Skip to content

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Accreditation

2009 Accreditation Report

Institutional Self-Study

6. Students



The goal of MIT's admissions and financial-aid policies and practices is to attract the most intelligent, hopeful, ambitious, and irrepressibly curious students in the world. As one of the nation's few universities to practice need-blind admissions and need-based financial aid that meets the full demonstrated need of every student, we attract undergraduate applicants from the broadest socioeconomic and international backgrounds. From these applicants, MIT seeks students whose academic and personal accomplishments and potential will contribute to an environment of excitement and discovery on campus. Similarly, MIT is committed to attracting a talented and diverse graduate population.

Recognizing that students will need more than a world-class technical education to succeed in the real world, MIT created the Task Force on Student Life and Learning in 1998. Introduced earlier in this report and discussed extensively during the Institute's accreditation visit 10 years ago, this Task Force offered a deep endorsement of the essential MIT triad of academics, research, and community—but offered many suggestions and an important new idea. It challenged MIT to rethink the classroom and laboratory experiences, enrich its extracurricular offerings, and bring them together to create a stronger and better calibrated mix.

What would that require, in practice? Ensuring that undergraduates encounter professors not only on the far side of a lectern, but also across the dinner table or the squash court. Developing fresh strategies for collaborative hands-on learning not just inside the classroom, but outside it as well. Creating a campus that fosters those invaluable, unpredictable encounters—with classmates, dorm-mates, teammates, mentors of every age—that can electrify the minds of students. In 2000, the Division of Student Life (DSL) was established to oversee the quality of these experiences. Along with the Institute's research and teaching programs, the DSL equally shares the responsibility of ensuring the excellence and coherence of the entire MIT education experience. Since the release of the Student Life and Learning report in 1998 and the creation of this new division, the programs and services provided to students have improved and flourished.

This chapter begins with an overview of MIT's efforts to attract and retain outstanding students, and to increase diversity at all levels of the student pipeline. We then focus on our many efforts to enrich the student life and learning experience through the work of the Division of Student Life and other offices.

Back to Top

 

I. ADMISSIONS AND FINANCIAL AID

Undergraduate

Admissions

The mission of the Admissions Office is: to attract undergraduate applicants from the broadest socioeconomic and international backgrounds whose academic and personal accomplishments and potential meet the expectations of the faculty; and to convey an authentic image of MIT to prospective applicants. Each year, MIT Admissions identifies and recruits a class composed of the brightest, most energetic, and most indefatigably curious students in the world. To provide a true sense of the unusual—even quirky—environment that is MIT, the office pioneered an admissions tool that is now widely used across the industry: blogs by admissions officers and students (http://www.mitadmissions.org/). This tool provides prospective students an intense sense of community and an unparalleled inside view of life at the Institute.

Given the importance of finding the right fit, the Institute reviews all applicants on their individual merit and not in comparison to peers from their specific region or high school. This individual approach is a time-intensive process. For entry year 2008, MIT received 13,396 undergraduate applications—an increase of 28 percent from 2005. From these applications, we admitted 12 percent (1,589 students). Of those offered admission, slightly more than 66 percent enrolled. The mean verbal SAT score of those enrolling was 702; the mean mathematics SAT score was 751. Of the entering class, 40 percent were valedictorians and 91 percent ranked in the top 5 percent of their high-school classes; 46 percent were women; and 50 percent were members of minority groups (Asian American, African American, Hispanic, and Native American). The Institute also has made significant progress in enrolling first-generation college students, who make up 18 percent of the class entering in 2008. Although the class for entry-year 2009 is not finalized, the number of applicants rose to 15,661—an increase of 17 percent since 2008—and our admission rate was 10.6 percent, the lowest in our history.

MIT admissions policies and procedures are set and reviewed by the faculty's Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid to ensure that admissions criteria and the selection process match the mission of the Institute. The MIT Nondiscrimination Policy is available on the MIT Admissions website (http://www.mitadmissions.org/policies.shtml).

Back to Top

Recruitment of underrepresented minority undergraduates

The enrollment of underrepresented minorities (African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans) has increased significantly in the past few years, from 171 students in the class of 2009 to 257 students in the class of 2012 (25 percent of the class). International students constitute 9 percent of the class and come from 56 countries. Among the United States citizens and permanent residents. 10 percent are African American, 25 percent are Asian American, 14 percent are Hispanic, and 1 percent are Native American. All of these students contribute to the racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity of our community.

A 2007 study by the National Academies titled Rising Above the Gathering Storm suggests that inquiry-based learning through research—as early as the middle- and high-school years—is essential to getting promising young scholars interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 34  The Academies of Applied Science, through their Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, have for over 30 years embraced this philosophy of inquiry-based education for pre-college students. The Office of Engineering Outreach Programs (OEOP) in MIT's School of Engineering offers four free academic-enrichment programs for middle- and high-school students:

OEOP's goal is to provide traditionally underserved students with engaging and challenging curricula in engineering and science. Its core programs foster unique learning experiences for middle- and high-school students and help build a pipeline of diverse and highly qualified scientists and engineers. Since the start of its first program in 1975, OEOP has served 2,200 students through its local and national programs. In 2008–09, 100 percent of the participants in the high-school programs (MITES and SEED Academy) were accepted to college. Approximately 34 percent (600) of the MITES alumni have attended MIT. The SEED Academy graduated 14 students in spring 2009; one of them was the first from the program to be accepted by MIT, and she will be a member of the class of 2013. Alumni of OEOP's middle-school programs (STEM and MSBP) are still in high school, so we do not have data on outcomes yet.

To further build the Institute's admissions pipeline, MIT has a new partnership with Questbridge, a nonprofit organization that connects high-achieving, low-income students to top colleges. In 2008, the first year of this partnership, MIT received 827 applicants from the Questbridge program and admitted more than 80.

A critical component of our undergraduate and graduate diversity efforts is the MIT Office of Minority Education (OME). This office, and its work to support the mission of MIT and offices across the Institute, is highlighted throughout this chapter.

