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Shulman, Benedict Chart Path For New Year at UA Meeting

By Shankar Mukherji

The first Undergraduate Association Council meeting of the year was a time for students and administrators alike to discuss their ideas for benefiting the student body. UA President Peter A. Shulman ’01 delivered the State of the UA Address yesterday, and MIT’s new Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict discussed upcoming issues for the new year.

In his speech, Shulman outlined an agenda for meeting his goal of seeing “as many improvements to MIT as possible.” He stated that he would like to see the Institute’s capital campaign begin to directly benefit the student body.

Also, as an attempt to bring together the MIT community as a whole, Shulman announced the beginning of a “Stochastic” dinner program, whereby 80 undergraduate students will be picked at random to dine with members of the administration and discuss issues that affect them in an informal forum.

Shulman reported that existing projects to improve student life, such as the evaluation of MIT’s Mental Health services and the possibility for anonymous medical transportation, are continuing to provide new insights into how to better serve the needs of the undergraduate student body. “The mantra of the UA,” Shulman said, “is ‘students above all.’”

In his speech, Shulman also had the chance to muse about the future of student computing. He brought up a proposal for a “next-generation Athena” system in which all students would receive palm-top computers with the ability to connect to the network from virtually anywhere on campus. Under the plan, Athena clusters would be “abolished” and converted into space for student activities.

The council meeting opened with an address by the new Dean for Student Life Larry Benedict. Benedict, having worked eight years at Johns Hopkins University before coming to MIT, described his role as “an advocate for the students at MIT.”

As a part of his mission to improve the quality of student life, Benedict brought up a range of issues including the budget process, campus dining plans, and the MIT’s housing situation.

Benedict stated that campus housing needs to be both expanded and renovated, noting that the issue has “not had sufficient attention.” He expressed a desire to evaluate the FSILG system, which he is interested in sustaining even with the planned move of all freshmen to on-campus housing in 2002. Benedict also plans on continuing such community building activities as the Infinite Buffet and the Millennium Ball.