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New Guidelines For Career Fairs Released

By Susan Buchman

After disorganization at a career fair in the fall led to complaints from from several recruiters, the Campus Activities Complex and the Office of Residential Life and Student Life Programs released the first-ever rules governing career fairs.

Student groups interested in organizing a career-related event must now obtain written approval from RLSLP and the Office of Career Services and Preprofessional Advising at least four months in advance of the event. To receive approval, the group must present a written proposal or budget. Groups may also be required to combine events.

"These new guidelines were not meant to be restrictive, but supportive of those groups who have put time, money, and effort into hosting these kind of events," O'Dair said.

Staff for Student Activities and the Office of Career Services and Pre-Professional Advising drafted the rules, which were reviewed by the executive board of the Association of Student Activities, according to Katherine G. O'Dair, assistant dean of RLSLP.

"There were no guidelines [in the past]...for career fairs, and discussion of creating some policies began over a year ago with my office and the Office of Career Services and Pre-Professional Advising," O'Dair said.

Rules to establish consistency

According to O'Dair, the new rules will ensure a consistent level of quality at career fairs.

"Companies who choose to recruit at MIT expect a very high level of professionalism and service, and the majority of the annual career fairs provide this level of service. When they don't provide this service, it reflects poorly on MITand the company may think twice about returning to recruit here; this is what we want to prevent," O'Dair said.

Complaints that followed a career fair in the fall co-sponsored by the Society of Women Engineersand the MITCareer Council make the rules especially timely. The problems arose as a result of the difference in the level of services promised by the two groups; the Career Council charged recruiters more than SWE did, and the difference was supposed to go towards amenities such as a resume book on CD-rom.

However, a few of the companies recruited by the Career Council complained to OCSPA that they had not received what they had paid for. Onecompany requested a refund due to its disappointment with the services it received at a career fair. Although the Career Council refunded the company's money, concerns arose as a result of the incident.

"There was a miscommunication about expectations. SWEhad some complaints about working with [the Career Council]," said Van L. Chu '99, president of the Association of Student Activities.

The ASA "was concerned because it had a lot to do with the MITname," Chu said.

O'Dair said that the new rules were not a direct result of the problems with the Career Council.

"As I mentioned before, we have been working on this prior to any issues that resulted from the MITCareer Council this past fall. The problems that resulted, including complaints from some companies, may have hastened our efforts to come up with guidelines," O'Dair said.

Number of career fairs restricted

In addition to the restrictions on hosting a career fair, the guidelines state that "a maximum of three student-organized career fairs will be approved in any given semester."

"Some companies complained that there were too many career fairs, that they were forced to pick and choose which event to attend without knowing which was best for their recruiting efforts. This is not good for the sponsoring organization, MIT students who are doing a job search, or the companies who expect a large turnout," O'Dair said.

The new guidelines will not significantly alter the current level of RLSLP oversight of career fairs.

"Many of the student groups who hold career fairs have done so for years and we have worked closely with them to do so, so the level of interaction and support will not change," O'Dair said.

The guidelines appear in the 1999 version of "A Guidebook to Planning Events @ MIT" which is published by CAC and RLSLP.