Back to Top

Recruitment of women undergraduates

MIT's founder, William Barton Rogers, envisioned MIT as a place that would "draw all the lovers of knowledge of both sexes to the halls of the Institute." 35  In 1873, shortly after MIT's opening in 1865, Ellen Swallow Richards became MIT's first woman graduate (and later its first woman instructor). Richards' work testing drinking-water supplies for contaminants made her a preeminent water scientist before her graduation. Later she created the first sanitary engineering laboratory in the United States and helped found the science of ecology. In the past 30 years, MIT has steadily built its number of women students—today, they make up nearly half of the undergraduate student body (45.4 percent in 2008). Of those with a declared major, most (85 percent) choose science or engineering, and they achieve at the highest levels.

Back to Top

Financial aid

For more than four decades, MIT has proudly practiced need-blind admissions. This means that the Institute admits all undergraduates based solely on their academic merit, without considering their ability to pay. MIT stands as one of the few U.S. institutions that continues to be truly need-blind. We meet the full demonstrated need of all admitted students, and we do not award any academic, athletic, or other forms of merit scholarships. If a young person has the talent to get into MIT, the Institute makes sure that he or she can actually attend.

Because science and engineering careers have long been an escalator of social mobility in the United States, MIT educates a high proportion of first-generation college students and low-income students. Among all undergraduates, approximately 17 percent come from families earning less than $45,000 a year, approximately 22 percent come from families earning less than $60,000 annually, and approximately 18 percent come from the first generation in their family to attend college.

For our undergraduate students, the Institute provides grants and loans based on demonstrated financial need, which is determined by analysis of the family's finances. Our commitment to keeping MIT affordable is evident from the following facts:

Especially in the current economic crisis, MIT remains committed to working with students and their families to make it possible for all undergraduates, regardless of their financial means, to afford an MIT education. For 2009–10, tuition and fees will increase 3.8 percent to $37,782, the smallest increase in eight years; the total undergraduate financial-aid budget will rise more than 10 percent, to $81.6 million. That marks the 10th straight year in which the increase in financial aid has outpaced the increase in tuition. Understanding that college costs present challenges for middle-income families, MIT's financial-aid budget for 2009–10 includes an additional $1.4 million to help families earning more than $75,000 a year. As in the past, MIT will work with students and their families to provide financial assistance that reflects a reasonable assessment of each family's current need, even when a family's economic situation has changed significantly since the student was originally admitted to MIT.

Back to Top

Graduate

Admissions and financial aid

Applicants for graduate degrees are evaluated by the individual departments in which they intend to register. Specific admission requirements vary by department and can be found at http://web.mit.edu/admissions/graduate/requirements/. Admission, registration, and awarding of graduate degrees are departmentally administered. Every graduate-degree candidate must be admitted through one of the 24 graduate departments; in nearly all cases, financial aid is arranged through departments, and the degree or degrees that are earned will be awarded only upon recommendation of the department in which the student is registered. In short, every graduate student, including those who are working on interdepartmental programs under the guidance of standing or specially created interdepartmental committees, must have a "home" in some department.

With increasing competition for the best and brightest students, MIT must act aggressively to ensure appropriate graduate-student support and maintain excellence in graduate programs. Graduate-student funding, particularly fellowship support, is a priority.

MIT's long-term vision for the financial support of graduate students includes:

MIT's fundraising initiative, the Campaign for Students, includes a $100 million goal for graduate fellowships. However, achieving the long-term vision outlined above would require several times that amount over the next decade. As discussed in Chapter 4, the vice chancellor and dean for graduate education is leading a series of dialogues to consider whether the high number of graduate students enrolled over the past five years is in MIT's long-term interest. A somewhat smaller, but better-supported, graduate student body may make the Institute more competitive for the best students. MIT also may also explore its policies requiring full tuition over students' entire graduate education. Many peer institutions charge much-reduced tuition for late-stage doctoral students. While this reduces revenue, it also reduces the costs of graduate research assistants charged to grants. MIT's full vision and strategy for strengthening support for graduate fellowships can be found at http://web.mit.edu/odge/about/financial.html.

Back to Top

Recruitment and support of underrepresented minority graduate students

Approximately 350 students from underrepresented minority (URM) groups are enrolled at MIT as graduate students, comprising about 5 percent of the graduate student body. While this percentage puts us on a par with our peers, it falls short of our aspirations. In 2004, the Faculty Policy Committee resolved, and the faculty voted, "to take all necessary and sufficient steps to increase the percent of... underrepresented minority graduate students by roughly a factor of three (3) within a decade." This faculty declaration, with the goal of taking a "national leadership role on diversity," builds on a 1998 joint resolution by the Black Graduate Student Association and the Graduate Student Council that urges all academic departments to "place maximum effort and knowledge into recruiting, matriculating, and maintaining the enrollment of underrepresented minority and women students." To meet the 2014 target set by the faculty requires a URM enrollment of approximately 850 graduate students. Although numbers are still preliminary for the class entering in 2009-10, we expect 131 URMs (7.0 percent of enrolling students, up from 6.9 percent last year) to attend MIT.

The Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE) serves as a catalyst for attracting a more diverse student body into graduate academic programs and for providing all students with support for academic success. The ODGE's strategy is to partner with the Office of Minority Education and academic departments to improve recruiting and mentoring and to develop programs that support diversity at the Institute. As an example, the ODGE works with the dean of the School of Science to provide funding for all incoming URM graduate students for units in the school that do not have enough funds (the office also provides financial support for several URM postdocs in laboratories that cannot otherwise afford them). Another partnership exists between the ODGE and the Department of Biology to select summer research projects for URM undergraduates from institutions across the country. In this program, students from other universities work in various MIT biology labs in a UROP-like experience (UROP, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, is described in Chapter 4). The dean for graduate education also meets with senior faculty in the department to plan coordinated URM recruitment efforts and to align programming where possible.

Approximately 26 percent of admitted URM graduate students have an MIT undergraduate degree. Therefore, MIT has established multiple initiatives to help URM undergraduates succeed and view graduate studies not only as a viable option, but also as a welcoming and inviting career path. For example, in 2006, the Office of Minority Education created the Laureates and Leaders Program. This program prepares cohorts of undergraduate students for graduate study. The program starts at the beginning of the sophomore year with students who have strong academic records and an interest in advanced studies. Over the next three years, participants benefit from faculty mentoring partnerships, developmental workshops, engagement in UROP, financial assistance to participate in conferences, encouragement to make technical presentations, and help with GRE preparation. The first cohort of nine seniors will graduate this year, with at least five of them planning to attend MD/PhD, PhD, or MS graduate programs.

