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Undergrads Perceive Recent Alums As Inactive with Student Relations

By Brett Altschul
Associate News Editor

The perception held by many students, that MIT is a better place to be from than to be at, helps to create a distant relationship between students at the Institute and alumni.

Many undergraduates feel that many alumni and students have little contact and that many alumni harbor hostile attitudes toward the Institute.

Newer alumni are often angry at MIT, said Jessica A. Nordell '99. However, they tend to become more positive about the Institute as time progresses, she said.

"Years seem to soften their feelings toward MIT like years soften a mother's feelings toward the birthing process," Nordell said. "The atmosphere at MIT - it just doesn't generate as much school spirit as other places do."

"The only thing you think of when you think about MIT is problem sets. People here don't feel a strong association with MIT," said Isaac H. Murakami '97.

"I know alumni from MIT don't give as much money as people from other schools," Nordell said.

"They think tuition was high enough, so why give any more?"said Ernest G. Mireles '96

Many alumni still active

However, William J. Hecht '61, executive vice president of the Alumni Association, disagrees. MIT alumni are not apathetic compared to graduates of other colleges, he said. "All the evidence we see doesn't seem to say so," he said.

"MIT alumni are very active compared to many schools'," Hecht said. About 4,000 alumni volunteer for MIT, which represents 5 percent of the entire alumni pool. "For most places, it's only about 1 percent."

MIT students and graduates probably are out of touch, Hecht said. "If you say that most students don't know what the Alumni Association is doing, I'd have to agree."

"We do some things for freshmen," Hecht said. "Still, most of the stuff we do is with seniors - some things with juniors but mostly seniors."

Concerns about alumni have been an issue at MIT for several years, and the administration has said that attempts to boost alumni morale are always underway.

In a 1995 interview and in his 1996 town meeting, President Vest expressed the belief that MIT was weaker than other colleges of comparable standing in terms of alumni giving. However, he said that MIT is always making an effort to change this.

In the town meeting, Vest also said that MIT alumni tend to have somewhat more negative attitudes than alumni of other schools. "Alumni tend to be critical of the institution."

Association plans activities

The Alumni Association is looking to better student and alumni relations.

The Alumni Association would like to do something that involves undergraduates more, Hecht said. The group is currently working on a career mentoring program where alumni would help students with career counseling, Hecht said.

The association also helps students find internships, with the network with of alumni in the outside world, Hecht said.

"We try to let seniors know what we do before they graduate," Hecht said. "I think we do a pretty good job getting people involved after they graduate."

Among the new projects designed to improve MIT's relationship with its alumni is an e-mail forwarding service. Alumni with e-mail addresses outside MIT can get a permanent e-mail address at alum.mit.edu which will forward messages to their outside addresses.

Zareena Hussain contributed to the reporting of this article.