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How is MIT reacting to the current economic situation? In a letter released to the MIT community on Monday, the MIT administration unveiled details of a new task force charged to reevaluate and recommend changes in MIT operations to improve financial efficiency.

The Institute-wide Planning Task Force is charged with revealing and analyzing inefficiencies. With more than 150 Task Force members meeting weekly, Provost L. Rafael Reif hopes to collect ideas quickly. Preliminary recommendations will be selected by June 2009, and their implementation will run through October 2010, affecting the 2010–2011 academic year.

The Task Force is divided into four areas: academic planning, administrative planning, student life, and revenue enhancement. Within these areas, smaller working groups will meet weekly to propose and discuss new ideas on specific aspects of MIT operations. In order to promote idea development, all working groups will be provided with information from a Data and Analysis Group.

Ultimately, Reif, Chancellor Philip L. Clay PhD ’75, and Executive Vice President Theresa M. Stone SM ’76 will decide on which ideas to implement.

Ideabank web site collects input

In order to increase involvement outside the Institute-wide Task Force, Reif launched an online interactive forum, the MIT Idea Bank (http://ideabank.mit.edu). Since Monday morning, the Bank has received more than 200 ideas from students, staff, and faculty.

Mark W. Manley, along with many other contributors to Idea Bank, spoke out against wasting paper. “When I started working at MIT,” Manley wrote, “I was extremely surprised to see how paper-driven it still was for many things.” Manley proposed that financial reimbursements be automatically deposited into the payroll rather than the current system of paper checks. Earning a rating of 5 out of a 5 star system, Manley’s idea to reduce paper usage is one of the more popular ideas on Idea Bank.

Another hot topic on the forum concerns the heating and air-conditioning efficiencies of campus buildings. In a post on Idea Bank, Jason B. Cohen G recalled a time when he saw frost on the inside of windows at Eastgate and Building 54. Cohen proposed that single-pane windows in MIT buildings be replaced with double-pane windows in order to improve heating insulation.

Other popular topics on the forum include energy conservation, lowering elevated salaries, reducing paper junk mail, and making more paperwork electronic. The ideas receiving the high ratings and popularity will be considered by the Institute-wide Task Force and brought to the coordinators.

Organization

As one of the three Task Force coordinators, Graduate Dean Steven R. Lerman ’72 will collect ideas from working groups and submit them to the Provost. The coordinators “make sure the Task Force is able to realize its full potential,” Lerman said. In addition, the coordinators will provide the MIT community with updates on ideas developed within working groups.

According to Lerman, the coordinators will meet on a regular basis with working group co-chairs to discuss recommended ideas. If approved, ideas concerning academic, administrative, and student life will be reviewed by Reif, Stone, and Clay, respectively.

Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel E. Hastings was chosen by Reif to co-chair the working group on education. “Fundamentally,” said Hastings, “I accepted because MIT… has a serious budget crisis and we all need to step up to help.” According to the Institute-wide Task Force website, the value of MIT’s endowment dropped by approximately 25% from June to December, to $7.6 billion.

In the coming months, further updates and announcements on new ideas will be posted on the Institute-wide Planning website (http://web.mit.edu/instituteplanning).