MIT's efforts to recruit graduate students from other institutions include:

To support graduate students already at MIT, the ODGE sponsors a monthly series of luncheon seminars (the Power Lunch) designed to promote the academic, professional, and personal development of URMs. The series allows students from diverse academic departments to develop supportive peer relationships and share experiences, insights, and strategies for managing the challenges of graduate work.

In response to the 2004 faculty resolution on diversity, the dean for graduate education has created the Recruitment and Retention Council to develop an implementation plan specifically focused on graduate students. The Council, whose members include faculty from each of the five schools, will define desired outcomes for recruiting and retaining underrepresented minorities, and women students as well, and it will report regularly to the provost on these outcomes. To date, the Council has discussed desired outcomes for strategic relationships both with key institutions serving minority students and with women's colleges; this work will engage MIT alumni who are faculty at these institutions and others.

Back to Top

Recruitment and support of women graduate students

In 2008, women represented 31 percent of the graduate student body (1,907 women were enrolled). As with other aspects of graduate education, responsibility for recruiting women graduate students falls to the individual departments, and initiatives vary. The System Design and Management Program has an informal committee that meets periodically to discuss recruitment of women. The Division of Health Sciences and Technology, the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and the Department of Chemistry all have support groups for women that include a recruitment component. The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics has several programs designed to bring more women into the department at both the student and faculty level, including a new Women in Aerospace Symposium. The Sloan School's MBA program sponsors two half-tuition scholarships (renewable for both years of study) in addition to five to eight smaller scholarships for women each year. Sloan also runs a number of alumni events, networking opportunities, and informal lunches to recruit and support women in its various degree programs. Given the variety of these wide-ranging and individual efforts, there is no centralized assessment data on their comparative impact. However, MIT's population of women graduate students has gradually increased; in 2008–09, almost 33 percent of the entering graduate students were women, up from 27 percent in 1998–99.

The Office of the Dean for Graduate Education has a relatively small staff, but it strives to provide support and coordination to department and school efforts whenever possible. The ODGE primarily focuses on creating an environment that makes MIT an attractive choice for women graduate students. Specific initiatives include:

Understanding the barriers and contributors to success and satisfaction for graduate women students is critical to MIT's competitive advantage in attracting and graduating the most talented women PhDs of all backgrounds. To that end, the ODGE began focus-group conversations with women graduate students to explore their feelings about the Institute climate, learn what is working well, and hear their recommendations for enhancing their experiences as students and community members. Extensive summaries of the discussions are in hand, and the office expects to broaden the conversations over the next year to include more groups and, ultimately, produce a document that can inform future Institute, department, and program efforts and community standards.

Back to Top

 

II. RETENTION AND GRADUATION

Undergraduate

MIT admits very talented students who are capable of succeeding in MIT's rigorous academic environment. MIT's high first-year retention rate (98 percent) and six-year graduation rate (94 percent) reflect not only the care taken to admit students who are well matched to MIT's mission and environment, but also the care taken to nurture students during their undergraduate years. An important component of that nurturing is academic advising, which is discussed in Chapter 5, "Faculty," as requested by the NEASC standards of accreditation.

Students' academic performance is evaluated both by their department and by the Committee on Academic Performance (CAP). CAP is responsible for reviewing the academic performance and progress of all undergraduates at the end of each term. Each term, 3.5 to 4.0 percent of MIT's undergraduates are placed on academic warning. In all cases, CAP is responsible for ensuring that the recommended final action is based on the individual circumstances of each student and is consistent across the undergraduate programs at the Institute. Additional information on CAP is available at http://web.mit.edu/acadinfo/cap/.

Each year, approximately 40 undergraduates are required to withdraw because of serious academic difficulties; a required withdrawal (RW) represents a one-year mandatory leave from MIT. Since 2000, 28 percent of RW students have returned to the Institute after the one-year mandatory leave. Some students remain separated from the Institute for a longer period, working and/or matriculating at another institution. Ultimately, nearly 42 percent of all RW students return to MIT.

MIT has an early-warning system for first-year students, called the fifth-week flag, in which instructors identify students at risk of failing a subject. The student is notified by e-mail regarding his or her performance. This e-mail is copied to the senior associate dean and director of undergraduate advising and academic programming, who then offers appropriate assistance to the student. All of the resources available to flagged students are also available and communicated to every MIT student: study sessions for math and science subjects that fulfill the General Institute Requirements; learning-strategy workshops and online modules; tutoring through departments and the Tutorial Services Room; counseling; and medical services. In addition, in 2006 an ad hoc Early Awareness Committee was established to identify incoming freshmen who might benefit from special services to support their academic success during the first year and beyond. Committee participants include representatives from Admissions, MIT Health Services, and Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming.

Despite the high academic caliber of MIT's underrepresented minority students, there remain disparities in graduation rates and cumulative grade point averages between URMs and non-URMs. This pattern is consistent with nationwide trends, although the disparities are less severe at MIT than at other institutions. URMs also participate in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program at lower rates than their undergraduate peers; however, recent interventions have lowered this gap to 4 percent. As we continue to address our concerns about the pipeline, we need to better understand and remedy factors that contribute to differential outcomes.

In very rare cases, students leave MIT and do not graduate because of some kind of misconduct. MIT takes seriously its commitment to academic honesty, community standards, and personal integrity. These issues are addressed fully in Chapter 11, "Integrity."

Back to Top

Graduate

MIT closely monitors the retention and graduation rates of its graduate students. When preparing the data schedules for our accreditation report, the Office of Institutional Research analyzed several graduate student cohorts and confirmed that retention rates are high. For example, among those entering the School of Science from 1996 to 2001, approximately 90 percent graduated with a masters or doctoral degree (roughly 80 percent earning doctorates). Further information can be found in the Graduate E Schedule. Many of our efforts to support and retain graduate students are described in the advising section of Chapter 5.

Back to Top

 

III. RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITIES

Undergraduate

MIT aims to build flourishing communities in its 11 undergraduate residences, four cultural houses, the new International House, seven graduate residences, and 38 FSILGs (fraternities, sororities, and independent-living groups). To address this goal, the Office of Residential Life (created in 2007) connects the offices of Housing, Campus Dining, Residential Life Programs, and FSILGs. This new partnership provides a more comprehensive approach to living and learning and offers students opportunities to strengthen their leadership skills and grow intellectually throughout their residential experiences.

