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Table of Contents
1. Summary: New Opportunity (4)
2. Principles (4)
2.1 Goals of Residence System (4)
2.2 Core Beliefs (4)
2.3 Elements for Effective Systems (5)
3. Student Development Program (5)
4. Residence System: Highlights (6)
4.1 Residence Selection for Dormitories (6)
4.2 Affiliation and Residence Selection Process for Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups (7)
4.3 Proportion of Freshmen in Each Residence Hall (8)
4.4 Self-Governance (8)
4.5 Residence Clusters (9)
4.6 Faculty/Staff Fellows (9)
4.7 Programming (9)
4.8 Orientation (10)
4.9 Evolution (10)
5. Support: Turning the Clock Forward (12)
5.1 Introduction (12)
5.2 Recommendations (13)
6. Conclusion (15)
Residence System: An Orientation Story (16)
Appendix A: Student Development Program (24)
Appendix B: Freshmen Clusters (29)
Appendix C: Orientation Experiences (29)
Appendix D: Transition to Adulthood (30)
Appendix E: Advising (40)
Appendix F: Student Leadership Program (41)
Appendix G: Residential Advising (45)
Appendix H: More Time Off? (45)
Appendix I: Letter of Invitation (45)
1. Summary: New Opportunity
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is entering a new era of educational focus. The opportunity to redesign the residence system at MIT is more than a matter of finding new ways of matching students to beds and new programming to encourage faculty, staff, and students to spend more of their time together. It is an opportunity to build the community leg of the Educational Triad.
The Task Force on Student Life and Learning adopted the idea of the Educational Triad as a central model for the future of MIT. Just as the classroom supports academics, and the lab supports research, so the residence system supports community.
2.1 Goals of Residence System
2.2 Core Beliefs
2.3 Elements for Effective Systems
3. Student Development Program
The Student Advisory Committee to the Task Force proposed the idea of a comprehensive approach to education. We propose a 'Student Development Program' (SDP) which we believe serves to develop the entire student. We believe that the residence system is the proper place to implement such a program, though we recognize that it is crucial that it be integrated with learning in the lab and in the classroom.
The SDP has two essential parts - the mission and the structure. We believe that the specific programming will emerge from these two foundations.
The mission is to develop a set of competencies that will serve the student well in future endeavours.
The structure is based on two ideas:
The new residence life system should engage students in an ongoing process, not only of the design, but also in the delivery of a new integrated, interactive, and asynchronous curriculum for life. This new curriculum is not an extension of the infamous fire hose. It is a set of opportunities that requires only participation from students. The new curriculum does not replace, but complements the existing academic and research curricula. In this new curricula faculty, students, and staff should collaborate as learners and teachers. We believe the residence system is a crucial forum for this new curriculum.
This curriculum is not a set of new requirements for students to fulfill. Rather, we frame it as a set of educational rights and responsibilities - what each MIT student deserves to have learned by the time she graduates:
It is also important that she will have developed a sense of:
The remainder of this report enumerates the structure we believe will best serve the Student Development Program in the context of the residence system.
4. Residence System: Highlights
4.1 Residence Selection for Dormitories
This is much more than matching 'heads to beds' - it is a key part of creating the strong communities that are necessary to build an MIT-wide community. We believe this system provides opportunities for achieving synergy between self-selection and diversity.
As part of the admissions materials, each student will receive a booklet describing the different residents. Some of this material will originate with RLSLP, some will be self-created by the residence. She will then rank her choices and express personal living preferences (smoking/non-smoking, early/late riser, etc.), be assigned a dorm based on her lottery choice and a room and roommate(s) based on her preferences, and receive her room number, the phone number for the room, and contact information for her roommate(s).
At the end of Orientation, a voluntary 'correction lottery' will be held so that students who wish to switch dorms may do so. Moreover, at the end of each term voluntary housing lotteries will be held so that students will be able to live in different dorms if they wish to do so. Groups of students will be able to lottery together (blocking) if they wish.
4.2 Affiliation and Residence Selection Process for Fraternities, Sororities, and Independent Living Groups
Freshmen will receive material during the summer from FSILGs describing each organization. As part of the same residence booklet for the residence halls, some of this information will originate with RLSLP, some will be self-created by the residents.
Near the end of Orientation, a Residence Midway will serve to introduce students to FSILGs. We believe it is crucial to make them aware of their future living options early on, as creating an awareness later in the year would prove logistically difficult. We also believe it is important to begin this process early because other activities (athletics, student groups) will also be clamoring for the attention of freshmen - it would be unfair to deprive FSILGs of the same opportunity.
However, we also recognize that the pace and pressure of the current rush system introduces significant stress. Therefore, we recommend that freshmen not be permitted to affiliate with an FSILG until Add Date of the fall term. We do not believe that restrictions should be placed on when bids can be extended, because this would be likely to create a system of 'shadow bids' that will undermine the principles of open and fair competition which are so crucial for FSILG rush. But delaying the earliest possible acceptance date puts power in the hands of the prospective freshmen, while also preventing an 'eternal rush' from dominating the school year as houses compete for new members.
At the end of the spring term, freshmen who have accepted bids from MIT-approved FSILGs may apply to move into them during Spring Term of freshmen year. [The number of freshmen that leave the residence halls will be limited to the number of 'crowds' during the fall term. Slots will be assigned to freshmen by a voluntary lottery held in December. It is expected that the primary (or sole) FSILGs that permit freshmen to move in second term of freshmen year will be those with less traditional new member education programs. - this text was inadvertantly omitted from the original submission to the steering committee]
It is also important to be aware that each FSILG chooses its members in a manner consistent with its own constitution and principles. The current organized system of Rush is enabled by voluntary coordination and cooperation of the member houses of the Interfraternity Council, not by imposition from the outside. We fear that attempts to place undue restrictions on the FSILG rush process will create more problems than it will solve - cooperation, not control, is the correct attitude.
4.3 Proportion of Freshmen in Each Residence Hall
The proportion of freshmen in each dorm will be decided by a trading process modeled on international agreements to limit carbon emissions. Each dormitory government will be apportioned a number of 'chits' representing the number of freshmen that would live in that dorm if they were uniformly distributed (~35%) and a similarly proportional number of chits for upperclassmen. Theses chits do not represent individual students - they are only meant to determine the proportion of freshmen a dormitory is assigned. The governments may then trade amongst themselves, probably seeking to establish one of several models: no freshmen, even ratio of freshmen to other classes, the default ratio of freshmen to other classes, or primarily freshmen dorms.
