On Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 9–10, the MIT Corporation’s Visiting Committee for the Division of Student Life will visit MIT. The Undergraduate Association hastily passed a bill requesting the committee hold a forum open to all students; the bill was passed on Monday, Nov. 2, well after the committee’s schedule at MIT has been set.
The Corporation is MIT’s board of trustees; it reviews and provides “guidance on strategic direction” to the Institute. There is one visiting committee for each department, as well as a handful for other aspects such as Student Life.
The Senate bill, 31 U.A.S. 4.3, was passed unanimously on Monday, and was authored during the meeting by UA Secretary General Elizabeth A. Denys ’11; UA Vice President Margaret K. Delano ’10; and Samantha G. Wyman ’11, a senator from Burton-Conner.
The visiting committee is scheduled to meet with the UA President and Vice President as part of a group of 25 representative students during a lunch meeting next week.
UA President Michael A. Bennie ’10 said it would be difficult for the visiting committee to adjust their schedule to include an open forum at this late date, though he has been working to do so.
Secretary of the Corporation Kirk D. Kolenbrander said “The 25 students are a very diverse group, a few of whom are representing student government. On the balance they come from all over the Institute.”
Bennie and Denys both suggested that there are many pertinent issues for the visiting committee this year, including dining, athletics (which has its own visiting committee), potential increases in undergraduate enrollment, and budget cuts.
Most visiting committees do not hold open forums, though many departments solicit all of their students to find those interested in meeting with the visiting committee, and select from that pool.
“This visiting committee, like all of the 31, places a high priority on hearing directly from students,” Kolenbrander said. “This visiting committee, like all of the 31, uses the lunch as the key vehicle for doing that.”
Bennie said that the idea of an open forum had grown out of the accreditation open forum in early October where students could meet with representatives of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, as MIT underwent its every-ten-year reaccreditation.
Kolenbrander said concerned students could communicate with the visiting committee through their student government representatives.
The UA has no process of regular communication to the Corporation as part of the visiting committee process. Denys suggested that this bill could be a “first step in opening communication” with Corporation visiting committees, even if there was not time to schedule an open forum in conjunction with this year’s visit.
There are 31 visiting committees, each of which visits MIT and produces a report every two years.
Kenneth Wang ’71, chair of the visiting committee, referred inquiries about the visiting committee to Kolenbrander. Dean for Student Life Chris Colomobo did the same.