MIT guarantees housing for all four undergraduate years. First-year students are required to live on campus in one of MIT's 11 residence halls. After the freshman year, a large number of students choose to move into FSILGs. A small percentage opt for an off-campus apartment, but approximately 95 percent of undergraduates live in MIT (or MIT-approved) housing.

All undergraduate and graduate residence halls have live-in housemasters. Because the residential halls are meant to complement the Institute's educational mission rather than simply provide beds for sleeping, in most cases, the Housemasters are a MIT faculty member and spouse. With the addition of several new, energetic housemasters over the last 10 years, on-campus residential communities are thriving. Housemasters provide leadership, represent the house to the Institute, and oversee residence-based advising and counseling, crisis management, social interactions, governance, and discipline.

The Residential Scholars Program, initiated in 2002 with the opening of Simmons Hall, provides opportunities for visiting faculty and staff to live in residence halls. There they contribute to educational programming, conversation, and richer experiences for the residents. This program has grown and now exists in several residences on campus. The House Fellows Program offers further opportunities for interaction by connecting MIT faculty with residential communities for social and educational activities.

Many of these residential programs arose from the recommendations of the 1998 Task Force on Student Life and Learning, which found that "given the time pressures experienced by both students and faculty members, informal interaction is more likely to occur among faculty members and students who live near one another." 36  The current housing system is highly successful in advancing this agenda.

In addition to getting support from faculty (who serve as FSILG faculty advisors, house fellows and housemasters), students are mentored and advised in their residential communities in other ways. Professional staff serve as residence life associates (RLAs) and assistantdirectors, helping with educational programs, acting as emergency responders, and fostering living and learning in undergraduate residences. Graduate resident tutors (GRTs) who live in the dorms, and resident advisors (RAs) who live in the FSILG communities, serve as mentors to all of the undergraduate living communities. RLAs and GRTs are acting members of MIT's house teams. The purpose of the house team is to develop and support a residential community. Typically, GRTs are assigned to a particular area in a dorm, such as a floor or entry, where they oversee study breaks, community building, and issues-oriented programming. RAs play a similar role in both the informal and formal house management in FSILGs.

Themed living communities have also arisen from a commitment to residential programming. There are five such affinity houses, all located in separate sections of New House, one of the larger residence halls, and all remain an integral part of the larger New House community. While four celebrate distinct cultures, the fifth focuses on global education and leadership.

All told, these houses include about 150 students. Each of them has some form of freshman advising, and each has found ways to promote its special culture to the wider MIT community.

MIT Campus Dining works with multiple contractors ranging from small restaurateurs to large contractors to create a diverse program that supports an equally diverse community. Since 2002, on-campus dining options have grown from 11 to 30 service locations. The number of residential dining rooms has doubled from two to four, with a fifth location planned for the new W1 residence hall. Although student satisfaction with dining is lower than our peers, Senior Survey data indicates significant improvement recently, with the percentage of satisfied students rising from 17 percent in 2002, to 39 percent in 2006.

Unlike its peers, MIT does not employ broad-based mandatory meal plans. Seven out of eleven undergraduate residences have significant kitchen facilities where students primarily prepare their own meals. The approximately 27 percent of undergraduates who eat in residential dining operations each night give the House Dining program competitive marks. A spring 2009 survey of House Dining conducted by the Undergraduate Association Dining Chair showed that 72 percent of House Dining patrons rated the food as "good" or "very good," and 78 percent gave service the same ratings. By contrast, only four percent rated food as "poor" or "very poor" and none thought poorly of the service.

The current meal plan system at MIT creates several challenges. Even though Campus Dining subsidizes residential dining operations, the voluntary nature of the plan puts the department in direct price competition with students preparing their own meals and with local eating establishments. This value proposition creates an ongoing tension between the students and Campus Dining. In 2007 the Division of Student Life formed The Blue Ribbon Committee on Dining to examine the Dining program. This committee was comprised of students, faculty housemasters and staff members, produced a report (http://web.mit.edu/dining/feedback/blueribbon.html) that included recommendations for meal plan requirements. These recommendations were unpopular with students who perceived a lack of transparency in the process. This led the Undergraduate Association to form a parallel committee of undergraduate students that produced its own report. The Dean for Student Life will take both reports under advisement in the coming months to develop meal plan programs that balance financial and operational sustainability with sound nutrition and community-development over meals.

Back to Top

Fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups (FSILGs)

The FSILG system, which consists of 26 fraternities, six sororities, and six independent living groups, is a highly valued part of the educational life and community of MIT. Its origins date back to 1873, when, shortly after the founding of the Institute, the first fraternity chapter formed. Most recently, with demand for sorority membership growing, the Panhellenic Association colonized a sixth sorority in 2008. The FSILG system emphasizes the integration of leadership, scholarship, citizenship, and service in its programming, curriculum, and governance. Currently, about 45 percent of MIT undergraduates are affiliated with the FSILG community. This community, which commands deep loyalty among its members, has generally thrived and adapted to evolving needs over time.

In the last decade, the FSILGs addressed serious challenges, especially following MIT's 1998 decision that all first-year students must live in campus residence halls. The repercussions from implementing this decision in 2002 were very divisive. A 2004 Alumni Association survey found that in an open-ended comment section, over 22 percent of FSILG alumni cited the independent-living situation as an area of real concern. Then-president Charles Vest responded by appointing an 18-member FSILG task force to explore ways of strengthening the FSILG system and sustaining it for years to come. The group's major recommendations were immediately embraced and have since been largely implemented through the efforts of alumni, FSILG members, and MIT staff from across the Institute. It is fair to say that today the longstanding partnership with the FSILGs has been repaired and these groups—and the independent residences and community they provide for MIT students—are mostly flourishing once again.

