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What can MIT do better in 2012? Looking back on 2011, that’s the question students, faculty, and administrators should ask themselves. Last year was a big one, for MIT and the rest of the world, and what happened will deeply inform how we move forward.

Student life saw some its biggest changes in years. MIT admitted a significantly larger freshman class, thanks to 460 new beds in the resurrected Maseeh Hall. Students also got their first taste of the new dining plan, mandatory for those who live in dormitories with dining halls. Eric Grimson PhD ’80 took the reins of “all things students” with his appointment as Chancellor. And, two months ago, the Undergraduate Association overhauled its fundamental governance structure in an attempt to unify the undergraduate student voice.

At the same time, the administration has been expanding MIT’s influence like never before. President Susan J. Hockfield has called for a radical redevelopment of the Kendall Square area — part of MIT’s “2030” vision — but the central administration has clashed with local politicians and faculty over how much MIT should pay attention to commercial development versus its own academic priorities. The president has also spearheaded new high-profile international partnerships with China and Russia, extending the Institute’s reach far beyond Cambridge borders.

MIT also began preparing for a digital future in 2011 with the announcement of MITx in December. MITx, an online educational platform, is being billed by the central administration as a key component of future education at MIT and a means to bring an MIT education to the rest of the world. The platform has the potential to dramatically change the academic landscape for on-campus learners, and its implementation must be addressed carefully.

Tragically, MIT lost two of its own to suicide this past fall: Nicolas E. Del Castillo ’14 in September and Satto Tonegawa ’15 in October. The deaths sparked a renewed interest in mental health practices at MIT, and their impact will likely be felt for some time to come. Current students and alumni also gathered last month to remember Phyo N. Kyaw ’10, who was killed on his bicycle at the Vassar St./Mass. Ave. intersection in December.

Our experiences in 2011 should not be forgotten as we faces 2012’s challenges. Use this special Tech Year-in-Review edition to reflect on those experiences.

This year, students and administrators alike must learn to rise above the types of arguments that have typically characterized their relationship. Whether it be the re-evaluation of MIT’s mental health practice, or a frank discussion of MIT’s academic vision for the next 20 years, MIT cannot afford to descend into anything but the most intelligent, mature debate we can muster. This place, and its people, are just too important to spend time on anything less.

—Ethan A. Solomon, Volume 131 Editor in Chief