In a public statement posted Wednesday on his website, Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’88 responded to the Institute-wide Task Force recommendations. While some of the cost-cutting ideas will be implemented soon, many major ideas — like adding more undergraduates, opening summer classes to a wider demographic, eliminating Athena clusters, changing add drop date and modifying the existing dining system — will require further research before being implemented.
Among the ideas that Clay suggests to be implemented the soonest are:
• Adjusting financial aid to true food costs
• Eliminating “redundant” shuttle routes
“These decisions that MIT faces in responding to financial downturn are not easy ones,” Clay said in an e-mail sent to all students yesterday.
Clay’s response to the community and his recent e-mail to students are part of the senior administration’s efforts to demystify the budget cuts for the community, to gain input from students and faculty, and to better address wide-spread concerns.
Undergraduate Association President Michael A. Bennie ’10 applauded Clay’s efforts, saying “this whole process has been fairly transparent, I feel like this [public response] is the next step.”
Chancellor says number of undergrads to remain same
A change in the number of undergraduates at MIT is unlikely to happen soon, according to Clay’s response. In his “Chancellor’s Response to the Institute-wide Planning Task Force Preliminary Report,” posted Feb. 24, he wrote that “undergraduate enrollment will not be increased until additional housing is available.”
In particular, completing the construction of Ashdown (W1) will likely influence increasing enrollment size, he says.
Regarding undergraduate enrollment size, Clay also wrote that “we have assessed and addressed other issues related to the likely impacts of increase in the size,” but did not specify or provide his opinion on any of these specific enrollment-related concerns.
Some proposals that will not take effect soon include the suggestions to eliminating Athena clusters, limiting Athena cluster printing, developing additional summer classes, “right-sizing” the graduate student body, and introducing a “3+2” masters degree program. These ideas require further study from the appropriate working groups, according to Clay.
The idea to eliminate Athena clusters and implement changes in Athena printing policy is currently being discussed in a newly-formed working group.
Plans to develop additional summer courses are still under evaluation by the Dean of Undergraduate Education, according to Clay. MIT could allow freshmen to take General Institute Requirement courses in the summer before they enter, or could run a summer school for high school or college students.
“There will be no action on this until the matter is reviewed and appropriate consultation with CUP [Committee on the Undergraduate Program] and other faculty committees is pursued,” he said.
Adding summer courses could bring in revenue from increased summer housing. It could also ease the crowding problem in GIR courses, allowing the freshman class to be larger. To make money, MIT might not offer financial aid, and non-MIT students would likely be charged full price.
Similarly, “right-sizing” the graduate student body or adding a new “3+2” masters degree option will not take effect without further study from the deans for undergraduate and graduate education.
Changing drop and add dates among ideas delegated back to departments
Some ideas — like changing the add and drop dates — will be sent back to academic committees and later voted on by the faculty. More specifically, Clay said “the academic calendar is a faculty governance issue:” the Committee on Academic Performance and the Committee on Graduate Programs must consider the Task Force proposal, which would then need to be considered for a vote by the entire Faculty.
Likewise, the Task Force report proposed modifying or eliminating the current Physical Education requirement, which Clay says must first be proposed by a faculty committee for vote as it currently exists as part of the undergraduate program.
Clay also noted that freshman alternative programs — such as Terrascope, Concourse, and the Experimental Study Group (ESG) — will face budget reductions similar to that of other academic programs and departments, but no programs will be cut.
Shuttles services, dining, and summer housing to be reevaluated
According to Clay, the Dean for Student Life, the Department of Facilities, Undergraduate Association, and the Graduate Student Council are currently working to reevaluate the use of MIT’s shuttle services. Redundant routes covered by both the MIT Shuttle Service and MBTA buses may be eliminated, and the frequency of some routes may be reduced. A fee may be added for some routes.
Clay wrote that efforts to make changes to the current dining system are underway, and the Division of Student Life is maintaining dialogue with the four residence halls that have dining to develop a “sustainable dining plan” that eliminates the current $300 fee.
Although no rigid deadlines have been set to change the dining system, Clay says “a slight adjustment will be made to the student expense budget that determines financial aid eligibility in several categories, including the dining allowance.”
Financial aid currently estimates students spend $4,510 per year for food, but a recent MIT survey conducted last fall found that undergraduates spend only $1,700 to $2,240. The Task Force suggests the dining allowance provided by financial aid be reduced to $3,000 for students without dining and $4,510 for those with a meal plan. Clay said that a slight adjustment will be made to the student expense budget that determines financial aid eligibility.
The number of dorms available to students for summer housing is also likely to change in hopes of reducing operational costs, with changes occurring as soon as this summer.
Clay said that students hoping to live on campus this summer will be limited to a reduced number of dorms, and MIT will most likely use the other dorms to generate revenue by renting or subletting them.
The Division of Student Life and the Housing Strategy Group are currently deciding which dorms will be open for summer housing.
Clay’s full response to the Task Force report can be found on at: http://web.mit.edu/chancellor/reports.html.