Perhaps the most frustrating thing from a student’s perspective on the Administration is when one part of the Institute takes a decision whose consequences – direct and indirect, short term or long – are detrimental to the operations and effectiveness of another part of the Institute. Too often locally optimal decisions which have “unintended consequences” elsewhere should probably have been better thought through in the first place. Examples abound and range from the size of Master’s programs relative to physical and faculty capacity in certain Schools, through extraordinary and repeated cost overruns in numerous building programs, to short-sighted decisions about food service requirements, campus beautification efforts (or lack thereof), departmental spending growth, operational over-commitments, and many more.
Pervasive local optimization leads students to wonder who in the MIT administration is charged with overall Strategic Planning and ensuring that overarching strategies are actually practiced in and connected to day-to-day operations? Students wonder whether it’s wise that MIT no longer has a unified Planning Office, for instance. Who today is responsible for stepping back, considering the grand sweep of causal implications of various local and often urgent decisions, and advocating for the synthesis of short, medium, and long-term benefits, not just in one departmental or operational silo, but for the Institute as a whole?
Similarly, students wonder which senior administrator formally takes responsibility for, and has the depth of interest and capabilities to actually optimize our Total Student Experience. The Total Student Experience – ranging from before matriculation through orientation, first-year, growth years, final semester, commencement, and beyond – is fundamental to the Institute’s mission of educating and inspiring the next generation of innovators. It is clearly understood that many administrators are responsible for isolated elements of students’ experience at MIT. We struggle, however, to see who, in practice, weaves it all together.