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A Problem Set for the Administration

Michael J. Ring

Spring break is finally upon us, but this being MIT, few if any of us actually get a chance to take a real rest.

This goes for the administration as well as the students. With a seemingly endless string of bad decisions and crises emerging over the past month, student confidence in the administration is reaching another low, and the administration should be working diligently over the break to find ways to regain student support. Meanwhile, several problems with the city need a speedy resolution as well.

In light of this background, I humbly propose we, the students of MIT, assign our administration a problem set to be done over the spring vacation (see ADM.001 at right).


Course ADM.001

How to Run a University and Maintain Good Student and Community Relations


1) Assess your long-term stratagem to relocate fraternity chapters to the City of Cambridge in light of the souring political attitude toward FSILGs in this city. Discuss not only the wisdom of moving Boston chapters to Cambridge but also consider the prospects of survival for FSILG chapters already located here.

A complete answer must explain actions taken by the Cambridge License Commission this month, where Alpha Tau Omega and Kappa Sigma met heavy suspensions. Recall that the latter was nearly closed entirely; only a plea to the CLC for mercy saved Kappa Sigma.

Given the current political climate, predict the punishments that two Cambridge fraternities, Theta Delta Chi and Kappa Sigma, will receive when they face disciplinary hearings before the CLC upon return from Spring Break.

2) Assuming the survival of all Cambridge fraternities as locations for lodging, discuss their role in campus social life in the wake of recent CLC actions. The license commission will begin strident enforcement of a prohibition of more than 50 non-residents at fraternity gatherings.

State whether you accept that fraternity social life in Cambridge is dead, and whether you are willing to weather extreme adverse reaction from the student body because of this acquiescence. Otherwise, formulate a plan of action for negotiating with the CLC for the return of fraternity social life to Cambridge.

3) Review the history of Steer Roast, paying special attention to the solid safety record of the event and its popularity among the student body. Evaluate in light of these considerations the wisdom of your threats to gut the event. Devise tactics which will allow the event to continue at its current location with all its current festivities.

4) Using your answers from 1), 2), and 3), determine whether the direction in which you are leading the community and its campus life is positive or negative. Assess whether the threatened loss of Steer Roast and the Cambridge fraternity parties will sterilize social life on this campus. Determine the extent to which the MIT community spirit is imperiled by these actions, and ask yourself if the destruction of that spirit is what you mean to accomplish through these actions.

5) Assess the popularity of the decision to include a mandatory athletics fee in the tuition in light of strong student resistance to raising the price of an athletics card. Determine whether the compulsory charge is fair given the current state of MIT facilities and the decision of many students not to use the facilities. Explain why you have decided to squeeze yet more money out of students facing astronomical tuition bills when the Institute is sitting on billions in endowment and raising $1.5 billion more through a capital campaign, some of which is ostensibly to be spent to support student life.

Special addendum for Rosalind Williams: define the word “fee.”


6) Fill in the blanks: The land court appeal will take __ months, allowing the new undergraduate dormitory will be completed in 200_. Inform FSILG leaders of your best answer so they may plan accordingly.

7) Determine all the abutters to all building projects over 50,000 square feet. Most importantly, remember to notify them of community meetings.

8) Sum your political capital with city government, local businesses, and neighborhood residents. (Hint: if the sum is positive, you need to rework the calculation). Devise a strategy for improving relations with these groups.

Specifically, answer whether the Institute is prepared to accept the mayor’s challenges to MIT. Evaluate your level of recruitment of Cambridge residents to serve as MIT employees and adjust accordingly. Determine whether the Institute is ready to play a larger role in the Cambridge public schools, particularly in the administration of a vocational technical program. If not, find another path through which to kiss Mayor Galluccio’s rear end.

9) Estimate the amount of payment the city will demand as the in lieu of tax agreement comes up for renewal. (Hint: if your estimate is lower than the current level of payment, rework your estimate). Come up with a strategy to hold this figure as low as possible.

10) Define each of the following terms and explain how MIT will continue its program of expansion in the face of these influences: IPOP, downzoning, Larkin Petition.

MIT stands at a crossroads in both relations with students and with the city of Cambridge. Recent poorly reasoned administration decisions have soured student relations, while anti-development forces and a more aggressive CLC are straining relations with the city. The Institute needs to improve both situations quickly before the strains grow even further. Spring break, when many students leave and most divert at least some of their attention to more leisurely pursuits, is the perfect opportunity for the administration to address these questions.

And the answers are best given sooner rather than later. Neither the students nor the city will smile upon tardy answers.