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COLUMN

Looking For A Few Good Men

Guest Column
Christopher M. R. Rezek

As students, we feel like we have little voice in decision-making at MIT. Decisions of the administration and faculty sometimes seem like they come out of the blue.

To be honest, some of them do. However, most of them come from the recommendations of Institute committees, and some are decided by the committees themselves. Like many universities, we have numerous committees to oversee the faculty, students, and administration. Unlike many universities, students are on all the committees that affect us. These aren’t UA or GSC committees I’m talking about -- they are committees of the faculty and administration. And you can join them.

The subject matter and scope of power varies by committee but any committee will give you the chance to make a real difference at MIT. Here are a few examples of what committees have done and can do:

The Committee on the Undergraduate Program created a new alternate freshmen program in Media Arts and Sciences. The Committee on Curricula decided that students would no longer be able to earn more than two bachelor’s degrees, and must approve all new departmental requirements before they are official. Next year the Committee on the Undergraduate Program will be making recommendations about the future of Pass/No Record. The ROTC Oversight Committee works to reconcile the Department of Defense’s policy towards sexual orientation with MIT’s. The Committee on Student Information Policy is charged with overseeing the administration’s implementation of our new privacy policy. The new communications requirement was recommended by the Faculty Policy Committee.

At some schools the administration and faculty get to pick the student members of such committees. Not at MIT. Here the Undergraduate Association and Graduate Student Council screen and nominate the student representatives. The UA does this through its Nominations Committee (NomComm), which I chair with Jennifer Martinez. We do not directly appoint the students -- each committee chair picks from among the nominees to choose the final members -- but no student can sit on a committee without being nominated by the UA or GSC.

When you join a committee you don’t just get access to the decision -- and recommendation-making of the Institute. You also receive a number of services provided by the UA’s Nominations Committee. My personal favorite is the Conference of Student Advocates. CoSA is a reception held for all student members of Institute committees three times each term. It includes a quality dinner, opportunities for all committee members to report or ask the group for feedback, and a central presentation on a topic of current interest. This year we’ve also established NomComm liaisons, modeled after the Finance Board’s Liaisons to student groups, so if a student advocate has a question she or he has someone to talk to. And NomComm is always trying to improve the variety and quality of the services we provide to student advocates.

There is a four-step process to joining a committee. First, go to our web page <http://web.mit.edu/ua/Committees/Nomcomm/www/> to read about the committees and fill out the on-line application before Thursday at 6 p.m. Second, come in for your interview (we have flexible scheduling) with two members of NomComm. Third, NomComm deliberates and nominates students to the chair of each committee. Fourth, The student members are chosen by the committee chair and take office.

The UA Nominations Committee is now accepting applications for more than 20 committees of the faculty and administration. Student committee members bring on-the-ground expertise that faculty and administrators necessarily do not have. Though the interests of students are part of the charge of any committee, student members are (obviously) the committee members who take our interests closest to heart. And you can be one of those students, and amplify our voice in decision-making at MIT.

Apply now. The power is yours!

Christopher M. R. Rezek is a member of the Class of 1999.