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Students Should Be Involved in Budget Planning

The letter sent to the MIT community by President Hockfield and Provost Reif on Monday, November 17 announced a 5 percent budget cut for Fiscal year 2010 and a 10–15 percent cut over the next two to three years. The letter raised sobering realities concerning the state of MIT finances. It argued the need to plan conservatively in the face of potential decreases in endowment returns, federal research grants, and donor giving, and a potential increase in demonstrated financial need by families of undergraduates receiving aid.

It is concerning that President Hockfield and Provost Reif write that “in approaching this challenge, we have actively consulted with the Academic Council and department heads, as well as with other faculty and administrative leaders.” One group is conspicuously absent: There is no mention of consulting with students. Indeed, the MIT administration consulted neither the Graduate Student Council, the Undergraduate Association, nor the Committee on Student Engagement, the most logical venue for early student involvement in this case.

President Hockfield and Provost Reif also write that “we will set in place a broad, deliberate, inclusive process, in which all branches of the Institute will work together in the coming year to reassess our priorities and the use of our resources.” We strongly urge the MIT administration to follow through with their stated intentions by involving students at the highest reasonable level in this process of long-term strategic planning.

Many of the decisions necessary for implementing budget cuts, though, will take place on the level of departments, schools, and centers. Taking a proactive approach, the Graduate Student Council is initiating talks with all unit heads. MIT is a place of education and scholarship, and it is essential that MIT maintain the greatest commitment to its students even in times of economic hardship. Cuts to student education and student life initiatives should be minimal; if cuts must be made, they should be made with student consultation.

By reaching out systematically to departments, schools, and centers, the GSC will engage in constructive dialogue for how any cuts to graduate education and life, if necessary, should be prioritized. Recognizing the decentralized nature of MIT decision-making, the GSC leadership will conduct these discussions in conjunction with the GSC’s network of departmental representatives to confer the greatest legitimacy and relevance to each departmental-level discussion.

Please contact the GSC Officers at gsc-officers@mit.edu with any comments or questions.

Oaz Nir, GSC President

Nan Gu, GSC Vice President

Lorenna Lee-Houghton, GSC Secretary

David Opolon, GSC Treasurer