We believe this process will lead to a superior distribution of freshmen than that which would result from any centrally directed decision. The residence halls would be making a choice about their character, and therefore would be committed to making their system work. This process could happen only once or could be repeated each spring, though we caution that repeating the process too often could be destabilizing.
The dorms that elect a relatively balanced proportion of freshmen and upperclassmen will decide between distributing the freshmen relatively uniformly or concentrate them in freshmen 'regions' (floors, entries, clusters).
Real self-governance is an aspect of the residential system with some of the richest opportunities for developing students. Even if the only active role the student plays is when she votes for other students, the citizenship values instilled will be valuable throughout her lifetime. There should be ample opportunities for students who want to get involved to get involved - working in teams to design policies and programs that will be implemented and affect fellow students provide invaluable experience for the real world. We also believe that a degree of guidance would enhance the experience - leaders from the faculty, students, and staff should gather on a regular basis to share their stories and experiences, reflect on what they have accomplished, and trade advice.
Students willing to participate in more structured leadership development program (scheduled lectures, reflection times, presentations) should be encouraged by providing a seminar-for-credit.
We believe that current government structures are inadequate and that a convention, composed of all stakeholders, be formed to intentionally and deliberately redesign student government. This convention should be charged to design a system that is representative and can effectively carry out the functions of a student government. It should be provided with adequate resources to enable its process to be successful.
4.5 Residence Clusters
To facilitate large-scale programs, groups of 400-500 students will be built by alignment of dorms and FSILGs into residential 'clusters.' This will also serve to build more cross-residence interaction and allegiance. Each cluster can include a mix of dormitories and FSILGs or it can be composed solely of either group. We anticipate 10-12 Residence Clusters.
4.6 Faculty/Staff Fellows
Every member of the Faculty and ODSUE will be affiliated with a Residential Cluster. At first these will be nominal affiliations, but the hope is that some fraction of these will develop into more involved members of the dorm/cluster. Each fellow will be always welcome to dine in the dorm/cluster. Funding, provided by the governing structure of each dorm/cluster, will be available if fellows would like to develop programming.
This program must be overseen and regulated by faculty and staff members to be successful - it cannot be student driven. The Faculty Fellows should be overseen by a senior or emeritus faculty member and the Staff Fellows overseen by the Dean for Student Life. Both should be responsible to the Chancellor for successful implementation.
It is also recommended that the faculty show its support for the Education Triad by increasing the incentives for participation in the large MIT community - whether those incentives be financial, tenure-based, or otherwise.
Most programming should be residence and cluster based - the individual governments should have significant discretionary funds. We believe that students will rise to the occasion if given real responsibilities. We do not provide specific recommendations here because we believe the the residences/clusters should choose for themselves. Some ideas are: seminars, symposia, speakers, workshops, readings, concerts, and, of course, parties.
Regularly scheduled events are a powerful way of increasing community involvement, as is the inclusion of food at activities.
The funding model for programs is entrepreneurial. It is important to point out here that we do not mean that student groups and students interested in creating programs should be constantly petitioning for funds - the channels should be streamlined and simplified. There should be three main sources of programming capital:
Orientation is a continuous process. MIT students are continually becoming more aware and more familiar with their environments and the opportunities therein. The first week at MIT is an especially crucial part of this process. Together with the first week of classes, it sets the tone for the entire MIT experience. The two goals for this week are to make students feel at home and to give them a basic familiarity with MIT. Our design for the residence system will be explored in the context of the story of an MIT student who arrives on campus in the fall of 2017 (see attachment entitled: The Residence System: An Orientation Story).
The transition between the current state of the residence system and its future state is guaranteed to encounter stumbling blocks, which must be anticipated and planned for. Flexibility must be built into the transition process to allow for unexpected issues.
Differences between current and future funding levels should be handled by a 20% increase per year until par funding is achieved.
The increase of staff should be overseen by the Associate Dean for Residence Life and Student Life Programming.
Every report about the residence system has stressed the value and importance of maintaining the vitality of the FSILG system. There are two key parts:
A residence council, of the form described in the Clay Report, should be formed to oversee the transition and implementation of the new residential system. The Residence Council must meet regularly and report to the Chancellor about progress of the implementation.
Without conscious and deliberate assessment of the residential program it will be difficult to improve current programs and begin new efforts. It is important to involve all members of the MIT community in such reviews, but as the system is designed to serve students their input is especially crucial.
There should be three main modes of assessment:
Students should be asked how well the residence system fulfilled each of the goals enumerated in 2.1 but also against the developmental goals outlined in the Student Development Program. They should also be asked about specific current programs and to generate ideas for new programming. Faculty and staff input in new programming ideas is to be encouraged.
A full-scale evaluation of the residence system should be undertaken by a committee representative of the community every twenty years. This committee should present a report to the Chancellor of MIT, who shall be responsible for implementing the recommendations of this Residence Review Committee. It is important that the Residence Review Committee is separate from the Residence Council, though they should cooperate during the evaluation period (~1 year).
5. Support: Turning the Clock Forward
MIT has a long history of putting its great minds to work thinking about the residential system, but failing to follow through on its commitments when budget allocations roll around. From the Ryer Report to today, MIT has often failed to follow through on its commitments to its community. Why? It is unclear, but we might guess that MIT's great reports made enough sense to have met with general agreement, but did not succeed in changing the administrative culture.
MIT has too often made short-term decisions in the residential system that it later saw as contrary to its long-term goals. The installation of full-service kitchens in Burton-Conner rather than upgrading the dining hall, and the long-deferred maintenance on Senior House prior to 1996 are examples. An Institute that permits students to live among scattered plaster fragments, whose student activities are reduced to scrounging for money, and whose residential-life office is as absurdly overstretched as the current RLSLP did not really try to make the community a priority.
Now the senior administration is once again making a verbal commitment to an excellent residential system. MIT's budget-setters can break out of our historic cycle only by ensuring that a serious fiscal commitment accompanies the rhetoric.