An umbrella group of alumni of all active house corporations, called the Association of Independent Living Groups (AILG), has played an essential role in strengthening and developing programs for the FSILG community. It was given the Alumni Association's highest award last year for its cooperative work in establishing an alumni-run safety, licensing, and inspection program, and for establishing a comprehensive, alumni-run accreditation program, which regularly reviews all aspects of FSILG operations. The AILG was also instrumental in establishing an effective purchasing group, the FSILG Cooperative, which is now the third-largest collegiate operation in the nation. The AILG continues to expand its efforts and now represents over 200 active alumni volunteers. Given the success of this model, the Division of Student Life plans to explore additional ways to strategically engage alumni around key student-life issues.

Back to Top

Graduate

Today's graduate students actively seek opportunities to share knowledge and experiences with fellow scholars both within and outside their academic departments. After 10 years of focused effort, a new visibility for graduate issues and concerns has emerged at the Institute. It is no longer unusual to have serious discussions about the graduate student body, their infrastructure and programmatic needs, or how to strike an appropriate balance between student life and learning. Despite this progress, the transformation of graduate studies from a collection of individual labs and academic programs into a true "community of scholars" is still very much a work in progress.

In the past seven years, three new on-campus graduate residences have enhanced the sense of community. In 2008–09, out of 6,146 graduate students, 3,874 (63 percent) lived off campus and 2,272 (37 percent) lived on campus in seven residences for singles and families.

The expansion of the residential graduate community has led to development of the northwest sector of the campus as the physical center for the graduate community. The new residences feature community spaces that are available for programming by student residents and nonresidents alike. Efforts already under way include a wide range of social programs that draw students together, including those who live off campus.

The Graduate Student Life Grants program, now in its eighth year, funds creative initiatives that enhance the graduate experience. Anyone in the MIT community is welcome to apply for a grant; since 2002, more than 200 proposals have been reviewed and over 100 have been funded. More information can be found at http://mit.edu/odge/community/grants.html.

The Graduate Community Fellows (http://mit.edu/odge/community/gcfellows.html) is a pilot project introduced in academic year 2007–08. This cadre of graduate students works on projects and assignments that enhance the life of the graduate community. Fellows receive a modest stipend, report to a senior staff member in the ODGE, and are assigned to projects in particular areas, such as diversity initiatives, programs for women, and the grants program. These fellows also serve as an important conduit for informing the dean and staff about the graduate experience. We anticipate expanding this program from a pilot of five students to at least 20 in the next year or two. Approximately half of these fellows will work as partners with schools and departments on issues of recruitment and inclusion; the remainder will undertake other projects of interest to graduate students.

The ODGE has established many goals for strengthening graduate-student life and learning in the next few years. These include:

Back to Top

 

IV. SUPPORTING A DIVERSE COMMUNITY

Many of the student recruitment and retention efforts discussed earlier in this chapter focus on underrepresented minorities and women. However, the Institute understands that diversity spans the whole array of human characteristics that differentiate and shape us, including, but certainly not limited to, race, gender, culture, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic background, age, religion, and language.

At MIT, student organizations exist for a multitude of affinity groups and cultural, ethnic, and religious groups (see material in the accreditation team room). These organizations help students connect with others like themselves; they also promote understanding of those who are different. For example, the Latino Cultural Center and the Black Students' Union are resources not only for many of the Latino and Black student groups on campus, but also for non-Latinos and non-Blacks who are interested in learning about those cultures. Other cultural affinity groups have grown out of students' special interests: MIT Bhangra celebrates Punjabi folk dance; the Portuguese Leaders of Tomorrow forges connections with Portuguese industry and promotes educational opportunities for Portuguese students; and members of the China Development Initiative grapple with issues facing their home country. According to an alumni survey conducted in spring 2009, one-third of recent graduates participated for a year or more in an ethnic or cultural club or organization. When asked whether their undergraduate experience prepared them to relate well to people of different races, nations, and religions, 93 percent answered yes.

The Student Activities Office also sponsors two unique diversity programs. MIT's Multicultural Conference brings together students of different races, ethnicities, genders, religions, nationalities, and sexual orientations to talk honestly and openly about the cultural climate at MIT and to learn from each other's experiences. Dinner with Six Strangers provides a comfortable setting for community members from across campus to share a meal and conversation. Both programs charge participants with cultivating a campus environment that promotes trust and respect beyond mere tolerance.

Other collaborations and support structures for diverse groups abound. Family changing rooms in athletic buildings have met the safety and privacy needs of MIT families and transgender students wishing to use the athletic and recreation facilities. In 2005, the Division of Student Life hired a full-time coordinator for the LBGT (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender) program, which has expanded programming and support for LBGT students and worked to integrate with other affinity groups on campus.

Back to Top

Office of Minority Education

As highlighted earlier in this report, the MIT Office of Minority Education (OME) is a critical component of our undergraduate and graduate diversity efforts. The OME, which will be headed by a new director in August 2009, is dedicated to nurturing the talent of underrepresented minorities. Opportunities that await the new director include: more fully engaging MIT faculty, students, and community members in the mission of the OME; making greater use of the office's Student Advisory Council composed of 18 presidents of student groups that primarily serve URM populations; comprehensively assessing OME programs; and leading a set of initiatives to support the academic success of URM students in science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines.

Through the OME, the Institute offers a number of programs to undergraduates to supplement our core advising efforts. For example:

Additional programs and services are described on the OME website at http://web.mit.edu/ome/programs-services/.

Back to Top

International Students Office

In a globally-connected world, MIT graduates will need to be comfortable working and living in settings in which they must adapt to the differing values, traditions, assumptions, attitudes and norms that will arise from cross-cultural contact. Chapter 4 "Academic Program", provided an overview of international research and education experiences. However, the diversity of our campus community also helps students prepare for a world in which knowledge, jobs, and culture will be less contained within national boundaries than even a decade ago. International students make up approximately 9 percent of our undergraduate population (389 students) and 38 percent of our graduate population (2,314 students).

The International Students Office (ISO), though housed in the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education, serves both undergraduates and graduate students. The ISO is responsible for complying with evolving federal immigration requirements and for providing federally required orientation programming. In recent years, the office has been experimenting with new programs and services to support students from other countries. For example, a donation from an alumnus allowed the ISO to begin a series of monthly international teas in the fall 2008. In addition, the dean for graduate education has funded a graduate community fellow charged with exploring opportunities for community building among the international graduate students. In spring 2008, the fellow organized the first "Today's and Tomorrow's Leaders" lunches, bringing together international students from a cross section of nationalities, disciplines, and interests. The positive response to the event suggests an ongoing need for this kind of social programming.

