Revision history:

Sept. 18, 1999 * John Hollywood * Rough draft.
Oct. 1, 1999 * Christopher Beland * Second draft; changes in green italics.
Oct. 5, 1999 * Christopher Beland * Added material in purple on scope of SLC.
Oct. 5, 1999 * Christopher Rezek * Updated sections in blue on structure of SLC
Further updates coming soon from Jeremy Sher.
Oct. 7, 1999 * Jake Parrott * Copy-edit

6. Management and Governance

Successful management and governance of the residential system is vital if the new system is to fulfill its objectives. In this section, we propose several new programs and policies that, we believe, will bring about successful oversight of the residential system. As in the previous sections, most of our recommendations are based upon previous residential system reports, or generally-accepted techniques from the relevant academic literature.

6.1 Division of Responsibilities

The MIT senior administration, administrators of ODSUE, student governments, and appropriate faculty committees and housemasters should convene a conference in the Spring of 1999. This conference shall create a general agreement that: (1) assigns the responsibilities for oversight and management of the residential system to the conference parties, and (2) defines how the parties shall communicate with each other on pending issues and resolve disputes.

The RSSC's final report best explains the rationale for this proposal:

In our many discussions with hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and alumni/ae about our residence system, a fundamental issue is always one of authority, responsibility and accountability. Not only our are students unclear on these matters, so too are our staff and faculty. We would submit that the residence system cannot possibly function well if its contributors do not understand where the authority, responsibility, accountability, and resource control lies. [1]

This proposal provides an effective way to implement the RSSC's recommendation. We suggest that the conference be repeated every 4 years or so, to account for changing circumstances facing the Institute.

6.2 The Student Life Council

Following the conference, MIT should convene a Student Life Council. The purposes of the Council shall be similar those specified in Principles for an MIT Residential System:

We believe that the purposes for this recommendation are self-explanatory, and that this recommendation will further mitigate the division-of-responsibilities problems highlighted by the RSSC above.

We do differ with the Principles document on the scope of the Council. The Principles recommends a council that would deal solely with residential issues. We believe that the various aspects of a students' life at MIT -- including residence life, community involvement, academics, and research -- are far too integrated to allow for a single area to be addressed by itself. Hence, we call for a "Student Life Council" that would address all student life issues from an integrated perspective.

The Student Life Council would be responsible for strategic planning for the student life system, monitoring student quality of life issues, and supervising community-wide programming. To fulfill these duties, the Council shall:

Most of these roles for the Council have previously been specified by the Principles document. This proposal expands these roles to cover the entire student life process, and clarifies the calls for strategic planning and monitoring in the Principles to include specific deliverables.

The roles do extend the authority of the Council somewhat. In the Principles, the Council had a strictly advisory role; here, we recommend that the Council be the primary body for doing strategic planning and evaluation. We recommend this change for several important reasons. First, we strongly support principles of community-based planning. We recognize that all of the interests and expertise of MIT's student affairs community must be included in the planning process if the community's student affairs needs are to be properly identified and satisfied. The Council would provide the unifying body for all student life offices and all members of the community needed for inclusive planning. Second, including representatives of the community in the planning process will greatly improve the chances of building consensus for improvements, and will do much to alleviate the inter-community strains that have seriously undermined efforts to improve student life (as identified by the both the RSSC Final Report and the Principles).

Several important issues exist which cannot be fully addressed by any contemporary proposal for residence system reform. These include:

These issues will require ongoing attention for many years to come, and thus cannot be resolved in any static report from SAC or any other extant body. SLC would serve a critical function in identifying important issues in the residence system (including these, other current issues, and future unforseen ones) and making recommendations and binding decisions with regard to some of them. An examination of the division of responsibility and jurisdiction between SLC, ODSUE, student governments and other regulatory bodies must be conducted in an unhurried, transparent, community-based review process.