This cycle of attention and neglect is unsurprising in light of our thesis, that the culture of MIT's senior administration toward budgeting for the residential system has not changed appreciably since the commuter-school days.
If the residential system is seen as a mere add-on to the classroom and the laboratory, it cannot get the budgeting attention it deserves. If, on the other hand, the senior administration embraces the Task Force's Educational Triad and ensures that its budgets reflect it, they can enable innovation and excellence in our residences.
MIT's consistent failure to allocate sufficient funds for community activities is thus interpreted less as hypocrisy and more as simple anachronism. It is time to turn the clock forward at MIT.
Fiscal follow-through is essential to ensuring the success of any residential design. No amount of inspiration or perspiration will translate into lasting value unless it can stand on the pillars of an institutional commitment to invest in real change.
We do not believe that an excellent residential system can simply be bought. On the other hand, we sincerely believe that budgeting is the current bottleneck in MIT's struggle for an excellent residential system. MIT has many times its share of brilliant people and brilliant ideas. The frustration with the residential system is that too often, those brilliant ideas go unimplemented because of a lack of fiscal commitment.
We do not believe that MIT's residential system will work satisfactorily for the community without a significant increase in staffing for RLSLP, funding for dormitory programs, and funding for student activities. Our specific requests for funding are as follows:
5.2.1 Assistant Housemasters
Each residence hall should have an Assistant Housemaster who will provide staff support for the Housemaster and the dormitory governments. We anticipate that costs for each Assistant Housemaster will be $60,000 (including benefits) annually, making the total cost $660,000 for the system.
5.2.2 Program funds for residence halls ("Cluster Funds")
A budget for each residence hall to sponsor institute-wide activities. These are different from dorm parties in that these activities aim to bring together the entire MIT community. While a small dorm should not be penalized with a proportionally small operation budget, population should be taken into account in the overall distribution. Unlike dorm tax funds, which are controlled solely by the dorm governments, cluster funds will require the approval of the Housemaster and Assistant Housemaster to be spent.
1 major event = $10,000 (3-4 major events per dorm per year = $30,000 base rate)
$30,000 per dorm + $40 X number of students in the dorm = $476,000 (i.e. Baker House: $30,000 + $40 X 360 = $44,400)
5.2.3 Faculty Fellows Program
This program needs a budget in order to be effective. Can be based on number of students in the dorm or based on the number of students the Fellow is assigned.
3650 students X $15 per semester X 2 semesters/year = $106,500/year
5.2.4 Student-run Activities Funding During the Academic Year
300 clubs X $850 average funding request/term/club X 2 Terms = $510,000 for club activities during the term
5.2.5. Orientation Funding
While departments or offices can supplement these centrally collected funds, it is crucial that freshmen not see an financial disincentive to participate in one Orientation Experience over another.
1000 freshmen X $200 per freshmen to operate OE = $200,000
Orientation is a continuous process, and associate advisors should be provided with funds to create programming for their freshmen, which can be as simple as taking them out for ice cream a couple of times during the term.
1000 freshmen X $40 per freshmen for freshmen programming during the first year = $40,000
5.2.6 Indexing of Non-Employee Funds and Total Costs
We believe that there could be two effective 'pegs' for these funds. One would be inflation and one would be tuition. Our initial preference is for it to be tuition based, so as to make a continuous statement by MIT about the proportional importance of such activities relative to the total cost of education. However, if MIT decides to lower tuition to compete with recent actions by our peer universities, such a peg cold prove counterproductive, and in such a scenario inflation-indexing is preferable.
Total funding for residence-based activities = $1,242,500
Total non-residential-based funding activities = $750,000
$1,992,500 - $196,000 in current student activity funding = $1,796,500 in new funding initiatives
5.2.7. Funding for Residential FSILG Transition
average loss due to freshmen on campus 10 people X average house bill per year $4500 = average loss of revenue per house $45,000
$45,000 X 36 residential FSILGs = $1,620,000/year
In the Evolution section, this plan describes a 2/3 subsidy of empty spaces in FSILGs. This number will most likely be much lower as FSILGs adapt to the new system and begin recruiting upperclassmen to fill the extra spaces.
5.2.8. Additional Potential Staffing
We are redesigning the community model at MIT. Each of the three main constituencies of this community - faculty, students, and staff - must be full participants of the redesign and implementation process. If any group elects not to participate then this process cannot be successful.
This design experience, while short and with limited focus, showed that if you give the community a problem to solve, members from all groups will roll up their sleeves and work as equals towards a solution that meets the needs of the community. If any group had been missing, it would not have been nearly as successful.
If approached and implemented in a deliberate, intentional way, with adequate commitment of personnel and resources, we believe that the future residence system at MIT will be substantially superior to the current system. This proposal does not pretend to be comprehensive - it is meant to give a taste of each aspect of the residence system and a fuller description of a few particulars. But its vision is clear: a more inclusive community governance model and a real commitment to developing the whole student are essential for MIT to continue to flourish and grow into the future.
Residence System: An Orientation Story
Elise Kerchel lived in Libertyville, a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, and was a future member of the class of 2021. MIT was the only school she applied to - she knew she wanted to go into biology and MIT was the place to be.
In May she received a packet of information about MIT. She had to enter three lotteries by the middle of June: Freshmen Advising Seminar, Orientation Experience, and residence hall selection. Her first choice for FAS was about molecular biology because she had heard that was where the employment opportunities were in biology. Next she ranked all the other biology-oriented FASes, and then two chemistry FASes to finish off that page.
At first she wanted to pick the Departmental Exploration offered by the biology department as her Orientation Experience, but her mother warned her about being too narrow, so she picked an Orientation Experience that would take her hiking up Mt. Monadnock instead. As her second choice she picked a Departmental Exploration in Aero-Astro, figuring it was as far from biology as possible (and she had always been interested in model rockets). Third she chose something called the 'Freshmen Leadership Program' which was run by students instead of faculty members. She picked a couple of other OE's that seemed interesting - she wasn't that concerned with which one she got into, since it was only 2 days long.
She checked out the residence hall descriptions and decided to go with East Campus as her first choice because it looked interesting. She put MacGregor second because it has all singles and she was used to having her own room (she was an only child). Then she put Bexley because it was close to campus and filled the rest of her lottery choices in arbitrarily because the book said almost everyone gets one of their first three choices.
