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Starting From the Ground Up

Elaine Wan

We need money. We need to build an undergraduate dormitory. We need to build a graduate dormitory. We need to dig a nice big pool so we can swim under the summer sun. We need to modernize our classrooms and keep ourselves well ahead in the race of novel technological discoveries. We need to fund student group activities and improve student life. Most importantly, we need lots of money to do all this.

Who doesn’t need money? Many universities, like Harvard and Caltech, have started massive fund-raising campaigns to build new science centers and to improve their campus facilities. MIT is no exception. If you haven’t noticed by now, there is a long list of construction projects and important programs that beckon for financial funding.

Many of the planned projects like student housing are truly mandatory for a satisfactory, study environment. Projects including building graduate housing have been delayed for years because the Institute does not have sufficient funds to allot to all of the proposed ideas. So, the Institute considers our priorities. In exchange for dormitories, we may not get an Olympic sized pool and exercise facility in 2001. The crew team may have to row the same shells for a few more years. And the MIT Kendo Club will keep getting whacked by the Harvard kendo players until we can afford our own armor to practice regularly.

We all want better facilities and an enriching campus life. The fact is that we won’t get all the money we need to do this if we stay in our rooms, hoping the administration will garner enough money without hiking tuition next year. Alumni telethons are often poorly staffed, and corporate sponsors usually direct their funds to specific departments.

When the student activity groups, religious fellowships, community service groups, athletic teams, and dormitories with which you are affiliated need money, they hold bake sales, garage sales, marathons, raffles, advertisement campaigns and contests to raise enough money to meet their goals. So what’s stopping you from buying a brownie mix, adding eggs and water to it, baking it for 32 minutes, and selling it to raise money for MIT?

We all have our own personal interests and specific demands to better our school, but we all want to make MIT “one cool place to be.” Alumni give the Institute $125 million dollars each year but most of the funding is limited to specific groups, scholarships or purposes. The tendency for large established student activity groups to raise more funds, often inhibit the creation of small new groups. It is time for all of us to have work together on one central goal, to raise money to improve not one department, not one student group, but our school, our alma mater, MIT.

Student group leaders and members of the Undergraduate Association should take the initiative to organize with faculty and administration ways for all MIT students to ameliorate the financial burden of our school. A group effort in fund-raising can build a greater sense of community. When we use all our resources to reach alumni, corporate sponsors, members of the Boston and Cambridge community, and members of the science and technology community, we can reach more people at one time. Such a campus-wide campaign will only demonstrate better that when MIT decides to raise one billion within seven years, it is a group effort that propels our influence upon the state, the nation, and the scientific society.

MIT is an important resource to students, to researchers and to the world. To keep us on top, to achieve the many things that will improve student satisfaction, we need to be active from the ground up.