Back to Top

Office of Religious Life

Chaplains serve more than 30 religious and spiritual groups on campus. Whether students are exploring spiritual questions, experiencing a challenging personal time, or wanting to talk about politics, ethics, or service, our 16 chaplains are available to undergraduates and graduate students alike. The Office of Religious Life at MIT also offers students a variety of programs and resources. Last year the annual Chaplain's Seminar topic was "Religion and Election." Other programs include the Technology and Culture Forum, a freshman seminar on the Abrahamic Traditions, an ethics seminar, and the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values. These organized programs enable students to explore the intersections of faith, science, technology, ethics, and more in the context of today's challenging issues.

In an effort to give a more public face to the chaplaincy and provide additional support to religious life and community values, MIT created the position of chaplain to the Institute in 2007. One of the goals of the Institute chaplain is to build on the recommendations of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons to focus on diversity and inclusion. For example, the Addir Fellowship Program brings together fellows from various backgrounds to spend one year learning from each other and exploring the Abrahamic faiths—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The Office of Religious Life and the chaplain to the Institute have also worked with the Department of Athletics to begin to offer single-gender swimming times for those whose faith does not permit coed swimming.

Back to Top

 

V. STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS

MIT students run over 400 student activities—and new ones spring up every year. Among MIT's many groups are some that might be expected: a student newspaper, a debate team, a radio station, Model United Nations, student government (described in Chapter 3), College Democrats, and College Republicans. However, MIT also offers some fairly unusual clubs, such as the Hovercraft Club, the Underwater Hockey Group, Origami Club, and the Laboratory for Chocolate Science. Others include the Science Fiction Society—home to the largest open-stack library of science-fiction books in the world—and the Tech Model Railroad Club, which some credit with writing the world's first video game.

Chapter 4 includes sections about two major areas of student activity: the arts and service.

The Association of Student Activities (ASA) is a joint committee of both the Undergraduate Association and the Graduate Student Council. A 10-person ASA Executive Board oversees student group activity and is the governing body of student groups on the MIT campus. More information is available at (http://web.mit.edu/asa/about/). The Executive Board is specifically charged with allocating resources to, arbitrating conflicts among, and advocating on behalf of student groups. For example, the ASA leads a storage and office space review and allocation process for student groups every two years. It also manages the bulletin board assignment process – a feature of the Infinite Corridor that evaluation team members may observe during their visit.

Back to Top

 

VI. ATHLETICS

The Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER) serves the MIT community by overseeing intercollegiate athletics, physical education, club and intramural sports, and health and fitness programming. The department's mission is to bring students, faculty, and staff together in educational activities that promote healthy lifestyles, enhance a sense of community, foster growth in leadership and teamwork skills, and encourage the pursuit of excellence. With its multitude of offerings designed to meet the needs of community members with varying degrees of skill and commitment, DAPER aims to positively impact the greatest number of participants. Today, approximately 75 percent of undergraduates participate in intramural sports and 25 percent participate in varsity sports. MIT's 2008 senior survey indicated that the vast majority of students were "generally or very satisfied" with intramural athletic opportunities (95 percent), club sports (92 percent), and intercollegiate activities (93 percent).

Physical education

In 2006, the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons commended the thoughtful, creative, and ongoing efforts to better integrate physical education into the total educational experience of undergraduates. MIT's Physical Education Program (http://mitpe.com/) includes over 60 different class offerings. Eight are posted through OpenCourseWare. In 2007, the program added a health and wellness subject called Upgrade Your Health and Happiness. As described in Chapter 4, all undergraduates must complete four six-week physical education courses and satisfy the swim requirement – completing a swim course or electing to test out – before graduation.

Intramurals and club teams

MIT's club and intramural sports programs are among the most comprehensive in the nation. The Institute sponsors 21 intramural sports, each consisting of leagues competing at various levels, and the club-sports program sponsors 30 teams. While club sports were initially intended for MIT's undergraduate population, nearly 40 percent of all graduate students at MIT compete in club sports today. Although student leaders guide the intramural and club teams, the programs are also open to faculty, staff, and the families of MIT community who are DAPER members. For more information, see http://web.mit.edu/athletics/www/clubsports/ and http://web.mit.edu/athletics/www/intramurals/.

Back to Top

Varsity athletics and academics

MIT fields 33 varsity athletic teams, including 15 women's teams and three coed teams. The Institute competes as part of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in Division III, which emphasizes a student's academic experience and seeks to optimize the balance between athletics and academics. For student-athletes at MIT, admission standards never waver, no special financial aid incentives are provided, and there are no separate curricula for athletes. As of 2008, MIT had produced 114 Academic All-Americans, the third-largest number in the country for any division and the highest number for Division III. In the past 10 years, 157 students in 14 different sports have been awarded All-America honors. Our coaches, who are integral to the development of our student-athletes, have earned numerous national and regional honors.

MIT announced in April 2009 that eight varsity sports would be eliminated at the end of the 2008–09 academic year, bringing the total from 41 to 33. This reduction is essential to the quality and sustainability not only of the varsity programs that remain, but also of the athletic, recreational, and physical-education programs offered to the entire MIT community. Although the global financial crisis factored heavily in the decision, the viability of carrying so many varsity sports had been a concern even in times of relative financial stability. In 2000, the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation organized a committee to develop a strategic plan. That committee and all subsequent visiting committees raised questions about MIT's ability to sustain one of the largest varsity athletic programs in the United States.

In deciding which sports to eliminate, the Institute used a management tool developed in 2003 by a subcommittee of the DAPER Advisory Board consisting of coaches, student athletes, faculty, and administrative staff. The Sport Health and Vitality tool monitors the health of each varsity sport by tracking student interest, coaching turnover, availability of appropriate competition, quality and proximity of practice facilities, and program costs. In 2004 and 2006, the DAPER Visiting Committee of the MIT Corporation reviewed and endorsed the process. Recently, an independent consultant reviewed the operational structure of DAPER, and it too affirmed the soundness of the Health and Vitality process. MIT believes that eliminating sports that do not measure up as healthy and vital is a better option than reducing spending in all sports. It not only helps the athletics department meet its budget mandate, but it supports the core value of excellence in all programming. At this time, assuming the economic climate does not worsen significantly, we do not anticipate any further reductions in our varsity sport offerings.