In June she gets back the results - she got into her first choice of FAS, the Aero-Astro OE, and McCormick residence hall, her 5th choice. She received the room number where she would be staying and a phone number that went with it. She also got a mini-bio about her roommate, Sarah, along with Sarah's address and phone number. She called up admissions at MIT to ask if there was any way she could change rooms - she preferred not to live in all-female housing. She was informed that there would be a 'correction lottery' run at the end of Orientation and that, since McCormick was always in high demand, that she probably wouldn't have problems moving to a different dorm.
She had not had a chance to visit MIT before orientation - her parents couldn't afford it. The three of them decide to drive cross-country to save money and to visit relatives in New York. She arrived on Saturday morning to a campus bustling with activity. Her parents double parked on Amherst Alley and helped her move in. On the way back from the first trip up to her room, a frantic looking upperclassman offered to help her move in - she was one of the Undergraduate Residence Advisors at McCormick and were there any questions she could answer? Elise felt shy since she was planning to move out as soon as possible, so tried to avoid conversation. The URA realized something was up and chatted with Elise's parents as they finished moving her in.
Elise and her parents had lunch in McCormick dining hall with another freshman named Bethany. Bethany was at MIT to study management - Elise was surprised because she didn't know MIT had a management department. Oh, yes, Bethany replied, one of the best in the country. Elise's mother laughed and said that everyone kept saying that everything at MIT was 'one of the best in the country' and she hoped it was true! Bethany had flown in from California, and so Elise and her parents decided to 'adopt' Bethany for the day's activities. Elise checked out her Orientation schedule and discovered that they were late for the President's Welcome. The four of them quietly entered the back of Kresge Auditorium in time to hear President Bacow tell the assembled students 'that they were not admitted by mistake.' After the President spoke, three students in cardinal shirts took the stage and walked through what would be happening over the next week. Elise's parents were surprised at how busy the week was, but Bethany, whose older brother was a senior at Phi Sigma Kappa, said that nothing typified MIT more than a packed schedule.
Elise's Orientation Experience group was scheduled to have dinner together. She was the first freshmen there and met Professor Ed Crawley, the head of the Aero-Astro department as he was getting to the Next House dining hall. She asked why their group was meeting way out here, and he explained that he was a faculty fellow for 500 Memorial Drive (for some reason, he kept calling it that, though all the students called it Next House). He said that at first he had been worried that it was so far away, but after eating in the dining hall a couple of times he had gotten to know some of the students here pretty well. He laughed and said that he had even convinced two to go Course 16 - had she thought about it? Elise was a bit abashed and mumbled that she wanted to be a biology major. By now most of the group - twenty freshmen, two upperclassmen and two grad students, had arrived and were chatting about the day's events. Professor Crawley introduced her to Jake, who was one of the upperclassmen, as a biology major who was interested in the effects of microgravity. Jake was in charge of her sub-group for the next three days - 'Actually I'm here to help you do what you want to do rather than make you do what _I_ want you to do,' said Jake, which made Elise a bit uneasy - weren't these people supposed to know the best way to do things?
Elise met Sarah when she got back to McCormick at 8pm and they chatted about inconsequentials. Sarah was planning to go to a dance party in La Sala de Puerto Rico in the Stratton Student Center, and Elise decided to tag along because she liked Latin music. They met up Chris and Eric from Elise's OE group on the way there, and the four of them decided to go together. Elise thought that Sarah was acting kind of weird but decided to ignore it and try to have a good time - they were going to be roommates for at least a week!
Tired but excited, Elise headed to the fifth floor of the student center at 2am and logged onto Athena for the first time. She picked 'jkerchal' as her username, blessing her parents for having a last name with seven letters. A few seconds after she logged on she got a Zephyr from Jake suggesting she might want to get some sleep - the next few days would be very busy. At first she was startled that a message had appeared on her screen, and asked an older-looking student next to her what she should do. Misa, as he introduced himself, explained what Zephyrs were and how to send them. Elise Zephyred back 'That's what EVERYONE says!' and went back to McCormick to find Sarah already asleep.
The next two days were filled with interesting things to do. The four OE sub-groups were competing to 'design' the best rocket by the end of the two days. Since they didn't have the technical skills, nor the time or materiel to build a real rocket, they worked on computer simulations, tweaking the different design parameters to try to get their rocket to go the highest. Most of the groups dived right into tinkering, but Jake suggested that they might want to do some preliminary analysis before they jumped right in. Elise, Chris, John, and Kathryn spent the first 4 hours poring over some books on rocket design and posing questions to Professor Crawley and Jake. John asked why they went to Senior House for lunch and Eve (one of the graduate students) said it was to give the students a taste of the different housing options at MIT. John said that he thought that he had already picked a place to live, and Elise was quick to jump in and say that they would be able to move around at the end of the week. In the end, Joan's group came in second, but Elise didn't mind as much as she thought she would have because she was sure that if they had had another day they would have won. The last few hours were spent reviewing the past days' activity and what each member had learned from the experience. Elise said that she had discovered that preparation was valuable, but that in a time-limited system, sometimes jumping right in could prove valuable in the short-term. Professor Crawley agreed that sometimes design time was a cost, but that it was one that usually existed in the 'real world' as well.
Elise went up to her room after having invited her sub-group over for dinner at McCormick. She was surprised to see Sarah there - her roommate had gotten the very hiking trip Elise had put as her first choice! Sarah introduced Elise to Joan and said that they were headed to a GaMIT meeting. Elise wasn't sure what that was but asked to come along. Sarah and Joan looked at each other and asked if Elise knew what GaMIT was. 'No, why?' Sarah said that since they were roommates she might as well know that Sarah was a lesbian and GaMIT was a support group for gays and lesbians at MIT. Elise was a bit shaken at this - she had known a couple of gay students in high school but not very well. But she decided to tag along to see what the group was like. Sarah and Joan looked a bit uncomfortable but agreed that she could come if she wanted to.
