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Re-engineering Team Examines Housing

By Shang-Lin Chuang
news editor

The housing and residential life re-engineering team is meeting with various administrative, faculty, and student groups as it prepares its final report, scheduled to be completed by December.

The team is charged with developing an implementation plan for a unified housing and residential system in support of the Institute's goals, said Dean for Student Life Margaret Bates, who is the team captain. The housing system includes buildings, operations, and programs.

The HARL team operates on the theme that "we must move from a system of fiefdoms to a state of seamlessness," Bates said. "We want different parts of the system to work as an integrated unit."

The team was created as part of the recommendations made to the steering committee by the student services re-engineering team, Bates said. "We are unusual because we started out as a reorganization team instead of a redesign team. It was clear what needed to be done. Our job is to identify the specifics and figure out how to do it. We are a combination of a redesign and an implementation team."

Team collects community input

The HARL team has been talking to several groups involved in the process of housing since its creation last semester, Bates said.

Some of these groups include house managers, housemasters, Housing and Food Services, Residence and Campus Activities, Physical Plant, the Planning Office, Undergraduate Association, dormitory residents, and Dormitory Council.

Over the summer, the team collected housing and residential life data, Institute reports, financial documents, and information from other institutions, according to the team's interim report released in September.

"The general direction the HARL team is headed makes a lot of sense," said Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams, the team's co-sponsor. "The thing I really like about the team is that it has all involved departments working together. Thus the team is already beginning to developed into the end product, which is a well integrated housing system."

"I am very glad that the various housing problems are being addressed in a unified way," said UA President Richard Y. Lee '97. "I like the fact that the team is actively trying to collect input."

The interim report contains a list of problems identified by the interviewees, Bates said. The list will be presented and refined with comments collected from the community this month.

Then the team will revise and prepare a final report next month, Bates said. The team will then go back and present the final report to the community.

Needs identified by community

The HARL team has identified several housing needs from its series of interviews. These conclusions fall in categories including systems, buildings, operations, and programs.

On the systemic side, the community cited the need to identify and enforce policies for both students and Institute employees, establish mechanisms for development of all employees, improve management and planning in the housing system, and respond to student concerns.

Regarding Institute buildings, the HARL team concluded that there is a need to differentiate between repair and maintenance procedures from capital projects and create a key program that provides effective access, security, policy, and procedures.

The Institute also needs to re-evaluate the current crowding grid, improve information methods to support administrative processes, and create a capital budgeting system that is widely understood in order to better the operations side of housing services, according to the report.

Limitations restrict HARL team

While identifying problems housing services need to address, the HARL team has also identified several restraints and limitations within the system that cannot be avoided, Bates said. Some of these constraints include the hectic Residence and Orientation Week schedule, configuration and condition of existing building stock, the level of Institute funding, and the limitations on faculty presence in the system.

Future changes the team is hoping to implement include eliminating individual budgets and creating a unified and shared budget development, replacing the lack of communication currently existing in the system with a formalized communication system within the MIT community, and replacing the individual approach with a "team" approach that brings varied skills and competencies together in a responsive way, Bates said.

The team is made up of Bates; Karen A. Nilsson, executive administrator in the Physical Plant; Phillip M. Bernard, staff associate in RCA; Linda L. Patton, manager of Graduate Housing; Russell S. Light '98, UA treasurer; and Jen Peltz '98, vice president of Dormcon. Director of Administration and Operations Stephen D. Immerman is the team adviser. The team is sponsored by Senior Vice President William R. Dickson and Williams.