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Expansion of Student Services Center Has Little Justification

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Associate News Editor

Now that the team leader of the StudentServices Center has announced some of the services that will be offered in the center's new and expanded location, I again must question why it truly needs more space.

While Ifind the idea of merging services into a central location noble, I wonder why the central location cannot be the current prototype version of the center, which has been inordinately popular with students.

In fact, most of the new services that the expanded center will provide do not require many resources beyond those now provided in the prototype center. For example, the prototype version has an instant transcript service that will provide up to five transcripts immediately. The final version of the center will instead provide an unlimited number of transcripts on demand. Is this a service that truly requires more space?

Indeed, most of the services that would require more space are services that occur only at certain times during the year. For example, the new center will provide loan entrance counseling for Perkins and Stafford loans. Currently, this government-mandated counseling occurs at the beginning of the year in group information sessions in Building E19, a process that seems to run extremely well. Is this something that can be improved very much?

Another touted service of the new center is the relocation of the federal work-study and job placement bulletin boards from outside of the Student Financial Aid Office in Building 5, already a convenient location. Since this information is already available conveniently on the WorldWide Web, does it really need a more "centralized" location in Building 11? In truth, none of the new services to be provided by the Student Services Center seem important enough to justify the movement of the Fishbowl cluster to a less convenient location in Building 12.

Even though I'm angered about the expansion plans of the center, Ihave been very impressed with the prototype version of it in Building 3. Ipersonally have used it a few times, to sign a scholarship check and to turn in my pre-registration information. Indeed, the center's own logs indicate its astounding success. Of the 8,500 people that visited the center in two months, only 100 had to go to visit any of the main offices, like the Bursar's Office or the Registrar's Office.

Some of these 100 requests would not even be helped in the new center. For example, many students visited the prototype centerto receive undergraduate admissions applications and reissues of paychecks, but those are two things that even the new expanded center will be unable to handle. Iknow that other people must have visited the home offices during the time, either because they were unaware that the center existed or because they knew that the center would be unable to help them.

Still, it is clear that the new center, operating in a small yet convenient location on the Infinite Corridor, is handling a good portion of the traffic that would normally require visits to more distant locations.

At the same time, however, I wonder why the center can't do more in its present location. If more of MIT's forms were computerized and able to be printed on demand, the center could fulfill almost any administrative function.

More importantly, the Fishbowl could remain in its current location that serves hundreds of students each day, and the Institute would save a bundle of money that it is going to spend in moving the Fishbowl and constructing even more administrative space in the Infinite Corridor.

It is disgusting to hear that the decision to move the Fishbowl and the center cannot be reversed because too many administrators were involved in the process. Why weren't students involved at all in the decision making process?After all, the purported purpose of the center is to make it easier for students to handle the maze of administration and departments that permeate life today.

I hope in the future that administrators will truly care about how the life of MITstudents can be improved. Certainly, the movement of the Fishbowl to accommodate the center will not. The StudentServices Center and the Fishbowl both make valuable contributions to the MITcommunity as a whole. Both should stay in their present locations in the Infinite Corridor.