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Dean's Office Plans For Student Council

By Stacey E. Blau
Editor in Chief

Dean for Undergraduate Edu-cation Rosalind H. Williams has announced plans to form an advisory council of students that will function as a continuing source of student input to the Dean's Office on a wide range of issues.

The announcement comes after last week's decision to make significant restructuring changes to parts of MIT's administration. The changes involve shifting control of about 10 major offices that were formerly managed by MIT's operations end over to the Dean's Office, which typically focuses more directly on student concerns and educational policy.

The restructuring plans announced last week involved no direct student input. The place where students will have an opportunity to have a say will be in shaping the new internal structure of the Dean's Office, Williams said.

"It's a new office, a new landscape," Williams said. "I want to make sure that we think ahead about getting student input."

The advisory council, which will likely consist of about 10 undergraduate students and 10 graduate students, will extend beyond the restructuring of the office and will be a mechanism to facilitate student inclusion in decision-making processes in the long term, Williams said.

In addition to paving the way for general student involvement, the council "could certainly give advice on specific issues" as well, Williams said.

"Nobody has been thinking holistically about how to include students," she said. With the restructuring, "it was certainly an immediate conclusion to develop a larger framework for handling student input within a larger office."

In addition to the advisory council, there will also be monthly meetings intended to solicit input from a more general group of students, Williams said. The forums will be after hours and take place in an accessible place where students can come to "express whatever's on their minds," Williams said.

Student inclusion will be good

"I'm very pleased that students will be involved in making decisions on any new issues that arise regarding the Dean's Office," said Undergraduate Association President Richard Y. Lee '97. "I hope it is going to be lasting."

Many students were upset about the absence of student involvement in the restructuring changes. "Most students don't know how this is going to affect them," Lee said. But for students involved in student government and committees, "this was very disheartening," Lee said.

"They felt that they were left out of a very important decision-making process," he said. Some students have also expressed negative views about the actual decision to move more offices under the Dean's Office, Lee said.

"There is a time and a place for everything," Williams said. "It's not in my power to do the process over again. I really want to look forward."

"There have been a number of events that have made students feel excluded" from decision-making processes over the past few years, Williams said. "The reorganization of this office is only one."

Lee said that undergraduate students who are interested in serving on the advisory council should contact him. He and Graduate Student Council President Constantine A. Morfopoulos G are in charge of finding the students who will be on the council.

Structure involves new changes

Williams emphasized that the administration restructuring changes are only the framework that represents a starting point for the internal changes to be made in the offices now under the Dean's Office.

There will be a tremendous opportunity for students to be a part of the integration of the offices, Williams said, particular with the Office of Residence and Campus Activities, the Department of Housing and Food Services, and the Campus Activities Complex. Only RCA was previously a part of the Dean's Office.

There will be "the nitty-gritty infrastructural" adjustments to take care of with data systems, personnel, and budgets, Williams said.

But there are also "cultural habits" and different perspectives on how things are done that must be reconciled as well, Williams said. "Each reporting line had a different philosophy on student input."

In the mean time, Director of Administration and Operations Stephen D. Immerman is currently preparing the budgets of the offices and figuring out "how many employees there are [and] how they are distributed."

The process is consistent with the general philosophy in the re-engineering process of an ultimate reduction and streamlining of services, Immerman said. Like re-engineering, the integration of the offices will involve looking at "what the best delivery of service is possible," he said.

There are currently no plans on the table to make budgetary or personnel reductions in the new office, Immerman said. But the integration process will involve reducing duplication, and "logically, if you take work out of the processes, typically there is less of a need for more people," he said.

Changes will enable re-engineering

The restructuring changes will help enable the re-engineering process, Immerman said. "The organization that has been put in place does not supersede re-engineering."

But the housing and residential life team, which was examining in large part the relationship between RCA and HFS, will now have to re-examine its focus because of the restructuring changes, Immerman said.

Immerman, who is heavily involved with the re-engineering process, will be meeting with the team on Friday to see what the changes will mean for the group.

Zareena Hussain contributed to the reporting in this story.