Note that community-based planning is now a widely accepted concept; major works concerning community-based planning (value of doing, as well as implementation methods) include those of Keeney [3], Gregory and Keeney [4], and Susskind [5]. Further, the Harvard Cooperative Society's Board of Directors provides a powerful "existence proof" of the value of community management. The Board of Directors comprises the President (a professional manager), eleven members who are alums or staff of Harvard and MIT, and elevent student members. The alumni and student members have jointly been responsible for developing and implementing a number of initiatives vital to the continued health of the Coop. [6]

Students and faculty may be found in important decision-making entities at other institutions of higher learning, as well. The Dorm Design Team such a found such a body at England's Cambridge University, on their observational visit in April, 1999. (A similar "Student Life Council" was included in that team's entry in the 1999 IAP design contest.) The following excerpt from their report [7] illuminates the structure of the University Council.

Since the 1960s, students have had a significant role in the governance of the university. The University Council includes three student members, two of whom are undergraduates. These students are permitted a one-year leave of absence from their studies so that they may concentrate their attentions on the business of student governance. Other members of the Council are drawn from heads of colleges, professors, readers, and lecturers. The Council provides a critical forum at the highest level of the administration, at which students, some of the most important stakeholders in the university, are involved in the process of executive decision-making. The Council structure is a working example whose role is similar to what we envision for our proposed Student Life Council. The Council's function is not advisory to any other body; it is the university's most senior executive decision-making body.

In addition, this proposal would not require a significant cessation of power on the part of the Dean's Office. The Dean of ODSUE would be the President of the Council, and the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee (see below). The various subcommittees of the Council may be expanded to include those staff members who should have a say in strategic planning, as well.

The Council shall have the following standing committees:

Membership on these committees shall not be limited to the members of the Council; the Dean of ODSUE, as well as the Council as a whole, may appoint other members of the community to these committees.

The wider membership of the three committees offers a formal venue for overlapping and complementary student government structures (usually committees of the UA, GSC, InterFraternity Council, Dormitory Council, and Association of Student Activities) to confer on pressing student life issues. Currently, the various organizations each maintain separate committees and subcommittees that pursue relevant agenda items. The three SLC committees should further recent attempts at effective, close inter-governmental cooperation, and should help make that process easier and more permanent. The central authority of the SLC also allows student, faculty, and staff interest groups and governments to more productively channel their lobbying efforts. Today, grievances must often be directed at a variety of administrators in a number of locations, none of whom are fully accountable for any one issue at a broad level. Many times, students and faculty are unable to navigate the Institute's organizational chart far enough to discover the person or body with jurisdiction over a particular policy.

The Strategic Planning Committee would be the subcommittee responsible for developing and maintaining the strategic plan for student life. It would be chaired by the Dean of ODSUE, who may appoint other staff members to the Committee, such as Department heads.

The Programming Committee would coordinate and fund campus-wide activities. It would have approximately $200,000 annually to spend on these events. This Committee is discussed in more detail in Section 4. It should include both members of the Council and all staff and students who direct most of the current on-campus programming.

The Monitoring Committee has two major roles. First, it would be responsible for managing regular evaluations of the student life system. To do so, the committee would sponsor annual surveys and regular focus groups of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The group would also meet regularly with members of other bodies concerned with student life issues, such as the Institute Committee on Student Affairs, the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, and the Committee on Graduate School Program. Second, the Committee would compare the status of the student life system with the goals set in the strategic plan and other Institute goals concerning student life, and would report its findings to the Compensation Committees of the Corporation (see section 6.5).

The Council shall have the following officers:

This arrangement is similar to that used by many corporations, including the Harvard Cooperative Society's Board of Directors.

The Council shall comprise the following members:

All members will serve a one-year terms. However, a member may succeed himself multiple times.

We believe that this distribution of members successfully represents the various parties involved in student life issues (students, faculty and staff) while keeping the size of the Council manageable. We would be willing to add alumni members, as well, if there is an interest in doing so on the part of the MIT Corporation or the Alumni Association.

