are largely concerned with student activities. With all these other services being integrated, I think it should suit well."

Barron expressed concern about the having Department of Housing and Food Services reporting to the Dean's Office. "The separation of RCA and HFS has been a real benefit to Dormcon and to dormitories in general," Barron said.

As for re-engineering, the reorganization should not affect the co-curricular redesign team directly, according to Ives. "The mission and goal are still the same," Ives said. "A lot of the offices we're looking at will be together [under the new arrangement], so things will be easier."

The HARL team, however, could be radically affected by the changes. "Merging the offices was one idea that was floated," Patton said. "But we hadn't even gotten to that point. We're going to need time to discuss and reorganize."

"I'm not sure if it will help or hurt the HARL team's efforts," Peltz said. "Obviously it will change our work since it is a reconfiguration of the chain of command. We haven't discussed what will happen as a team, or how this will affect us."