The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 32.0°F | Fair

Public Relations Committee to Moderate Dorm Storms

This is the third of a series of weekly interviews with members of different Undergraduate Association committees. These interviews will be conducted by The Tech’s news editors and members of the editorial board. A UA representative will be present during these interviews as well. Questions for the UA committee members should be sent to uaqa@the-tech.mit.edu the same week they are featured. Responses to these questions will be printed alongside the following week’s interview.

This week’s committee is the Public Relations Committee. The Tech talked to PR Chair Jizi Dai ’08.

The Tech: Describe the Public Relations Committee. What does the committee do?

Jizi Dai: One of our main jobs is really to facilitate communication between the UA and the students. For instance, we’re holding this event called Dorm Storm. Maybe you’ve seen posters around.

TT: Tell us a little bit more about Dorm Storm.

JD: Dorm Storm is a different, kind of new event that we’re putting on this year. It symbolizes the united UA. All of the UA – all of the committees and the Senate – are going to have representatives at each of [the Dorm Storms]. We’re there to basically answer any questions students may have about the UA and take suggestions from the students about what the UA can do for them. So there will be lots of free food, of course. But there will also be survey questions that the PR committee has compiled from all the committees and Senate as well. It will be input, for instance, on the Student Advisory Committee [on the Recommendations of the Task Force of the Undergraduate Educational Commons] and the changes in the [General Institute Requirements], or campus space planning. Things like that. It’s really a great opportunity for the students to tell the UA what they would like to see, and then for the UA to act on the students wishes and give the students what they want.

One of the different things about this year is the united UA. In the past, it’s been more of individual committees doing events, but this year, the UA has come together and all the committees are hosting this large event to gather interest. The other thing that is different is that we are also reaching out to the [Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups]. Since the dormitories are on campus, it’s a little bit easier to reach out to them. But the FSILGs haven’t had much input as to what the UA does. We’ll be visiting FSILGs on Thursday.

TT: I remember last year, individual UA committees had their own Dorm Storms. So this is more of a, like you said, united UA event. What else is the PR Committee doing this year?

JD: As I’ve said, representatives from each committee and the Senate will be there. We’ll be there to answer questions students might have, to really explain that we’re there for them, that we can do a lot for them. One of the problems the UA has had is that we haven’t been able to communicate very effectively with students. And even though we’ve done a lot in the past, the students don’t really know what was done and they don’t really know how to contact us so that we can represent their voice. This will be the first in a series of events that is meant to get the students input and encourage student participation in what the UA does.

Other things that the Public Relations Committee is putting together are UA newsletters. Those will be coming out probably [this week]. The newsletters will have upcoming events, updates on what the committees are doing and what they’ve accomplished in the past. Keep the students up to date on what is going on.

We’re also going to launch a new and updated Undergraduate Association Web site, and the Web site will include forums [in] which students may discuss issues. It will also contain events, descriptions of committees. Just a very technologically-advanced site that can allow better communication between the UA and the students.

We also help other committees with their event planning, publicizing events and surveys, for instance.

TT: Do you have a timeline for when this Web site might be launched?

JD: We’ve already seen the pretty finalized drafts. I would imagine soon; I don’t have the exact time. But when it does, we will definitely let everyone know.

TT: How often will the PR Committee have Dorm Storms?

JD: We’re going to hold Dorm Storms annually. That’s for sure. But we also want to hold UA-wide study breaks. At the end of the semester, for instance, the Public Relations Committee will collaborate with the class councils who traditionally hold study breaks. We’ll collaborate with them to hold a UA-wide study break. There will be a lot of giving out food, but we’ll probably also have some short surveys that will allow us to gauge our success or failure at communicating with the students.

We’ll also have more events in the spring term, which will also hopefully facilitate communication.

TT: Can you elaborate on the other events the PR Committee will have?

JD: Basically, the PR Committee would like to hold events throughout the year to be in touch with the students. Dorm Storm is our kick off, where we visit dorms and FSILGs. We’ll also have an end of the term UA holiday cheer study break. That will be a kind of ‘Good luck on finals’ kind of thing, and ‘How has the UA been doing this term?’ And second semester we’ll also have something called Undergraduate Appreciation Week. It will be a week where we will have various events during the day with free giveaways. It will also be another event where we can gather input from students, see how the UA is doing and what students would like the UA to do for them.

TT: Do you have any model – either from the past or from another group – that you’re working from?

JD: Not really. We’ve been pretty creative and we’ve come up with some new ideas. But, of course, giving out food has always been around.

TT: November seems late in the year. Do you have plans to have Dorm Storms earlier next year?

JD: We got committee members in October, so it has taken us a while to put together the events. We expect to have Dorm Storms early in the fall [in the future]. Since this committee is very new in its direction, we have had to basically start from scratch.

TT: Is there anything else you would like to add?

JD: The thing that I really want to say is that I know that the UA might not have seemed very efficient in the past. It might have seemed like the UA hasn’t done anything for the students. What I really want students to know is that we are there for them, and that if they have any kind of suggestion, any kind of comment, they can contact us through e-mail or other means — through the Web site — and we will take their input very seriously.

The goal this year of the PR Committee and the UA in general is to reach out to more students. And to really get the students as involved as possible. This is our university, it is our campus, it is our student life. The more the students can get involved with the UA, the more communication there is, the better we can serve the students. But communication goes both ways, so we’re doing our part to reach out to students and hopefully students can do their part to also reach out to the UA.