We recognize that there are some members of the community who oppose placing students in positions of responsibility with the Institute. However, we offer the following arguments as to why students can and should be included on the Council:

The student members shall be chosen as follows:

By setting these selection procedures, we believe that we will ensure that only the most experienced and professional students will be appointed to the Council. The GSC and UA Presidents are the recognized representatives of the graduate and undergraduate student bodies, and should therefore win seats on the Council. The other four student members are appointed by a process similar to that used by the MIT Corporation in selecting recent alumni members.

To foster transparency and accountability, the Council shall:

These recommendations are intended to ensure that (1) the Council receives the input it needs to make decisions in the best interest of the Community, and (2) the Community has faith in the efforts of the Council. Both are vital if the Council is to succeed.

In fulfilling its strategic planning, programming, and evaluation roles, the Council and its Committees shall use standard procedures that conform to Level 3 of the Systems Engineering Capability Maturity Model.

This recommendation will ensure the continued effectiveness of the Council through organizational learning. We recognize that there is a great deal of anxiety that organizational learning requires unacceptably voluminous paperwork and red tape. In the last subsection of Section 5, however, we will explain Level 3 in detail, and show (1) that it can be done with reasonable effort (only a few minutes per week for most activities), and (2) that the results are well worth the effort.

6.3 System Assessment

The residence system must be regularly evaluated to insure that its goals are being met. As discussed above, we recommend that the Monitoring Committee of the Student Life Council be responsible for coordinating the monitoring of the residence system and other student life systems. We make several recommendations concerning system evaluation.

In evaluating the residential system, the Monitoring Committee shall use the principles established by "Principles for the MIT Residential System", as supplemented by the principles and objectives established in Section Three of this report.

Further, the Committee shall use the following measures:

The Committee shall use the following techniques to measure system performance:

The measures relate directly to the recommendations in this report and in other recent residence system reports. The techniques given are those generally used to do evaluations, and balance traditional social research techniques with thoughtful deliberation. The regular evaluation schedules ensure that the MIT community will have access to accurate information about the state of the residential and student life systems.

6.4 Performance Management

...Striking too was the fact that so little has changed in our residential system: shortcomings identified a generation ago, including overcrowding and the perceived dichotomy between the academic and out-of-classroom experience (the residence as "refuge"), still persist. In some ways, conditions have worsened in recent decades, witnessed by the elimination of common dining in many of the residence halls in the 80s, the effects of deferred maintenance, and our difficulty in establishing and enforcing a uniform code of conduct in all living groups.
-- From "Principles for the MIT Residential System" [8]

As pressing as these [residence system] resource problems are, however, it is not fair to expect them to be meaningfully addressed until faculty and staff professionals are personally responsible to produce excellent results within the residence system. Resources tend to flow to those areas upon which professional advancement depends. Where the delivery of an excellent educational product within the residence system becomes a primary metric of advancement, we anticipate additional resources will be made available.
-- From the "Final Report of the Residence System Steering Committee" [9]

The recommendations in this section are likely to be some of the most controversial in the entire proposal. Nonetheless, we believe that they are also some of the most critical if the goals of the residence system are to be achieved. In brief, we believe that those charged with maintaining the residence system must be evaluated on how well the residence system meets its goals.

As far as we are aware, this is a new idea for MIT. In much of the rest of the world, performance management is now widely seen as a necessary condition for the success of fundamental reforms, such as reengineering projects. The importance of performance management is taught in classes such as 15.568 (Management Information Systems, taught by Professor John F. Rockart), and 15.901 (Strategic Management, taught Professor Starling Hunter). Indeed, we have heard that one well-known management consulting firm, Ernst & Young, now advises its Reengineering clients that they will be unlikely to succeed unless their employees are compensated, in part, on well how the objectives of the Reengineering effort are carried out. [10]

We make the following recommendations concerning peformance management.

