A Special Report from the Office of MIT President Charles M. Vest • June 1998

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Message from the President

Innovation Begins at Home

This is the second in a series of special reports by the President's Office on the ways in which we are working to enhance the excellence of MIT.

The great research universities in this country remain the envy of the world, but our reputation gives us no special immunity from the forces of financial pressure and social stress. The public has raised legitimate concerns about the cost of a college education; national commissions question whether our educational programs are as effective as they should be; the government has shifted the nature of its support for higher education and research; and our costs have been rising faster than our sources of income.

In the early 1990s, in order for MIT to meet the challenges of these times, we embarked on a three-pronged strategy:

In the first of these special reports (published last fall), we provided information about how we are addressing the changes in the relationship between the federal government and America's research universities.

This second report discusses some of the ways in which we have been working to reduce expenses and to streamline and improve many support services for our faculty and students. We began to analyze our management structure and administrative processes for the simple reason

that our budgets were out of balance, a situation that was cutting into our ability to provide the best possible programs in education and research. We chose not simply to cut existing programs or personnel, but to take a more comprehensive approach to improving our productivity and efficiency.

And so we began, by introducing a new financial management system, SAP, which is still in process, and by drawing people from throughout the Institute into teams charged with reengineering some of our most basic services, including systems for student support, mail delivery, office and lab supplies, publications production, and custodial and maintenance services, to name some of the key projects to date.

It has been hard work, and sometimes tough going, but I am heartened by the progress we have made, and deeply grateful to all those who have taken up this challenge. This effort involves literally every member of the community, and I am very thankful to all of the faculty and staff who have not only put in extraordinary effort but also an extra measure of patience and good will during the sometimes rocky transition to a new system and set of procedures. Our work is not done, but I am confident that -- with everyone's help -- it will be justified by the outcome. In the end, our success in this endeavor will give us the flexibility, the confidence, and the resources to meet our mission.

In order to achieve a larger, more secure and more flexible base of support, we need to operate as efficiently and as effectively as possible. We also need to take large-scale, well-documented steps to assure our public and private sources of support (including students and parents) that we are good stewards of the resources entrusted to us.

Innovation is the MIT way. Productive change is what has shaped our basic mission and earned us our reputation. The changes we are beginning to see in our administrative and operational systems will benefit us all, but no matter how we reorganize and change, it will still be the values, loyalty, and commitment of people that will make MIT great in the future, as they have in the past.

No one symbolizes those values, loyalty and commitment more than our Senior Vice President, Bill Dickson, who is retiring this summer. This report contains an interview with him. In it, he talks of many of the changes he has overseen, but it also conveys a great deal about Bill himself, a remarkable MIT citizen who has given so much to us for over four decades.

President Charles M. Vest

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