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Career Fair Sponsors Squabble Over Profits

Dispute May Deter Future Combined Fairs

By Karen Robinson

Combining the fall’s three career fairs into one event this year led to unprecdented student and company satisfaction but significant dissent between the organizing groups.

The fair’s organizers, Society of Women Engineers, Graduate Student Council, and Class of 2000 have clashed over how to divide the more than $200,000 raised by the event.

Because of the various confusions and disputes that arose with this year’s joint career fair, members of the Class of 2000 council will recommend that there be two separate career fairs next year.

Members of other groups prefer that next year’s format follow this year’s closely, and that there be only one fair, they said.

Companies also overwhelmingly approved of MIT’s only having one career fair this semester, said Katherine O’Dair, Assistant Dean of Residential Life and Student Life Programs.

The combined fair, held Oct. 1, was a good experiment according Class of 2000 President Hugo Barra. Companies who attend MIT career fairs have been asking for one consolidated career fair for years. Behind the scenes, however, things did not go as well.

Finances now nearly settled

Only this week, distribution of the funds the career fair collected in September is approaching completion, said Class of 2000 Career Fair Chair Mykolas D. Rambus.

Before the fair, the groups hardly talked about the financial side of arrangements, Rambus said. They began negotiations about how to split the money a few weeks after career week.

“The Class of 2000 has a greater demand for funds,” with more frequent events than the other groups have, Rambus said. “This was the primary motivation for beginning negotiations,” he said.

The current proposal is for each group to receive the same amount of money from the career fair as they have historically from separate career fairs, based on average earnings from 1997 and 1998. After this the remaining money will be split evenly in three ways.

Career week spawns confusion

The main source of confusion was career week and how it related to the career fair, O’Dair said.

During career week, several companies ran workshops for students, Wu said. Additionally, the three sponsor groups each had activities for members, such as the SWE banquet and Class of 2000 casino night.

There were eight corporate sponsors of career week, Barra said. “We had more companies wanting to sponsor, but we just asked the ones whose help we could use in putting together career week activities,” Barra said.

Barra and Vice President Sean Fabre made the fall career fair a major part of their campaign last spring, and the ideas for career week were originally theirs, Barra said.

The Class of 2000 thought that the career week was class-sponsored, and sponsors in fact paid the class of 2000 directly. After negotiations this week, this money was transferred to the career fair group account, Rambus said.

The money collected for career week was fairly minor compared to the sum collected at the rest of the fair, O’Dair said.

According to Barra, this money was approximately $40,000, and will be split exactly three ways.

Reasons for separate fairs cited

Working with “three distinct organizations who run things very differently” made overall organization of the career fair somewhat difficult, said Sarah S. Wu ’01, SWE career fair co-chair.

“The groups have conflicting interests,” Rambus said. “Given that this is a student-run event, and politicized, it is difficult to have an optimal management structure,” Rambus said. “Responsibilities and accountabilities were unclear,” he said.

Committee members were unsure whether to report to their committee head or to the highest person in their respective organizations, Rambus said.

Rambus and Barra will recommend that next year there be two separate fairs, one run by the senior class and one run by other organizations, they said.

“It would be excellent if other organizations joined SWE and the GSC in the career fair effort,” Barra said.

“The second fair, maybe in October, would have a stronger focus on internships,” he said. As it is, it is difficult for younger classes to come talk to representatives who only want to talk to seniors, he said.

Wu said that in the future she expects that MIT will continue to have one career fair. “The corporate response was overwhelmingly in favor,” she said.

“This year’s career fair was over double the size of the largest career fair we’ve previously had,” Wu said.

“Students loved the large career fair, but they hated the fact that it was the only one,” Barra said.

New details ironed out

Whether there are two career fairs or one next year, the groups involved in this year’s fair learned about lots of organizational details and will be able to put together better fairs next year, group career fair chairs said.

“Given what we know this year, the Class of 2001 could have a nearly equally profitable event on their own,” Rambus said. “If anything, I would say that the quality of it would be higher,” Rambus said.

This year was the first to incorporate any e-commerce. Roughly half of the corporate registrations were accepted online, and “a lot of the work that we did could be greatly improved by making more use of the web,” he said.

Rambus plans to write a working paper detailing the things he learned from this year’s fair and distribute it to Class of 2001 members.