Back to Top

 

VII. HEALTH, WELLNESS, AND STUDENT ASSISTANCE

Ethos of wellness

MIT Medical is a complete health-care center serving the health and wellness needs of the entire MIT community. The Center for Health Promotion and Wellness at MIT Medical assists students, faculty, and staff in learning about and making choices for a healthier lifestyle. For the undergraduate community, health-education-program managers focus on training student-life staff and other first responders, engaging students individually and in groups around key health topics, and collaborating with campus stakeholders to foster a healthy MIT environment. Key health topics include suicide prevention, sexual-assault prevention and response, healthy eating, stress management and mindfulness, tobacco treatment, sexual health, and relationships. The Center collaborates with DAPER to run the Upgrade Your Health and Happiness class for P.E. credit. Several student groups partner with Center staff on issues relating to community health. Medlinks is a 140-member peer advocacy group working in residences to reduce barriers to care seeking. MIT-EMS is a 60-person all-student volunteer ambulance service that operates around the clock. The Student Health Advisory Committee advises MIT Medical on student-care issues and policies. Imperfect@mit works to reduce the stigma associated with seeking mental health care. Through the Center, members of the MIT community can also access a variety of resources, including a phone line offering tips on relaxation, brochures such as "How to Cheat Sleep," a lending library, online MP3 downloads of MIT-specific relaxation tracks, and on-site wellness classes.

Ongoing program evaluation is incorporated into the Center's efforts. In spring 2009, MIT surveyed 2,000 students regarding sexual-assault-related issues on campus. The responses (742 in all) are still being analyzed, but the Institute has already identified areas for more concentrated programming. These include addressing attitudes and myths about sexual assault among male students and utilizing the finding that most students would trust the Mental Health Service within MIT Medical if they chose to disclose a sexual assault.

An additional focus this year has been to engage the MIT community in defining the attributes of a healthy student, with the aim of assuring the overall well-being of our student population. Setting health and wellness goals will be important for assessing future needs, which will be done in part through a comprehensive student-health survey. Additionally, the statement of goals is intended to help student groups and staff departments work together, avoid duplication of effort, and make the most of health-related resources. The Center for Health Promotion and Wellness, in tandem with the Student Health Advisory Committee, the Division of Student Life, and MIT Medical, expects to release the goal statement for public comment in fall 2009. The long-term hope is that by establishing these health and wellness goals and building assessment tools around them, MIT can better monitor and meet students' needs in the coming decade.

Back to Top

Mental health

At the time of our last accreditation, the Institute was rated below our peers in the number and variety of mental-health services it provided. In response, we convened the Mental Health Task Force in November 2000 as a combined initiative of the Undergraduate Association, the MIT Mental Health Service, and the Chancellor's Office. Data were collected from a variety of sources, both at MIT and from other universities. The survey results and accompanying recommendations were presented in a 2001 report (http://web.mit.edu/chancellor/mhtf/).

According to the survey, members of the MIT community most wanted quick appointments, evening hours, increased campus awareness of mental-health offerings, and 24-hour on-site coverage. As a result, staffing at the MIT Mental Health Service was increased to improve access, especially for students, and to shorten wait times. Until 2003, many more students were referred to local community clinicians than were seen on campus. A revision in clinical philosophy changed that practice; most students are now followed within the Mental Health Service. Daily walk in hours were established for immediate consultations, and students, faculty, staff, and parents can now reach a clinician by phone 24/7 for urgent consultations. Evening appointments are offered four days a week, and weekend staffing was changed to include a clinician to provide on-site coverage for persons in crisis.

New individual and group treatments are now offered, including those that can help students develop social skills; identify, understand, and manage emotions; address attentional and learning problems; improve interpersonal relationship; reduce procrastination and test anxiety; and facilitate completion of PhD dissertations. The Mental Health Service also incorporates a special emphasis on cross-cultural competence in its staff-development activities. With these and other enhancements, student utilization has increased. In 1995, only 8 percent of the student body was seen annually on site. That number increased to 16 percent in 2008. Senior surveys about satisfaction with psychological services show a positive trend. Students who were generally or very satisfied with services rose from 47.3 percent in 2002 to 81.1 percent in 2008.

Back to Top

Student Support Services

Student Support Services (S3) assists undergraduate and graduate students with their personal and academic needs. S3 provides open access and outreach to MIT's diverse student community. Students facing sensitive problems or coping with a crisis can turn to S3 for advocacy, support, and referrals to appropriate resources. The office works closely with the Mental Health Service and frequently coordinates with other MIT staff and departments to address an array of student issues, including: personal matters, academic challenges, arranging a leave from MIT, accommodating a change in academic status, and adapting to various challenges that affect student life and academic performance.

S3 has witnessed a steady annual increase in the number of students using its services, from 20 percent of undergraduates in 2003 to 25 percent in 2008. Senior survey data indicate that more than 50 percent of graduating students have had contact with a dean in S3 at some time during their four years at MIT. This increase in the use of services mirrors trends found in similar college centers across the country.At MIT, the S3 deans, often working with student groups, residence halls, academic departments, and administrative offices, have developed innovative programs on mental health, academic issues, racial/cultural/ethnic topics, and women's issues. MIT has significantly increased school-sponsored evening and late-night options for programs that focus on peer safety and health education, including health and wellness services, recreational activities, and entertainment programs. S3's peer-support hotline, Nightline, provides anonymous and confidential support to anyone who calls.

Back to Top

Community Development and Substance Abuse Center

MIT's Community Development and Substance Abuse (CDSA) Center performs extensive in-house surveys of the student population to assess rates of alcohol consumption and other drug use. As alcohol use among college students continues to rise nationwide, the CDSA at MIT has emerged as a national leader in addressing these issues. Designated as a model program by the U.S. Department of Education in 2004, the CDSA continues to provide innovative programs and services. For the past seven years, all entering first-year students undergo a screening for alcohol and other drugs as part of the BASICS program (Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students). This two-session self-check program allows students, some of whom may exhibit high-risk drinking behaviors, to compare their alcohol use with peers. The CDSA has evaluated the effectiveness of BASICS and found that it reduces both the quantity of drinks consumed and the frequency of drinking occasions.

