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The four task forces formed to spearhead MIT's effort to close the Institute's projected $20 million operating gap over the next three to five years are taking shape under the direction of the senior administration officials that President Charles M. Vest has assigned to head them.
Input from every level of the Institute is vital to the work of the four groups, said Provost Mark S. Wrighton, MIT's chief academic officer, who presented a detailed financial picture to the community in a special issue of Tech Talk January 20.
"I urge everyone in the community to think deeply about this and to offer suggestions, using the special anonymous electronic mail address that has been established for this purpose," Professor Wrighton said.
The e-mail address is
"Suggestions sent to the e-mail address will be forwarded to the appropriate task force or senior officer for consideration or action," Professor Wrighton said. Messages sent to the idea bank will be anonymous because "the system will automatically blank out the field where the sender's name would normally appear. If you want to include your name, please put it in the body of the message," Professor Wrighton said. Members of the community may also send ideas in writing to IdeaBank, Room 3-208.
The output of the various task forces will concentrate on longer range issues, Professor Wrighton said. The planning and budget decisions for Fiscal Year 1994 are being made now, the Provost said, and consequently will not involve input from the task forces to any large extent. The FY94 budgets are being shaped by the usual budgeting process, but with the constraints (in the academic areas, at least) that smaller budgets are going to have to be implemented, Professor Wrighton said. Thus, a real start on closing the gap commences in FY94, not years from now, he said.
The task forces are charged with producing a series of recommendations. President Vest and Provost Wrighton will consider those recommendations in preparing a plan for addressing the long-range financial issues. They will submit this plan in May to the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation.
The task forces and their leaders are:
Revenue Enhancement-Vice President and Treasurer Glenn P. Strehle, MIT's director of resource development.
Academic Activities-Sheila E. Widnall, Associate Provost.
Administrative Functions-James J. Culliton, Vice President for Financial Operations..
Support Services-Vice President and Dean for Research J. David Litster.
Professor Wrighton said the four task forces, which include members of the Academic Council as well as other faculty and staff from throughout the Institute, "are cross-functional groups" with the objective of providing guidance on how to close the $20 million gap, which includes a projected $10 million budget deficit.
"In providing this guidance," Provost Wrighton said, "the task forces will focus on improvements and efficiency enhancement, as well as areas for possible reduction, reorganization, or elimination."
The Revenue Enhancement Task Force headed by Vice President Strehle has already met three times. The present committee members are George H. Dummer, director of the Office of Sponsored Programs; Professor Shaoul Ezekiel, director of the Center for Advanced Engineering Studies; Jay K. Lucker, director of the MIT Libraries; Dean Lester C. Thurow of the Sloan School; Kathryn A. Willmore, executive assistant to the president and director of Public Relations Services; and Elizabeth M. Ogar, manager for finance and administration, Resource Development, staff to the Task Force.
"We have looked at some depth at several activities that produce revenues for MIT, including the Summer Session, the CAES, the MIT Press and corporate sponsorship of research," Mr. Strehle said. "We plan to review soon the Industrial Liaison Program, Sloan's executive education programs, technology licensing, and the many forms of revenue MIT receives from corporations.
"We have initially sought to understand the policies and possible policy constraints that may limit the size and success of these activities. An obvious issue is the manner in which MIT may choose to offer academic credit and eventually degrees to those who obtain their education through less conventional means," Mr. Strehle said.
The Academic Activities Task Force, headed by Associate Provost Widnall consists of Dean of Engineering Joel Moses, Dean of Science Robert J. Birgeneau, Associate Provost for the Arts Ellen Harris and Phillip J. Keohan, comptroller.
"The group is charged with examining the possibilities for budget reduction in academic areas, including budgets for schools and departments and other activities that report to the provost," Professor Widnall said.
"Included in this charge are possibilities for mergers of departments and elimination of programs, questions of policies for fund accounts, issues of fees for visitors and postdoctoral associates, examinations of teaching loads and class, size TA support and departmental administrative support, among others."
The group has set two goals, Professor Widnall said: To develop an action plan to reduce academic budgets by some $10 million over the next three years; and to insure a restructuring of academic activities to keep future budget growth in line with revenue increases.
"The group intends a highly consultative, dean-driven process to enable academic departments to maintain high priority programs in the face of budget reductions, as well as to allow important new initiatives," she said.
"The group will examine recent areas of rapid budget growth and will also develop various benchmarks to examine the relative effectiveness of the use of general funds by departments in support of the core mission of the Institute. "The group plans to meet with all deans, many department heads, heads of other activities reporting to the provost and with individual faculty and students, Professor Widnall said.
The Administrative Functions Task Force, headed by Vice President Culliton, includes Vice President James D. Bruce of Information Systems; Dean William J. Mitchell of the School of Architecture and Planning; Professor Arthur C. Smith, Dean for Undergraduate Education; Professor J. Kim Vandiver, chair of the faculty; and Director of Finance John A. Currie.
There are four subgroups in this Task Force: automation/support, headed by Professor Vandiver; procurement process, headed by Vice President Bruce; graduate student appointment process, headed by Dean Smith; space allocation process, headed by Dean Mitchell; and administrative computing, headed by Mr. Lucker.
Each subgroup, with community involvement, will work toward "redesigning core business processes to eliminate duplication of effort, increase timeliness and improve MIT climate and culture toward cost savings," Vice President Culliton said.
The Task Force goal is a report by March 31 on cost-reduction targets, long-range incentives and a follow-up program, he said.
The Support Services Task Force, headed by Dean Litster, includes the following members:
Professor Jay Keyser, Associate Provost for Institute Life; Dean Philip S. Khoury of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences; Dean Frank E. Perkins of the Graduate School; Director of Personnel Joan F. Rice; Vice President and Secretary Constantine B. Simonides; and Charlene Placido, assistant to Dean Litster, who will be the staff person for the Support Services Task Force.
The Task Force is looking at a range of support services, with an eye toward reducing the cost to the Institute. The issues are complex and a variety of factors are involved in all areas under study, Dean Litster said.
Providing parking, for example, costs MIT $1.275 million a year with minimal cost to the parkers. Some universities charge for parking and this option is one the Task Force will study, Dean Litster said.
A version of this article appeared in the February 10, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 22).