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Fishbowl and Student Services Center Should Both Reside in Infinite Corridor

Guest Column by Andy Oakland

As an alumnus of the re-engineering team that first recommended the creation of a unified Student Services Center, I'm delighted to see our vision becoming reality. It's very gratifying to view the success of the prototype of the unified center now operating in the Infinite Corridor. And perhaps this center will finally eliminate the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that students be given honorary physical education credit for all the running between administrative offices that is required of them.

However, I hadn't expected that this improved service would trigger the elimination of another, long-established student service - namely, the Fishbowl Athena cluster. The Fishbowl provides services to literally hundreds of students each day who drop in for quick sessions between other activities. Moving it from the Infinite Corridor will seriously inconvenience these students, and the proposed "replacement" location in Building 12 is significantly off the beaten path.

Furthermore, one should not dismiss the value of the Fishbowl as a recruiting tool. It typically provides the only visible activity in the Infinite Corridor on weekends and in the evenings. Prospective students and their families touring the campus often stop and peer in, gaining a quick glimpse into MIT life. If the Fishbowl is moved from the Infinite Corridor, the weekend visitor will be greeted with nothing but a succession of locked doors and dark offices.

Student services are not a zero-sum game. It should not be necessary to lessen services in one area so that they can be increased in another. Both the Fishbowl and the Student Services Center need to be in convenient, central locations so that they can reach the high volume of students they are designed to serve. I recommend that both find homes on the Infinite Corridor.

As one walks down the corridor, one sees a large number of administrative offices that have almost no interactions with students, like resource development or the offices of the vice president for finance. If the reason for an Infinite Corridor address is to make a place convenient for students, there is no reason for such purely administrative offices to command these locations.

If we are serious about providing improved services to students, relocating an administrative office to provide space for either the Fishbowl or the Student Services Center will allow the Institute to provide improved student services in one area without degrading them in another.

Andy Oakland is an Athena staff programmer and was a member of the student services re-engineering redesign team from 1995 to 1996.