Reorganized Offices Begin to Work TogetherBy Daniel C. Stevenson
While some of the effects of last month's administration reorganization may not be seen until the dust has settled after the completion of re-engineering, heads of departments and offices affected by the changes seem optimistic about the effects of the restructuring to date.
Many already see opportunities for working closer with other offices on common concerns, combining redundant functions and services, and further reorganizing more effectively and efficiently.
The reorganization, announced October 1, moved several departments and offices from the operational side of the Institute to the Office of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs under Dean Rosalind H. Williams. Additionally, Stephen D. Immerman, formerly director of special services under Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56, was named the new director of operations and administration in the Dean's Office.
The Admissions Office, Department of Athletics, Bursar's Office, Campus Activities Complex, Office of CareerServices and Preprofessional Advising, Department of Housing and Food Services, Registrar's Office, and the Student Financial AidOffice, among others, are now under the Dean's Office.
The heads of the various offices are meeting every two weeks "to collectively work together to redefine who we are and what we are," said Philip J. Walsh, director of the Campus Activities Complex.
While the restructuring was not a result of the ongoing Institute-wide re-engineering effort, it closely parallels suggestions that have come out of the effort, and the new Dean's Office organization works closely with the re-engineering teams.
With the Institute in the midst of student services and co-curricular re-engineering, the reorganization "couldn't have come at better time to do this and still maintain levels of efficiency,"Walsh said.
New name for Dean's Office planned
As one of the first and most visible effects of the reorganization, the Dean's Office is in the process of coming up with a new name for itself. Currently, the office is for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs.
Williams "has said one of the things we need to think about is what we ought to call ourselves,"Immerman said. "There is a feeling that we ought to have a different name" to reflect the new responsibilities of the office.
There are a few problems with the current name. For instance, the career services office, which equally serves both graduate and undergraduate students was brought under the new Office of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, which by dint of its title emphasizes undergraduates.
The planned change in the name of the office should resolve that problem, said Elizabeth A. Reed, interim director of the Office of Career Services and Preprofessional Advising.
The new office is also grappling with "how we achieve what we're about, and how that ties into each of these areas directly," Immerman said. For the time being, groups are addressing more mundane issues, such as what computer systems will be used.
Many of the offices and departments are also working on their budgets for the next fiscal year in the context of the new office.
Immerman declined to predict specific developments, deferring to the work of the housing and residential life and career assistance redesign re-engineering teams.
Director of Housing and Food Services Lawrence E. Maguire also declined to comment on the effects on his office, one of the most prominent departments that switched to the Dean's Office.
"It will take a while to take shape and measure progress at this time,"Maguire said.
The future internal structure of the Dean's Office is unclear as both the people in the office and the re-engineering teams work to improve how the administration deals with students, Walsh said.
"There still remains a lack of clarity about the structure,"said Associate Dean of Resident and Campus Activities Margaret A. Jablonski. "Questions about what will be merged and when, will offices physically move, how will budget information be shared, and on a basic level, who reports to whom need to be worked out."
Concerns face new office
One important concern facing the new office is the issue of compensation for all staff in the new Dean's Office, Jablonski said. "Now that we are part of the same organization, people with similar responsibilities, education, etc., should be compensated similarly. The old UESA staff are under-compensated in relation to some of the other areas that are now part of the office."
One potential disadvantage of the new Dean's Office is the size, at just under 400 people in a wide variety of jobs, she said. "I hope that some of the direct service to students is not lost in this, and I hope that the leadership of the new Dean's Office can keep all the balls in the air. I have much faith that we can."
A possible disadvantage of the reorganization - that an added layer in the reporting structure might result in added bureaucracy - shouldn't be a concern, Reed said. The ultimate outcome will depend on "whether or not we are working with and under smart, pragmatic people with shared values, who are respectful and responsive to our input," she said.
Residence and Campus Activities
As a result of the reorganization, Jablonski said that her department's staff will remain the same or increase.
"Many people now recognize that student life is under-staffed to accomplish the delivery of services and programs that students want and need,"she said. "We also need to review the job descriptions of all staff to make sure that what people are doing is consistent with where we are going."
Proposals by re-engineering teams to combine various responsibilities of the RCAOffice, CAC, and HFS would affect both the personnel and finances of the various departments, but it is too early to tell exactly how, Jablonski said.
"I fully support moving in the direction that eliminates overlap and duplication of effort," she said. "Some of the interim steps we are taking around event registration are a step in this direction."
Offices already working together
Parts of the new Dean's Office, once separate, are already operating closer together. Associate Dean Andrew M. Eisenmann '70 and Staff Associate Phillip M. Bernard, both of RCA, will begin attending all meetings of the house managers, who are part of HFS.
Additionally, Bernard is on the search committee for new house managers, Jablonski said.
TheCampus Activities Complex, responsible for space reservations for student groups, among other things, is one of the offices formerly on the operations side most visible to students.
According to CACDirector Walsh, the restructuring represents "a very positive opportunity" for the components of the new Dean's Office to work together. As an example, issues dealing with how space is scheduled and used were formerly dealt with by several different groups in different areas - the CAC, the Department of Athletics, and the Department of Housing and Food Services. These matters can now be handled by different divisions of the same office, he said.
The new arrangement also facilitates internal change in advance of any results of re-engineering, Walsh said. "Change is easier when you don't have a structured separation" of offices.
Even when the CAC was on the operations side of the Institute, it dealt actively with the educational and student affairs side of MIT, Walsh said. "When you are in operations, part of your job is to respond to and support the educational mission on the academic side."
One advantage of moving under the Dean's Office is that the CAC can better relate to the programmatic side of its mission, Walsh said.
Another immediate advantage of the reorganization is that "the working relationship on the 5th floor [of the Student Center, between CAC and RCA] has been enhanced,"Walsh said.
Office of Career Services
The move of the Office of Career Services and Preprofessional Advising - an office not typically associated with the core educational mission of the Institute - to the Dean's Office is "natural and appropriate," Reed said.
The reorganization forces an emphasis on the educational aspect of the office, Reed said. "The mission of a career services office is inherently educational, and our office's tone has always included providing the maximum one-to-one service to students."
The reorganization emphasizes the office's educational mission and service to students, Reed said. "This may mean that we may emphasize it above other aspects of our mission, and above other constituencies," which include corporations and alumni.
Aside from changes in emphasis and mission, Reed said it is hard to predict further changes in the office because their future is still in "re-engineering limbo." The recommendations of the newly-formed career assistance redesign re-engineering team will "probably lead to more realignment," she said.
Being under the Dean's Office is a significant advantage during a time of Institute-wide financial constraints, Reed said.
"I find it reassuring and also really exciting to be a part of a larger organization that is being very proactive in dealing with the financial constraints," she said.
Another advantage of working on the educational side of the Institute is being "better networked" with other student services, Reed said. "Being networked in this way increases the likelihood that students who would benefit from our services will find us."
For the Registrar's Office, the reorganization "has meant both for us and for our new colleagues more articulation of the range of users or constituents that the office affects," said Acting Registrar J.D. Nyhart.
"Since this reorganization has been announced we're beginning to think about how we want to relate to different parts of the old Dean's Office," as well as to departments, students, and alumni, Nyhart said.
The new office "brings everyone together," said Director of Athletics Richard A. Hill. It "represents a cross-section of departments and units" that will provide "high quality educational support services to our students."
Cross-departmental groups and functions will result in an improved delivery of services to students, Hill said.
The new Dean's Office will "look at what we do with an eye for noting what we have in common" - including business, administrative, and public relations offices, fund raising drives, and facilities - to eliminate redundancy, Hill said.