They walked over to Walker Memorial, which had just been completely renovated over the last three years. The third floor lounge was packed - Elise found herself thinking 'I've never seen so many gay people at once!' but then decided that it was unfair to label them like that - she had met Sarah as an individual first and decided to do the same here. She felt someone's hands over her eyes, but then recognized the 'Guess who?' as Jake's voice. Jake introduced her to Paul, his boyfriend, and several of his friends. Jake made her promise to check out the Aero-Astro departmental presentation the next day - he said he regretted getting fixated on biology so early and realizing too late to change majors that he was really more of a space cadet than he thought.
The next day Elise decided to check out biology and aero-astro, but also management (with Bethany), and architecture (because she had always liked to put stuff together). The presentations were interesting. Each was a different format, but they all had the same basics - professors, graduate students, undergrads, and alumni from that major talking about what excited them about their department and what they hoped to do in the future. Elise always made sure to ask in the question-and-answer period about what kind of opportunities were available outside of the specific field of the department, and was reassured in all four presentations that MIT students are highly sought in almost any work environment because of their strong technical and teamwork skills. Professor Anne Jackson in Architecture actually laughed when Elise asked the question, explaining that any system you are designing required architecting, from Grand Unified Theories to cellular machinery. 'I kind of see Architecture at the heart of everything.'
At dinner she heard from one of the URA's at her table about a monthly Charm School workshop called 'How to Tell Someone Something They'd Rather Not Hear' or HTTSSTRNH. Elise had seen Charm School on 60 Minutes but she didn't know that it had become a more frequent occurrence.While she thought she didn't have any problems right at the moment - and really hadn't had any time to think of any problems - she realized it could be useful to be able to go to talk with somebody, informally, if she thought there was a problem developing, rather than wait for a crisis.
One of her friends in high school had had a terrible long battle with anorexia, and she was curious how friends could be helpful, if she noticed something like that. Another thought that occurred to her, and she talked it over with Bethany, and later with Jake, was how you tell your parents stuff they'd rather not hear. Like, how did they tell their parents about their sexual orientation? How would she tell her mom and dad if she decided that MIT wasn't the right place for her? They would be so disappointed (so would she! it seemed like such a terrific place) and maybe they'd be angry.
A session of the HTTSSTRNH workshop was scheduled for Parents Weekend in October, with sample role plays presented by students and volunteer, trained staff people (upperclassmen, faculty and staff). She thought that it would be fun to do if it didn't take very long to prepare (she found out it was only a one-time hour training ...with pizza). She made a note to stop by the Reserve Room and look at the Addictions Awareness bookshelf, as well as check out the website, and she filed the workshop possibility away with all the other competing opportunities presented during Orientation Week and the new term.
The next morning Elise slept in - the Lime Shake Six concert had lasted until midnight and she had danced herself to exhaustion. Sarah woke her up for lunch and talked the whole time about how she was surprised to find so many athletic teams at MIT - Sarah had played field hockey in high school but hadn't expected to continue in college. The coach had persuaded her that she could balance sports and academics, so she had agreed to try it out. They went together to the Activities Midway, which was held on Kresge Oval (due to good weather) and was amazed at all the opportunities she had to try to choose from! After about 15 minutes she and Sarah went back to their room to get their backpacks - they needed them to hold all the pamphlets and advertisements that upperclassmen were handing out.
At dinner in McCormick Hall the two roommates were eating dinner when an older man they had seen before asked to join them. He introduced himself as Professor Charles McHale 'But you can call me Charles.' They asked him about what kind of activities took place in McCormick. He explained how the dance studio had just been redone and MedLinks was sponsoring aerobics classes there three nights a week. The large living rooms are the location of weekly study breaks. There's a monthly "meet the bigshots" dinner in the dining hall, where a top muckity-muck eats dinner informally with all who show up. There's an active social committee and freshman affairs committee, so if they have ideas of their own about what they'd like to see happen, Prof. McHale encouraged them to get involved. He was careful to say that each dorm had its own internal governance structure, but that each dorm had a certain number of representative on the General Council based on its population - McCormick had three. Charles promised to introduced them to Sandra Varrera, who was the associate housemaster for McCormick, the next day. That night Carl Dietrich, one of the members of the first manned mission to Mars, gave a short talk in Kresge - standing room only! Elise was getting more and more attracted to the idea of majoring in Aero-Astro.
She met with her FAS for breakfast in the morning at Baker Houses. Forrester Liddle, a junior faculty member, explained that they would be spending their morning in the North End, catch lunch at the Prudential Center and then head over to Harvard Square for the afternoon. Elise had never been to Boston before, but she had been to Chicago many times, so she wasn't intimidated. She stuck close to Jackie, a freshmen from rural Connecticut, who complained that the Italian restaurants in Boston were nothing like what she had experienced in New York City. They promised to find each other for Community Dinners that night. While Forrester was showing them Harvard Yard, Jackie asked why he had decided to run a FAS. Forrester explained that his department encouraged participation by offering teaching credits for faculty that participated. 'That is especially important to me, since I'm up for tenure review next year. I also get community points since I am spending time with undergrads. I would probably have led an FAS even if I didn't get the credits, but I'm not sure I can say the same of all my colleagues. I just like helping freshmen explore their ideas in a friendly environment.' Elise decided that she liked Professor Liddle.
The group voted to walk back to MIT instead of taking the T and they kept stopping to check out the little stores that dotted Massachusetts Avenue. When they got to University Park Forrester reminisced about when the office and apartment development was nothing but empty lots, and members of his fraternity and their next door neighbors, an all-female cooperative living group, had played ultimate frisbee. 'Did you know Ultimate used to not be an Olympic sport?' He related how freshmen used to be able to choose to live in fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups. 'Why did it change?' 'Well, MIT was always unusual because it let freshmen choose where they lived. In 1997 a pledge died at a fraternity during a hazing incident and a year later the President of MIT announced that freshmen would all live on campus in the fall of 2001.' 'Just because of one fraternity?' 'Well, that death was just the catalyst for a change that had been coming for some time. MIT decided that it wanted to play a more involved role in the lives of its students, and the faculty felt a key part of that was taking more direct responsibility for freshmen. I think it's working pretty well - do you know that 20 years ago the idea of having a dozen active Faculty Fellows for each dorm would have produced bitter laughter? In any case, most the houses survived - you'll get to learn more about them tonight at the Residence Midway.' 'Huh.' 'I was President of my house when it happened, and I fought fiercely at the time, but now I realize that it was a crucial piece of MIT rearranging its education priorities. But enough about that - why did you choose this FAS?' and the conversation moved elsewhere.
