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Task Force To Address Overall Education

By Brett Altschul
Staff Reporter

The task force on student life and learning will choose its student members and begin seeking student input shortly, said Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams.

The task force will evaluate the importance of residential education on a broad scale. The task force is composed of Dean Williams and 10 faculty members. An undergraduate and a graduate will be named later.

"Basically, this is an attempt to look at how education interacts with student life," said Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics John R. Hansman Jr. PhD '82, who co-chairs the task force.

Hansman and Professor of Chemistry Robert J. Silbey, the other co-chair, will be gathering as much student input for the task force as possible, Hansman said.

Team focuses on broader issues

Recent attempts to evaluate these issues have been on a smaller scale, Hansman said. "These things are generally on the level of the school or the department. We want to take a wider view."

The task force will deal primarily with very large issues, all of them broad in scope, Hansman said. "The task force is not going to [care about the] nitty-gritty details. There are other committees and groups looking at tactical issues," he said.

"Don't expect the task force to decide whether the freshman year should be on grades or not," he said. "We might make a statement about the topic in a large sense, in terms of the overall educational situation, but we won't get into the details of the issue too much."

The group is not trying to answer specific questions, and "there is no prescribed agenda," Hansman said. "Instead, we're going to try to reflect and look forward."

The major questions for the task force will be "what are the core values of MIT today and what makes MIT special," Hansman said. "We want to know why people should get a residential education at MIT in the years ahead when it'll be so expensive."

Up to now, the task force has been preparing and determining what it needs to address, Williams said. The team is still finding out what the issues are.

"So far, we're attempting to take input and find out what's going on so we can proceed," Hansman said. "We've tried to get information from people both inside MIT and outside the MIT community."

Student input stressed

Student input would be a major aspect of the task force's operations, Williams said. Input will come from student committee members and outside students.

"We're going to work actively with students groups," Hansman said. The group will hold activities during the Independent Activities Period to solicit student input.

"We're looking for ideas about how to get input from students," Hansman said. "We also want to get the information quantitatively, so it's not just in an anecdotal form."

Williams downplayed her own role in the committee's operations. "It's a presidential committee, and I've been working with [President Charles M. Vest] on it," she said.

"I did a lot of work last year setting up the faculty end of things," Williams said. "Now that the co-chairs are in place, I've been trying to take my position on the committee as a member, rather than a leader."