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Student Life Division Plans to Restructure

New Institute Chaplain Position Created

By Angeline Wang
NEWS EDITOR

The Division of Student Life is undergoing a structural reorganization in an effort to focus on improving living-learning communities and increasing the variety of life skills that students develop while at MIT, according to Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict. Three new units are being added — Residential Life, Student Development, and Student Support — that will cluster together currently existing components of the division.

Other changes include additional emphasis on assessment and fundraising for the entire division and the addition of the position of Institute Chaplain that will be filled by Robert M. Randolph, current senior associate dean for student life. (See the organizational chart on page 14.) Barbara A. Baker, current associate dean for Student Life Programs, will take over Randolph’s duties after the reorganization.

Benedict said that the newly-organized DSL plans align with recommendations from the 1998 and 2006 reports from the Task Force on Student Life and Learning and the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons.

“It is a strategic direction that student life is taking,” Stephen D. Immerman, associate dean for student life, said.

The division’s changes will officially take effect Jan. 1, 2007. No additional staff will be hired in the short term, Benedict said, but there will be shuffling of positions and components.

The changes should also put DSL in a better position to work with the Division on Undergraduate Education, which is also undergoing reorganization, Benedict said.

Benedict believes that the major changes students will notice will be long-term. “On a daily basis, most students won’t know the difference, and if we do our job right, most students shouldn’t notice a difference,” Benedict said. “Ultimately, we’re going to be providing better services to students.”

New emphasis on fundraising

According to Immerman, the major change in fundraising is that it will become more “focused and intentional,” but that the effort itself is not new. DSL has been working on it for over a year, beginning to build the infrastructure that will support fundraising, he said. Immerman, along with Candace L. Royer, associate dean for the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation, will be leading the fundraising efforts.

The funds raised will go toward the increasing demands that follow from an “explosion of activities and programs, which costs tremendous amounts of money,” Immerman said. “Whatever the amount, it will be substantial.” Support is needed for two buildings and programs.

DSL is looking toward new ways to raise these funds, including asking for alumni support. “We ought not to look to increasing tuition,” he added.

DSL also hopes to increasingly assess their programs. According to Daniel Trujillo, who will lead the Community Outreach unit that assessment falls under, the first step looks at the data that already been compiled and uses it to revise the division’s strategies and programs.

“We currently have a good holding of data, through many student surveys,” Trujillo said.

New units outline goals

Development of living-learning communities will be directed by the new Residential Life unit, which includes Housing, Residential Life Programs, Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups, and Dining. According to Director of Housing Karen A. Nilsson, who will lead the Residential Life unit, she plans to ask students for input after January when the changes become official. “It’s always been our practice to utilize our students on teams,” Nilsson said.

For the short term, Residential Life will focus on getting the newly-named Ashdown House, NW35, settled, Nilsson said. The new graduate dormitory is expected to open in summer 2008. In the long term, FSILGs will discuss the possibility of moving to the Cambridge side of the Charles River.

Student Development will include the Student Leadership Development, the Public Service Center, Student Activities, and the Hobby Shop. Associate Dean Laura Capone, who will be heading the Student Development unit on an interim basis, also plans to meet with students in December for a “visioning session.”

“Clustering of the existing offices and programs … will ultimately give MIT students limitless opportunities,” Capone said.

“We want to provide a lot of opportunities, more than we do now, so students can actually practice all of the things they learn in class and also develop new leadership skills outside of class,” Benedict said.

According to Benedict, the Student Leadership Development Committee is currently looking at opportunities for freshmen to become more involved with activities outside of class.

The Student Support unit will not be very different in its focus, according to Benedict, and the other units — DAPER and Enterprise Services, which includes Copy Tech and the Card Office — are also not changing.

Search for a DAPER department head is ongoing and is unrelated to the planned reorganization. According to Capone, who is leading the search, she expects the interim head Immerman to stay for the entire academic year. The new hire should begin on July 1. Capone hopes to either extend an offer by or be close to a decision by Independent Activities Period.

Randolph to be Institute Chaplain

According to the MIT News Office, Randolph’s goals for the new Institute Chaplain position, which he will assume in January, include developing a protocol for memorial services, as well as promoting understanding and tolerance throughout campus.

“I hope in the long run we will see more programs that encourage expression and interfaith conversation,” he said to the News Office.

Randolph “has been involved with chaplains and ministry here for all of his career here,” Benedict said. “In some ways, this simply reflects what he has been doing for a long time but actually gives him more time to focus on those areas.”