Elise did not manage to find Jackie or Sarah for Community dinners, but she got to meet another bunch of freshmen and upperclassmen. The whole process was a bit chaotic, but she thought it was fun - small groups of upperclassmen had signs for whatever restaurant they were going to, and tried to convince freshmen to go with them. She went to Pizzeria Uno's and announced that real Chicago pizza was superior to the Boston imitation thereof. Jonas, from Brooklyn New York, took issue with this and explained that the only real pizza was available on the lower West Side of Manhattan. Soon the whole group was debating the finer points of sauce consistency and the ratio of flour to water in pizza dough and making quite a bit of noise. The waitress came over and asked if they could quiet down and they all burst out laughing - they hadn't realized how heated their discussion had become!
At the Residence Midway Elise found she was interested in four of the eight sororities at MIT and two of the coed independent living groups. She promised to try and visit them tomorrow, but she had no idea how she would get to them all in a single day. The two ILGs and one of the sororities said that she could move in second semester, but the other three sororities said that she would have to wait until she was a sophomore. She wasn't sure what she thought about that, and resolved to ask Sarah and Jackie about it.
Sarah had set their alarm extra early so that they could get breakfast at Phi Gamma Beta, one of the sororities in the new houses on Vassar Street. The sisters had strung a banner between the elm trees in front of their house, so it was easy to spot from across Briggs Field. Sarah and Elise learned about the sorority's community service programs and got to meet the house cook - an MIT alum herself who had decided that after cooking for her friends in Random Hall ('Where?' 'Oh, there used to be a small dorm up by University Park') that the culinary arts were where her interests lay. Elise then crossed the athletic fields to visit Phi Beta Epsilon, while Sarah went up towards Central Square to visit WILG, which was known to be a queer-friendly living group.
The brothers and sisters of Phi Beta Epsilon made sure Elise had passed her swim test ('Do you know that everyone used to have to pass it?') and took her sailing. On the river, Takeshi, a junior in Bioengineering, explained that PBE had chosen to go coed in 2002 after they realized that it would make them more marketable to new members. 'It was easier for us to make the change because we're a local house - Tau Epsilon Phi tried to go coed and their national expelled them - they're now 'House 22' on Vassar Street next to Gamma Delta Rho. MIT was supportive - they really wanted all the houses to survive.'
Elise managed to make it to another coed ILG and the other three sororities by midnight. She and Sarah were reflecting on the whirlwind of the last week when Sarah asked her if she had remembered to enter the Correction Lottery to change dorms. Elise laughed - she had completely forgotten - but reassured her roommate that she wouldn't dream of moving out - they were having too much fun!
There were several ideas and proposals that we created that did not quite fit into our main presentation. Some of them are separate ideas, some are expansions on the material above. We believe it would be a shame to let them fade into the background, and so we created these appendices. In certain cases there were primary or sole authors, and these are identified.
Appendix A: Student Development Program (Chris Pratt)
Because 95% of MIT students are resident students, redesign of the residence life system at MIT is more than a matter of the physical residences, and more than just providing more programming opportunities for students and faculty. It is an opportunity to redefine the social model at MIT. It is an opportunity to think intentionally about the intended outcomes and the developmental process that will facilitate the achievement of those outcomes. It is an opportunity to create a community of learners, a learning organization composed of self-managed learners. This process should not occur in isolation, but should based firmly in the historic findings of the important MIT process of self-discovery, including the Attributes of an Educated Individual as described by the Task Force on Student Life and Learning.
MIT Sloan School's Peter Senge states that:
"Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life. There is within each of us the deep hunger for this type of learning. This, then, is the basic meaning of a "learning organization" -an organization that is continually expanding its capacity to create its future "generative learning", learning that enhances our capacity to create."
To achieve this status for MIT is to provide a
new model for student inquiry, discovery and learning about
themselves. The mission of the residence life system should be to
help students learn about themselves and the relationship between
themselves and others, not only at MIT, but also in
the world where they will live and work.
The concept of a Student Development Program (SDP) involves two essential components. First, there must be an articulated program, a framework of "clearly articulated set of competencies", behavioral skills, attributes of an educated person that are those students need to develop, and why, and importantly what the scheme is to allow them to do that. Secondly, (like the chicken and the egg) there must be a "comprehensive menu of curricular, co-curricular, and off-campus offerings", activities such as seminars, symposium, speakers, workshops, readings, concerts, governing sessions, community service, Leadershape, advising, mentoring, etc which provide the myriad of opportunities for students to build their competencies. Certainly opportunities for periodic self-assessment are also needed for students to mark their progress.
Interest in developing the whole student at MIT has been articulated by many over the last 50 years. Most recently the Student Advisory Committee called for a "Student Development Plan" supported by the Task Force on Student Life and Learning, and the Principles for the MIT Residential System provide a call to Develop the Whole Student. Much of this is also based in work about multiple intelligences and individual learning styles. Howard Gardner's Leading Minds offers a sound theoretical framework for this notion, as does work by Chris Agyris and Peter Senge.
To use a metaphor, the idea is that there are
the two parts, one the student seeking to develop (like the hand
seeking warmth), and the various opportunities offered to
facilitate that development (like the glove into which the hand
is moved). And the student, not only actively moves her hand into
the glove, and takes on new behavior, but also participates as a
partner with the faculty and staff in designing the glove, the
ways to learn. Perhaps a better metaphor is the student seeking
to learn to fly, and
the air beneath the student's wings is provided by the various opportunities to soar.
The life of the MIT student can be seen in two venues, the classroom, and the residences. Our goal is to integrate the learning process in each venue, while maintaining enough degrees of separation to allow the student to see the important connection, and essential balance between the technical knowledge gained explicitly in the classroom, and the personal knowledge gained explicitly in the residences. It is not our goal to refute that technical knowledge and personal knowledge can also occur in the other venue. The new residence life system should engage students in an ongoing process, not only of the design, but also in the delivery of a new integrated, interactive, and asynchronous curriculum for life. A new curriculum with a distinct pedagogy, one that is not just an extension of the infamous "fire hose", but one that provides opportunities for students to make choices about when and where to participate, one that requires only participation. This new curriculum does not replace, but complements the classroom curriculum. In this new curriculum students, faculty, professional and support staff should collaborate as learners and teachers. Students should be involved at every level, from design to operation, to peer education.
