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Students Discuss Coordinators' Role

By Pey-Hua Hwang


In response to the growing controversy over the proposed Residential Coordinator system, Assistant Dean of Residential Programs Katie O’Dair held an open meeting to work on some of the program’s sticking points.

The group worked to draft a new job description, look at timelines for the selection process, and discuss the selection procedure yesterday in the Baker conference room.

O’Dair expressed her hopes that everyone would help to “come up with the best possible job description ... [that would] meet everyone’s needs.”

Some students in attendance remained skeptical of the proposed live-in administrators and offered their suggestions. Even the name “residential coordinator” will most likely be changed; the students in attendance generated a list of suitable alternatives.

“The word ‘coordinator’ has no denotation and lots of bad connotations,” said East Campus resident Richard S. Tibbetts ’02.

O’Dair also tried to assuage concerns that the new coordinators would intrude into students’ lives. O’Dair said the coordinators are “not going to have a discipline role.”

Instead, she said that the coordinators’ job description would be to act as a disseminator of information between administrators and students, a logistics director, a conflict mediator, and a dean on call.

Residents also questioned the space that will be devoted to housing the new administrators. Some worried it would detract from the social environments of the dormitories.

“People don’t want the presence of another adult,” said Next House Secretary Vakram Maheshri ’03. “We feel unfairly singled out.”

Variety of qualities sought in staff

Those attending the meeting created a list of qualities they would want to see in the new coordinators. Deemed as most important were flexibility, an ability to handle challenges well, and an openness to adapt to MIT culture.

Other desired qualities included political savvy for cutting through bureaucratic red tape to help plan student events, MIT experience, and a willingness to communicate with students online.

The attendees also discussed issues of accountability. “Marrying the two positions of dean on call and knowledge center may be over-constraining the position,” Tibbetts said.

A proposal was made to limit responsibilities and specifically designate some of them to each of the four new coordinators.

Interviews could start in May

O’Dair said she hoped that a new draft of the coordinator’s job description would be written by this Friday. She explained it would be the product of this meeting as well as several other discussions she will have over the week, including one with the Graduate Student Council.

“We’re not going to have anything final by Friday,” O’Dair said, “but we might have a smaller group to finalize things later.”

The current objective is to have the job description finalized and posted in April and to hold all the interviews in May.

“The goal is to have these folks start by mid-August before orientation,” O’Dair said.

There would be two rounds of interviews. The first would be conducted over the phone by a search committee comprised of two undergraduates, two graduates, a housemaster, a GRT, and O’Dair herself. The second would involve bringing the potential candidates to campus and having them meet with various groups of students.

A diverse range of students attended the meeting. Members of both east and west sides of campus, a member of an independent living group, and GRTs all expressed their views on the coordinators at the meeting.