Housing Issue Dominates Student Reactions to Task Force's ReportBy Zareena Hussain
The recently released report of the task force on student life and learning has meet with little comment since its release Sept. 4.
The report has been most noted for its recommendations for housing all freshmen on campus. President CharlesM. Vest cited the report Aug. 25 when he announced that all freshmen will be housed on campus beginning in 2001. However, the report's findings and recommendations come to bear on a much more varied sampling of issues facing the Institute.
There has been "very little" student response to the report itself, said Paul T. Oppold '99, president of the Undergraduate Association.
While over 100 students have expressed concern about the housing section of the report, according to Oppold, most of those commenting "haven't really looked into"the rest of the report.
The report has been hailed as the most comprehensive review of MIT since the Lewis Commission, which last reviewed the Institute's educational mission in the wake of World War II. The new report includes more than fifty pages of recommendations on how to revamp the current educational structure of the Institute.
In its final message, the report calls for an integrated community on the MIT campus that is unified by a commitment to education and learning.
Report establishes goals
The report first enumerates several guiding principles that determined the course of task force deliberations.
The report begins by saying that "an MIT education should prepare students for life through an educational triad composed of academics, research, and community."
"Although each component of the triad is a distinct area of a student's education, the contribution of each reinforces and adds to that of the others."
The report introduces three new principles while restating both the founding principles of MIT and the additional principles stated by the Lewis Commission.
The second and third new principles assert that "intensity, curiosity, and excitement," should be provided by an MITeducation and that diversity is essential to the educational experience.
Recommendations stress research
With these principles in mind, the task force report provides a number of recommendations, including expanding the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program to include all academic departments. The report also suggests that the program should be expanded so that all undergraduates participate in it at some point during their time at the Institute.
Another recommendation is to improve the reward system for both undergraduates who participate in research and for faculty who include undergraduates in their research.
The report also states that collaborative advising teams, which combine both professors, graduates students, and staff, should advise undergraduates.
It also recommends that management subjects should be offered based on demand from the entire student body, not merely that from students in the Sloan School of Management.
A system of experimentation with respect to both the general institute requirements and distance learning and educational technology should be phased in, the report recommends. In addition, there should be a system to continually review the undergraduate program.
Housing changes also suggested
A large amount of attention, both within and outside of the MITcommunity, has focused on the recommendation to house all freshmen on campus at some time in the future. However, several other community recommendations are enumerated in the report.
Atop the list of priorities is increased recognition for students and faculty who get involved in community activities.
Another recommendation is integrating the residence system to become an integral part of education. Improving Orientation, redesigning facilities - including dining areas, the housing system, and common areas - so as to encourage community interaction, and increasing funding for community activities are also recommended by the report.
The task force also provides a separate list of recommendations to define the structure of MIT itself.
The report emphasizes that a focus should remain on research taking place on campus. It recommends the formation of a strategic planning group to consider MIT's educational mission in the future be formed. This group should be composed of the president, provost, chancellor, and those that they designate, the report says.
The report also calls for the streamlining of the committee structure at MITin keeping with the goals of an educational triad.
"The current system of faculty committees is beset by a number of weaknesses," the report stated. These include a high turnover rate of committee membership and a lack of adequate resources, the report states.