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Students Question Deans at Meeting

By Frank Dabek
staff reporter

More than 20 students gathered on Thursday to participate in a discussion on the formation of two new student committees that will advise the administration on a number of issues.

The dean's advisory committee will advise deans from the Office of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs.

The presidential task force committee, which contains 10 members, will provide a student's perspective on various issues for the committee on student life and learning, a part of the presidential task force, and it will deal with long-range planning. The selection process and composition of the Dean's Office committee was also discussed during the meeting.

Professor of Chemistry Robert J. Silbey, co-chair of the task force on student life and learning, and Director of Administration and Operations Stephen D. Immerman represented the administration.

Undergraduate Association President Richard Y. Lee '96 represented students at the meeting.

Lizabeth A. Montalvo '99, who works in the Alumni Office, said that the committees were important because of the need to include students' opinions in important decisions and plans. "Something is wrong when alumni don't want to donate money or have school pride" and remember MIT as a "hell-hole," she said.

Composition of groups discussed

Immerman, after being questioned by Lee, described the advisory committee as "one more place to share input."

"If students are central to our mission we have to have [this] kind of input," Immerman said.

The committee, tentatively composed of 12 undergraduates and 12 graduate students, would "sift through priorities," Immerman said. "There are unlimited wants/needs in the face of limited resources."

Minimizing the "inevitable conflict" that arises out of differing needs would be the focus of the new committee. The group will define its time commitment but will "not be a Thursday afternoon debate society," he said.

Disagreement arose concerning the makeup of the committee, a matter that is "not fully determined," Lee said.

Immerman described a member of the committee as interested, connected, and engaged, as well as "relatively comfortable with ambiguity."

There was also disagreement on the question of whether positions on the committee should be reserved for certain large student groups like the Dormitory Council, the Interfraternity Council, and the UA as well as other, often marginalized, groups.

Dormcon President Christopher H. Barron '97, among others present at the meeting, wanted to see such positions reserved to ensure that the deans would not seek student input solely from a committee that contained no representatives with direct accountability to large portions of the student body.

"There is the probability that this group will suck because [the deans] can't find the ber-student," he said.

Others favored a selection process that drew freely from the entire student body rather than one that selected students already heavily involved in student government. Others suggested a plan for a split council that included both reserved seats and open seats.

Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams might also want a hand in choosing the committee in order to assure diversity, Lee said.

Task force to plan for future

The presidential task force committee, in contrast with the dean's committee, will deal with long-range issues and planning, like technological change. The group will look at the "grand plan" and formulate a mission statement for MIT, Silbey said.

The group will answer questions like, "What do we want this place to be like in 2025'," Silbey said. A goal of the group is to assure that MIT will still be able to produce "students who are able to take on the world" in the future, he said.

Students interested in participating in the committee should "think in terms of the big picture," Silbey said. Vision is more important than representation for this committee, he said.

The group will hold an open forum with students and faculty over Independent Activities Period to exchange ideas, but in the meantime, those interested can attend the group's regular meetings held in room 4-215 at 4 p.m. every Friday.