Learning is about changing behavior, in terms of problem solving and in life skills. The SDP is intended to provide a model for students to view their individual development of the behavioral skills, competencies or the attributes of an educated person needed to interact effectively with others. Whether our students are to become Nobel Prize winners for discovery, or they are to become leaders of political thought, their ability to understand the needs of others and convey their ideas to others is vital to the mission of MIT, to the world's need for MIT, and for MIT graduates to provide leadership and service, stewardship for civilization.
Civilization, and the communities where we work and live, schools and employers, seek, accept and promote on the basis of competencies, but the competencies are not discipline based or major dependent. They are in addition to the technical competencies learned in the classroom. They can and need to be learned as part of the educational experience at MIT. They cannot, however, be taught only in the classroom, and in fact due to the myriad demands on our traditional curriculum there is often no time for them there. They should not only be taught, they must be lived, to truly learn them.
Students can learn much from conceiving the services needed and the daily delivery of them to their fellow students in the community. Their shared experiences can lead to a deeper and broader learning experiences, changing their values and their behavior forever.
The SDP would consist of an array of many components the content of which could be developed in collaboration between students and people with content expertise in a given area, and who have a process expertise in developing learning opportunities. Students and faculty could benefit from collaborative training in content and process development such as offered through some new areas at MIT.
A listing of the attributes of an educated individual as described by the Task Force include:
The Task Force states that, "Many of the attributes of an educated individual are timeless, while others must be adapted to the social and technical environment of the current times." And asks, "How can we help students develop the qualities of the educated individual?"
The SDP components would be seen as an array along a continuum allowing students to regularly assess their development and to extend themselves to develop further across the array. Areas for development, competencies would be chosen that reflect attributes of an educated individual, including: responsibility, self-confidence, identity, independence, leadership, teamwork, service, communication, diversity, managing change, self-managed learning, ethics and social responsibility, interpersonal relationships with other students, faculty, staff, and with people outside of MIT, and with an understanding of our essential interdependence. And all, as society requires, in addition to the technical knowledge students learn in the classroom.
A chronological outline of the SDP process might look like this:
The program would have formal and informal components, it would involves a variety of presenters of the content, including students, faculty, administrators, alumni, representatives from corporations and government, performers, etc in both the design and delivery of the learning opportunities. Formal learning would be that which involves a planned effort to deliver and receive specific knowledge. Informal learning would be that which involves less structure and is not planned, but can be as important. Both forms of learning can be experienced in either venue, and can involve either technical knowledge, or personal knowledge, or both.
The program components would be delivered through individual halls/floors, groups/clusters of halls, students by interest/school/course, all students, and individual students. Students, faculty, and staff could learn invaluable lessons from each other as a community, for example by creating teams of representatives of each constituent group, who rotate through cycles of living and working together in extended families in the new residence life system as part of this program. Faculty might also choose to offer Freshman Seminars and provide academic advising in the Residence Halls to facilitate this interaction.
The nature of the components would also include many different activities, workshops, speakers, symposium, advising, mentoring, shadowing, readings, tasks, service, reflection, games, fun, even freshman seminars, and most importantly learning what the students express a need and desire to learn, and learning it together with others.
It is important to increase the amount of shared experiences, knowledge and wisdom among the members of the residents, while still retaining the feature of choice, in order to increase the sense of community. So, while participation is required the mode by which students participate is left to the student to determine their readiness.
The SDP would also benefit the students in providing them with opportunities to develop these behavioral needs when they are ready to do so, in terms of time of day/day of the week (7/24). It would also benefit students participating as they learn how to live, study and work together more effectively and happily while at MIT and in their lives and work after graduation. It can also benefit students in their plans to obtain employment opportunities after graduation, as employers in most sectors today expect MIT graduates to have achieved a high level of technical knowledge and expertise, but select students on the basis of their ability to demonstrate additional competency in the very areas students list when asked as needs and goals.
The goal of the Student Development Program is to provide a coordinated model through which students can learn the desired competencies. It is also intended to provide the student with a portfolio to demonstrate their knowledge. Lastly, it is to provide a bridge between the world within MIT, the classroom and the residence, and the world beyond MIT, where our graduates work and live.
Appendix B: Freshmen Clusters
To facilitate freshmen class bonding and enable uniform residential programming for freshmen, first year students should be housed in high-freshmen density areas. This should be a region of 30-50 freshmen in physical proximity. Each cluster would have 3-5 URA's and 1 GRA. The freshmen cluster would be the focus of orientation and during-term advising. Each URA and GRA would have a small budget to enable them to take their freshmen on excursions, though larger programming would be run in coordination with the Housemaster of the residence hall.
Appendix C: Orientation Experiences
The Orientation Experiences (usually referred to as pre-Orientation activities) that are currently in operation have received unanimous acclaim from their participants. Freshmen who choose to attend the Freshman Leadership Program (FLP) or any other program meet a significant number their classmates in a comfortable setting and continue to develop friendships during the year from these initial gatherings, independent of whichever living group they choose. For this reason, we feel that all freshmen should participate in an OE program.
In order to establish a large number of these programs in a short period of time, we would like to enlist the help of student clubs. Within student clubs exists a support structure (a club government) capable of establishing a OE program for anywhere from 10-100 freshmen. The method of funding for these programs is described in the support section.
Club-based pre-orientation activities will also build a greater sense of an MIT community. Since participants in each activity will eventually select his or her own living group, the OE activity lays the foundation for inter-living group interaction. Clubs meeting during the year will further strengthen these bonds, and will reduce the living-group isolation which is a problem in the current system.
Ideas for Orientation Experiences:
Appendix D: Transition to Adulthood (Jeremy Sher)
The typical four years of an undergraduate university experience are an essential formative time for students. Students enter the university in most cases as teenagers in late adolescence; four years later, they leave the university as adults, with every concomitant right and responsibility that the word "adult" implies. (It is assumed that this topic applies to undergraduates, and not to graduate students; therefore, the undergraduate experience will be exclusively considered here, and the word "student" should be understood to mean "undergraduate student.") Since the role of the university is to prepare its students to be effective adults, the university must consider the facilitation and guidance of this transition to be at the very center of its educational mission.
