Task Force Deliberations Involved Administration, Faculty
While the task force officially deliberated for two years, the findings and recommendations in their final form came largely as the result of an intense amount of activity beginning in the spring - when the first drafts of the report began circulating through members of the upper administration, the faculty, and the student advisory committee to the task force.
Unlike committees in the past, which kept deliberations relatively closed before releasing their final reports, the task force actively sought input in the final editing stages of the report. This process was also an attempt to build widespread consensus of the report before its release.
"What John and I were doing was looking for loose ends," said Professor of Materials Science Robert J. Silbey, who co-chaired the task force. "We were circulating it for exactly that reason."
While scrutiny has been raised over the autonomy of the task force in making its decisions , most specifically its statements regarding freshman housing, Silbey asserts that there was little to no mystery surrounding the decisions made by the group.
"There were no smoke-filled rooms where people were telling us what to do," Silbey said. It was "more embarrassment that we had some loose ends to tie up."
As opposed to having formal meetings to discuss the recommendations that arose from circulation of the report, the recommendations were collected by the co-chairs of the task force and, depending on their coherence with the rest of the report, were incorporated during the final editing stages, according to Anders W. Hove '96, staff to the task force. Hove was involved in the final editing stages of the report.
The final draft was approved at a meeting of the task force.
Deliberations scrutinized after Sher allegation
The process of deliberations of the task force first came under scrutiny as a result of the assertion by Jeremy D. Sher '99, a student member to the task force in its second year, that in fact the task force had not deliberated on the issue of housing all freshman on campus, despite the appearance of that recommendation within the report.
This, in many ways, was true. "The first draft I saw was silent on the issue," said Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow '72, despite the fact that freshman housing was "one of the issues that had been on the table for several years."
"It seemed to be a glaring omission. People were expecting the task force to at least comment. They couldn't just be silent about that," Bacow said.
In fact, there was deliberation among the faculty on the task force about the issue of freshman housing at a meeting held shortly after Scott S. Krueger '01 died of an alcohol-induced coma.
"The faculty was shocked," Silbey said. At that meeting, the nearly unanimous opinion of the faculty there was to release a letter authored by the task force that called for all freshman to be housed on campus, Silbey said.
"It was a knee-jerk reaction," Silbey said.
Later, the two undergraduate members of the task force, Sher and Iddo Gilon '98, former Interfraternity Councilpresident, approached committee members to ask them not react so swiftly. After convincing the committee to delay, the matter was largely dropped until nine to ten months later when the large-scale review of the first drafts of the report, Silbey said.
Ultimately however, "It was our judgement that this was going to happen. That this was inevitable," Silbey said.
Many sources consulted
The task force sought many sources of input for its report, including alumni, students, faculty and administrators.
"The task force's members examined a multitude of historical and current reports, analyzed numerical data, and conducted surveys of students, faculty, and alumni," the report itself stated.
This also included a special event for junior faculty and a retreat hosted by the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, the report stated.
Informal input from faculty, students, student organizations, staff members, Institute committee, and external individuals and organizations was also used in deliberations, the report stated.
SAC plays important role
The Student Advisory Committee to the task force also played a significant role in the first year of deliberations, releasing two reports and making several recommendations that made their way into the final report. These include, among others, the concept of the educational triad and the recommendations with respect to management subjects being open to the MITcommunity.
Many ideas for the housing areas of the report originated from the student advisory committee, headed by Luis A. Ortiz G. The SAC has also been an advocate of ramping up the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program as well as supporting the integration of research and education.
The SAC has received permission to reconvene in the form of a Strategic Advisory Committee, focusing now on advising the chancellor, and working on issues concerning the task force report such as an integrated residence, new resources for advising, rewards and recognition for faculty, staff and students.
Ortiz said that "our agenda for the year is not completely set and probably won't ever be."