Budget cuts have decreased residential life funds across the dorms, shrinking the money available to housemasters and GRTs. In McCormick Hall, for example, the housemasters experienced budget cuts of 10 percent for both this year and for the previous year, according to housemaster Charles H. Stewart III
McCormick’s housemasters have had to make sacrifices to their own money in order to keep the GRTs’ budgets on the level it was at in the previous year.
McCormick’s tighter budget was offset by the introduction of rollovers during the 2009-2010 school year. While any unused money would have been taken away in the past, the housemasters are now able to carry over any unused money from the previous year over to the new school year.
At Next House, similar sacrifices have occurred to soften the blow of the cuts in GRT money. “The GRTs in Next have not been largely affected by cuts, because the housemasters have helped maintain our individual budgets by using money from their own budgets,” says Nicole De Nisco, who serves as GRT for 4W in Next. The budget given to each GRT remains the same, and each student still receives the same funding.
Unlike in McCormick, where housemasters had the luxury of rollovers, Next House GRTs no longer have rollovers. In the past, Next GRTs were permitted to keep the unspent money in their budget, but any unused money from this semester will be taken away. As a result, the quality of study breaks and activities has stayed at a similar level, though the end of rollovers does encourage GRTs like De Nisco to be more resourceful with their finances.
Graduate Residence Tutors in some other dorms actually saw their budgets decrease this year. In dormitories such as Baker House, less money is allocated to each student, so GRTs must use money carefully. In Baker, decreases in the available budget have been occurring since the previous year.
However, Renee C. Smith, a Baker GRT on the first floor, explains: “Baker is fortunate because the Student Executive Committee in our dorm helps supplement the budget that is given to GRTs. Therefore, our budget decreases have not been too big of a problem. I’m actually happy we still have a budget to work with.”
Smith generally holds study breaks every day during the period before finals, but she had to get rid of Thursday study breaks for that period because money was lacking. A no-frills attitude had to be applied to breaks, as previous study breaks, which included elaborate plans and activities, needed to be simplified. Smith added that there used to be two sushi breaks per term, but now only one could be planned. Still, she concluded, “the students seemed alright with the changes, as they realized that we had to be more frugal with our budget while our economy is struggling.”
The Graduate Resident Tutors in each dorm serve as live-in mentors for the MIT undergraduate community. Budget cuts in residential life services have meant financial strains for the GRTs, who each receive a budget that is allocated equally across the students in each individual GRT’s living area. As early as the previous school year, both housemasters and GRTs alike have had to adapt to stricter financial conditions.
Budget decreases have affected all dorms. The Institute has spent the last two years addressing the effects of the global financial crisis on MIT’s endowment and the General Institute Budget. Approximately $120 million have been trimmed from the General Institute Budget.
The change, which required cuts in all offices and divisions at MIT, including in the Division of Student Life. The cut in the housemasters’ budgets was a reflection of the changes, which could affect the GRTs’ budgets as well. The office of the Dean of Student Life was responsible for allocating money to the housemasters, who in turn determined the budgets of GRTs in individual dorms.
The budget constraints are a clear result that the American economy is still in a slump. GRTs and housemasters have had to be more calculating in order to maintain the services offered.
But Stewart, the McCormick housemasters, is still positive about the situation. “The poor economy in the last couple years has required drastic alternatives to the way finances are run, but the situation should improve with the upcoming year,” he said.