the Graduate Student Community
this issue's article by Ike Colbert highlights, MIT
has recently taken major steps to support various aspects of the graduate student
community. As other articles in past issues of the Faculty Newsletter have pointed
out, the graduate student body has grown steadily over the last few decades.
It is appropriate that we have been working to provide that growing body of
students with a wide range of opportunities that support our broader educational
Much of this work can be traced to
the groundbreaking work done by the Task Force on Student Life and
Learning. In 1998, that group laid down the foundation for MIT's
efforts to view learning at the Institute as resting on the triad of
education, research, and community, and to expand the attention we
pay to the third element of that triad.
Up until recently, the major locus of graduate
activities was the small number of graduate dorms, with the Graduate Student
Council playing a cross-dorm role. These community activities left students
living off campus largely on their own and those in family housing (Eastgate
and Westgate) relatively isolated. The changes we have seen recently result
from a confluence of several actions.
- Expanded financial support through the student
activity fees administered by the offices of the Dean for Graduate Students
and the Dean for Student Life.
- The addition of two new dorms (Sidney and Pacific
and The Warehouse), along with the three faculty housemasters who live in
- The creation of new positions called Residential
Life Associates in the Office of the Dean for Student Life. One of these new
staff positions has been working closely with students in family housing.
- A better-funded and more active Graduate Student
Council which, when it is at its most effective, works closely with the MIT
administration and the Graduate Housemasters who can advocate for graduate
- A heightened awareness of the financial pressures
that some graduate students face, particularly in times when TA and RA stipends
do not grow as rapidly as housing, medical insurance, and other major costs
faced by graduate students. This increase in educational costs is a particularly
acute problem for students in fields in which research and teaching assistantships
are scarce or where stipends are relatively low.
The progress we have made in developing a strong,
well-supported graduate student community should be viewed as the start of a
larger effort. There are at present several things we need to do to continue
making progress in this area, including:
- Moving forward on plans for more student housing
at both the graduate and undergraduate level. The short term "Senior Segue
Program" that places on the order of 100-150 undergraduates in graduate dorms
was a stopgap measure to alleviate crowding in the undergraduate dorms. More
permanent solutions now being studied might include one or more new dorms
(both undergraduate and graduate) that allow us to return the beds now used
for Senior Segue students to the graduate student community as planned.
- Mitigating the effects of budget cuts on graduate
student quality of life, particularly moderating how increases in housing
and medical costs grow in comparison to stipends.
- Expanding the opportunities and support for
involvement of graduate students who live off-campus in the activities of
the graduate community.
- Expanding the support for graduate students
living in family housing, particularly in areas such as child daycare.
- Continuing the discussion on managing the size
of the graduate student body, particularly in a time when small decreases
in faculty size are being considered among the options for balancing the 2005
- Making it easier for more faculty to participate
in both undergraduate and graduate community life by finding opportunities
for faculty housing on or near the campus.
- Encouraging more faculty to be
involved in the residential aspects of student life through
opportunities such as the Faculty Fellows Program and involvement
in co-curricular activities.