All senior administrators responsible for the welfare of the student life system, and in identifying and providing resources to the student life system, shall be eligible to receive a bonus based on the status of the student life system.

This process is very similar to compensation processes for senior executives used by many organizations. We have made several changes to the basic process. First, in most organizations the Board of Directors sets compensation for senior Executives; at MIT, that role is played by the Corporation. Second, we have eliminated students from the Compensation Committees in response to concerns that students should not have access to personnel information. However, we do recommend that at least one member of each Committee be a recent alum of MIT, as recent experience with the MIT student life system will be vital in evaluating progress within it.

All employees involved with student life systems should be evaluated, in part, on the progress of student life systems.

If the residence system (and all other student life systems) are to be successful, rewards for progress must be expanded to all student-life employees responsible for its day-to-day operation. Again, this recommendation is similar to employee recognition programs in other organizations, and follows similar recommendations in the RSSC's final report. [11]

Rewards and recognition for achievement within the residential system should extend to all members of the Community, not just staff members. However, recognition for faculty, students, and alumni needs to be thought of differently than the conventional performance management recommendations discussed in this section, since they are not employees of the Institute charged with the welfare of the student life system. Consequently, recognition for students, faculty, staff, and alumni was discussed in Section 4.

6.5 Process Management

Student life decision-making and implementation should be done in accordance in modern project and process management principles. In particular, making and implementing student life policy should be done in accordance with Level 3 of the Systems Engineering Capability Maturity Model [13]. Projects should be managed in accordance with the Project Management Institute's "Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge" (PMBOK) [14].

We believe that this recommendation is also one of the most important. Currently, there is little formal planning in making new student life policies. There is also no organizational learning that allows new designing and implementing groups to learn from previous groups. The unfortunate result has been that many efforts designed to improve student life have met with failure [12]. Consequently, in the words of the RSSC's Final Report, "the `Characteristics of an Excellent MIT Residence System' . . . describe a system that in many respects is very different from the current one." [1].

The benefits of project management (which includes planning and implementation techniques) will include the following:

The benefits of organizational learning, as defined by the Capability Maturity Models, include:

The work required to carry out project planning and organizational learning in the student-life would not be burdensome, and the benefits would far outweigh the small percentage of time needed for these managerial activities. In brief, performing project management simply entails:

The work required for organizational learning is also misunderstood. In the student life context, organizational learning simply entails:


  1. Final Report of the Residence System Steering Committee. September 7, 1999. Section 6.B.1.
  2. Principles for the MIT Residential System: Report of a Working Committee. September 1998. Section 3.D.
  3. Keeney, R. Value-Focused Thinking. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.
  4. Gregory, R. and R.L. Keeney. "Creating Policy Alternatives Using Stakeholder Values." Management Science, Vol. 40, No. 8, 1035-1048.
  5. Susskind, Lawrence, and Jeffrey Cruikshank. Breaking the Impasse. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1987.
  6. Comments of John S. Hollywood G, who is a third-year member of the the Coop's Board of Directors.
  7. A Creative Tension: The report of the Dorm Design Team to the Residence System Steering Committee on the Cambridge college system and its American analogues. April 26, 1999. Available at
  8. Principles, Section 1.
  9. Final Report, Section 6.B.2.
  10. John S. Hollywood G. Hollywood completed 15.901 and 15.568, and worked on a 15.568 group project with a consultant from Ernst and Young.
  11. Final Report, Section 5.A.3-4.
  12. Concerns over repeated failures over student life improvement groups reached such a high level that in 1995, a group of faculty led by Professor Larry Bacow was asked to study why previous efforts failed.
  13. Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute, Roger Bate, Chief Architect. Systems Engineering Capability Model. November, 1995. Available at:
  14. Project Management Institute. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. 1999 (updated regularly). Available at:

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