In line with national trends, MIT fraternity and sorority students consume more alcohol than their unaffiliated counterparts at the Institute. Although inappropriate and underage drinking is a less-severe problem at MIT than at many other universities, the CDSA has targeted this subpopulation and has developed two programs, PartySafe and ENTICE, to address their alcohol use. PartySafe, a required program for fraternity men, provides in-depth information about MIT and state policies regarding alcohol, including liabilities, and teaches skills for serving alcohol responsibly and holding safe parties. Once every two years, each fraternity house at MIT is required to complete the ENTICE Program. This involves peer-facilitated discussion of issues that each house faces because of alcohol use. ENTICE facilitators encourage the community to set goals and create strategies for reducing excessive alcohol use in the community.

MIT's peer-safety and health-education efforts include SaveTFP. Sponsored and funded by the CDSA, this student group provides late-night programming every Friday throughout the academic year. Designed to bring in a cross-section of students, programs include video-game tournaments, arts-and-crafts nights, and open-mic nights.

Recent Change

The Division of Student Life has announced a reorganization of several groups that provide direct support to students undergoing medical, mental and/or academic difficulty. All the responsible groups were placed in a new Student Development and Support department, led by the Senior Associate Dean in the Division of Student Life. This department consists of the following areas (1) Student Leadership and Activities, (2) Student Citizenship, (3) Crisis Management, and the newly formed (4) Community Development and Student Support office. The last area, Community Development and Student Support, was formed by a merger of the Student Support Services (S3) and Community Development and Substance Abuse (CDSA) offices. This move joins the strengths of the advising Deans in S3 with the assessment and outreach capabilities of the CDSA. The new structure offers a more coordinated and integrated response to student's needs by devoting more resources to proactive and educational outreach, and by emphasizing prevention. MIT faculty and students will continue to rely on the full range of S3's services while the Division of Student Life becomes better able to promote new, creative ways to support MIT's students and assess the outcomes of these efforts. These changes, some of which are pending review by a task force, were made in July 2009.

Back to Top

Emergencies and the on-call system

MIT maintains an on-call system to respond to emergencies involving students. In collaboration with the MIT Police, MIT Medical, emergency-response personnel, Student Support Services, deans, housemasters, Residential Life Program staff, and others, the on-call system provides immediate response and follow-up for student/campus emergencies and crises. Protocols for this program were formalized in 2002, and the roles of the residential-life staff were clarified. Situations in which the on-call system is implemented include medical and mental-health emergencies, incidents of serious injury or death, and serious physical-facility emergencies affecting students.

Disability Services Office

The Disability Services Office (DSO), which is now part of the Division of Student Life, has experienced an increased rate of use. Accessibility and compliance must be considered in the construction and renovation of physical spaces and in the implementation of electronic learning tools. Given the prominence of this theme, the Institute will closely monitor the reauthorization of the Americans with Disabilities Act and will respond appropriately.

Back to Top

 

VIII. PROJECTIONS

In 1998, the Task Force on Student Life and Learning challenged MIT to create an integrated educational triad—academics, research, and community—worthy of MIT's reputation as one of the world's leading educational institutions. This watershed moment brought new emphasis to the importance of both formal and informal education. Much of the work to support and improve the lives of MIT students for the last decade has been guided by the Task Force recommendations. As described earlier in this report, in 2008–09 the Corporation Joint Advisory Committee (CJAC) on Institute-Wide Affairs, composed of faculty, trustees, and graduate and undergraduate students, assessed the progress made toward those goals. The committee acknowledged MIT's successes in many areas, including making the residential system central to the undergraduate experience and improving opportunities for community interaction. The CJAC report also identified several areas where progress has not met expectations, or new challenges have been identified. These areas include advising, dining, improvements in facilities, first-year fellowships for graduate students, and leadership development, among others. Plans for each of these topics are addressed in this accreditation report.

MIT's education and student-life divisions and departments are developing plans at a time of maximum challenge but considerable opportunity. We are challenged by the prospects of constrained resources over the next several years, but we have an opportunity to continue a decade-long upward trajectory by continuing to attract extraordinary students, increase diversity, and create an environment and services that maximally benefit students and that students rate highly.

Success in these efforts will require a strong partnership between the administration, faculty, and students. Strengthening communication is a topic explored in Chapter 3, "Organization and Governance." However, it is worth noting here that the deans for student life, undergraduate education, and graduate education, along with the Chancellor's Office, are working with students on a number of improvements. Pilots of several programs—including dinners with the deans and the chancellor, and online comment forms for each dean—are already under way. Students, faculty, and administrators are collaborating on additional ideas that would allow all parties to share ideas and information more openly and regularly. Students serve on a large number of Institute committees, and undergraduates and graduate students are also serving on every working group of the current Institute-wide Planning Task Force. These working groups, one of which focuses on issues of student life, are examining ways to strengthen MIT in the context of reduced resources. A report from the Task Force is due in fall 2009.

The Institute's Campaign for Students includes a $200 million goal for funding student-life and learning initiatives. The campaign, now over halfway toward its $500 million target, makes the case for supporting MIT's financial aid for undergraduates and graduate students, and for investing in our plans to make an MIT education an even more transformational experience through residential and academic programming.

Not all future plans revolve around finances; some involve leveraging the resources MIT already has in abundance. As discussed earlier in this chapter, the Division of Student Life seeks to engage alumni more strategically going forward. After a multiyear effort and overwhelming success in reengaging graduates of the fraternities, sororities, and independent-living groups with their former groups, a plan is now being put in place to connect MIT alumni to many other areas of student life. Alumni experiences and ties are invaluable to current MIT students, and this program will be a top priority for the Division of Student Life in the coming years. Already, for example, the Alumni Association is partnering with students of one residence hall (Next House) to develop a pilot program to facilitate alumni participation in dorm life.

 

Back to Top


Footnotes

34 National Academies, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2007).
35 William Barton Rogers, “A Plan for a Polytechnic School in Boston,” March 1846. This document is available at http://libraries.mit.edu/archives/bibliographies/Life&Letters/vol1-appendixC.pdf.
36 MIT, Report of the Task Force on the Student Life and Learning (September 1998), p. 44