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The Continuing Communication Problem

After a contentious town hall meeting on Wednesday, Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict modified his office’s plan to install residential coordinators in dormitories across campus. His new proposal, announced at a Friday meeting with Senior House residents, lessens coordinators’ authority while moving the Senior House coordinator to Eastgate and adding an additional administrator to the graduate dormitory at NW30.

The changes made by Benedict are in the students’ interest, but they were necessitated by a lack of communication between the administration and the student body. Plans for the coordinators were already well under way when the student body first heard about them. Yet again, the Institute has acted on its assumptions of what students need rather than asking students for input.

In general, students oppose having additional administrative supervision, especially in their homes. Few residences oppose this more than Senior House, whose residents reacted understandably and predictably after learning that an administrator would share their personal space. Administrators should have been more sensitive to these concerns.

Student representatives also share the blame. Dormitory Council President Jeffrey C. Roberts ’02 was informed about the change months in advance, but he failed to notify his constituency. This is an example of a trend that this board has found between the administration and the student government at the Institute. While claiming that it seeks student input, the administration instead relies on the feedback of a few key “student administrators,” such as Roberts. Although these students may attempt to act as advocates for the entire student body, it is unreasonable to expect them to be in touch with the views of every student. Instead, the administration needs to seek responses from a wider sample of students, such as leaders of individual dormitories.

In reviewing the coordinator controversy, we offer our standard refrain -- administrators are out of touch with students. The solution is for administrators to consult with a variety of students before implementing any policy change that significantly alters any aspect of student life. Benedict’s arrival had signaled a shift in that direction. The handling of this situation, however, leads us to question if such a shift has actually taken place. Benedict promised at the Senior House meeting that his office would work harder to increase communication between the administration and students. His promise must become reality soon, for students have waited far too long for the Institute’s ear.