At the beginning of 2010 we saw the tail end of a budget crunch that was quelled by swift, but resonable cuts. Though we are out of immediate danger, the crisis birthed many longer-term plans that will shape the Institute for years to come.
This past year, a few of the smaller plans came to fruition. Fewer dorms were open to students this summer, and the Northwest Shuttle was merged with EZRide. Changes to printing are soon to come, as the Institute tests a system that requires students to be at the printer before their jobs can be printed.
The most contentious change has been the proposal for mandatory dining at the dorms with dining halls, which sparked on and off protests throughout the year.
Is there anything to be learned from all of this? Perhaps it is that history will always catch up with us. Or, that the administration will do the things it says it plans to do.
Dining reform should not have surprised anybody, if only because the idea has been kicked around from committee to committee for years now. Yet at several instances in 2010, students treated the proposal as a fresh insult.
Both administrators and students deserve some of the blame. Administrators made a show of including students in the decision-making process, but it is unclear whether students had any real say. Students activists gave the issue only intermittent attention, when they actually needed to apply steady pressure.
As MIT faces bigger reforms, administrators must learn that undergraduates operate on a different time scale. We have classes and exams and breaks; a quarter of us leave every year. We are distracted by all the opportunities on campus, and because we are preparing for the rest of our lives. So give us a break. Engage us more, and don’t take our silence to mean that we don’t care. We might just have a huge midterm that week.
Students have the same lesson to learn. The more monumental the change, the slower the administration moves. Pay attention to the working groups, the draft proposals which come out months, if not years before the actual changes. Strike early, while those plans are malleable.
The budget crisis gave us the opportunity to question some of the ways we have always done things. With changes to undergraduate housing, enrollment and curriculum on the horizon, we must learn how to talk to each other and respect each other — or we will share a troubled future.
Jeff Guo, Editor in Chief