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MITGroup Hopes to Reform Institute

By Jennifer Chung
Staff Reporter

Two MIT alumni have founded a nonprofit organization to study the undergraduate experience at the Institute and suggest changes to improve it.

The MIT Group for Research on the Undergraduate Psychological Experience (MITGroup), a nonprofit educational organization founded "for the research, dialogue, and analysis of the psychological effects of the undergraduate experience at the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology," began in December as the group calling itself "MITNeeds Accountability."

In December, the group placed an advertisement in The Boston Globe calling on the Instituteto be more accountable with regard to alcohol policies on campus and the death of Scott S. Krueger '01.

The group's founders are J. Paul Kirby '92 and Christopher M. R. Rezek '99. Rezek is a member of Alpha Delta Phi fraternity and the head of the publicity relations committee of the Interfraternity Council.

Kirby, who was the head of the Undergraduate Association's Committee on Student Life during 1991 when it released its alcohol report, recently sued the Institute, the UA, and UAPresident Dedric A. Carter '98 to release several documents relating to that committee from its files.

"We created the group to make the MITundergraduate experience more psychologically healthy,"Rezek said in an e-mail speaking for the group. The founders of the group felt through their personal experiences and through observations of other schools that the MIT experience could be improved.

The group suspects that "the MITundergraduate experience has for some time imposed on students needless psychological distress of a character, to a degree, and on a proportion of students not seen at comparable universities," according to the group's World Wide Web site at http://www.themitgroup.com/.

Over the month of January, the group hopes to survey undergraduates about their psychological experiences at the Institute and suggest changes.

The group plans to continue gathering data through a comments section on their Web site. There has already been an overwhelming response of information, the group said.

However, the group is not yet ready to release the data it has collected regarding the undergraduate experience. "We are waiting until we can give a more focused presentation on what we have and will have,"before releasing any results, Rezek said for the group.

"We don't want MITGroupto be seen as an outside' versus an inside' organization," said the group. "The community is the final judge" of whether the undergraduate experience is appropriate.

Support groups already exist

Neither Dean of Student Life Margaret R. Bates nor Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams said they knew many details about MITGroup, although both confirmed that they knew of its existence.

The Medical Department, counseling deans, Nightline, academic advising, Graduate Residence Tutors, and freshmen seminars are already in place and on-campus to help students have a healthy experience, Williams said.

"Still, it is also obvious that the MIT undergraduate education can be very difficult, psychologically and otherwise."

Williams pointed out that many of the difficulties students encounter are related to the fact that the Institute is an intense academic environment.

Additionally, Williams said that undergraduates universally shared some of the difficulties presented with the sudden differences between the high school and college environments. "All of us have to be realistic about how much the administration can do."

"If this group or any other group brings forward proposals intended to improve the overall quality of the MIT undergraduate experience, we would consider them seriously,"Williams said.