Implicit in this consideration is the question of the extent to which, and the circumstances in which, it is appropriate for MIT to set standards and direct student behavior, as opposed to leaving students to make their own decisions. We must choose a route that is consistent with MIT culture and is in the best interest of the students. This question is itself a strategic issue, but we state it here as a common theme that impacts the strategic issues in this section and in other sections. The necessity to prepare students for life is one of the overarching dimensions of MIT's educational mission that echoes in any consideration of MIT student life. An attempt to articulate how best to accomplish this is the topic of this section.
KEY STRATEGIC ISSUES
Like any university, MIT has struggled with the issues discussed here since its inception. Quite naturally, as the times have changed, so have attitudes about the degree of student self-determination: no longer do we have parietal hours or gender-segregated residences (except for McCormick), and the philosophy of in loco parentis has long gone out of vogue. Decades ago there was not as strong an emphasis on student self-determination as what we are accustomed to today. Of course, this is a function of longitudinal changes in American culture at least as much as it is attributable to MIT's independent evolution.
However, there are some themes that have remained constant through the past several decades. The necessity of encouraging students to make decisions about some student-affairs issues has always been recognized by MIT. In 1956, the Ryer Committee noted that "MIT is justly proud of a well-established tradition of student self-government of a high caliber. On the undergraduate level, this tradition spans a period . . . beginning with the development of athletics and student activities well before the turn of the century" (p. 26). Clearly student self-determination, at least through the mechanisms of student government, has been a high priority of MIT for most of the Institute's history.
However, the Ryer Committee did recognize individual responsibilities of each student. The Committee (p. 24) declares that
In the operation of a university residential system as an educational agency rather than a mere caravanserai, substantial responsibility rests on the student as an individual. . . . He may be expected to have standards of self-respect, honesty, uprightness, and respect for the rights and property of others which will go far toward keeping him on an even keel in the new and more exacting world which he enters upon matriculation.
. . . The freshman should be able to seek counsel when the crucial or new confronts him; the upperclassman should afford him that counsel; and the university should maintain a system wherein these things can happen, preferably with only occasional guidance from the Faculty and administration.
This seems a compelling rejection, in 1956, of the in loco parentis philosophy. Today, at least, it seems clear that while guidance from older fellow students cannot provide for every need of a student for support, it does an excellent job of providing for many of these needs. MIT has somehow crafted a system in which students cooperate and depend on each other. This responsibility that students take for each other's well-being goes far toward a realization of the Ryer Committee's vision, which quite correctly pointed out the development of such a system as a valuable opportunity to prepare students for life. Conventional wisdom about the university's educational mission has evolved over time. In The Hidden Curriculum, Benson Snyder (writing in 1970) also notes a historical shift in this conventional wisdom (pp. 133 5):
In earlier times, the college population was considerably more limited, both as to numbers and as to social class. Indeed, until late into the nineteenth century, higher education had little explicit utilitarian value for its limited constituency. It was not for mass consumption. . . . The college reflected its religious (and English) origins in its curriculum Latin, Greek, mathematics, moral philosophy. The curriculum was designed to create mental discipline (while the college acted as moral supervisor) for a society and a culture that was perceived as stable . . .
By the twentieth century the open, elective system had become the dominant pattern . . . Its excesses and unintended consequences, a fiercely instrumental approach to education which led to trivialization of learning and vocationalism, served to characterize the problem that has confronted higher education in America.
There were more youths and less insistence that they become part of the labor market early in life; thus, adolescence was prolonged.
Reflecting on these ideas, we can identify at least two trends that have characterized the evolution over the past several decades of the conventional wisdom about the university's educational mission. One trend is a movement from the Ryer Committee's time to today toward a greater emphasis on individual choice. The Ryer Committee identified very clear responsibilities of student government to the MIT community, and of the individual student to the community group. However, the ideal of individual choice that seems so embedded in MIT culture today does not appear to have been a major emphasis forty years ago. It seems likely that this evolution in MIT culture is a direct result of a parallel evolution in the larger American culture.
Complementing the trend toward increased expectations of individual autonomy, there has been a simultaneous trend toward the prolonging of adolescence. Snyder observed this as a trend until 1970; since that time, it is safe to say that this trend has continued and has grown. The university must still act to prepare students for life, but it need not necessarily refrain from offering guidance and support to students who could benefit from such advice. In preparing students for life, the university should see itself as a "practice ground" for adulthood, in which students are able to try and test their new independence within the framework of a supportive community. We will expand on this idea in the Philosophical Discussion below.
The facilitation and guidance of the student's transition from adolescence to adulthood is one of the university's most fundamental educational roles. The educational mission of the residential university necessarily extends beyond strictly academic pursuits. Indeed, such a university as would not see student life as a fertile ground for educational opportunity, for preparing the student for life, thereby fails to achieve its full potential. The responsible university, recognizing that students mature into adults while they reside within it, must see the preparation of students for life the facilitation and guidance of their transition to adulthood as a core element of its educational mission.
This does not imply that MIT should act in loco parentis. Quite the opposite, the university should act as a practice ground for adulthood, and this can be accomplished only by viewing students basically as adults. It is understood that the university is a "safe" place for students to try concepts of independence, autonomy, living on one's own, making one's own personal decisions, etc. Mistakes made within the university framework will often have an effect less severe than they might in the "real world," and seldom will they scar the student for life. At the same time, the university must, if it wishes its education to be a true preparation for independent adulthood, allow students the freedom to investigate and experiment with their independence. It should therefore refrain, to the maximum extent possible, from making personal choices for its students.
One of the most important transitions that characterize the student's broad transition to adulthood is the acquisition of intentionality in one's lifestyle that is, the transition from external motivation to internal motivation. The university must facilitate this transition; it is not guaranteed to happen, and if it is agreed that the university's broad educational role is to prepare students for life, it follows that the university must provide for its students to learn intentionality. As a recurrent theme, we will attempt in different contexts to identify the desirable balance in a student's life of direction from the university and independent self- direction. Clearly both extremes on the one hand, a complete anarchy, and on the other, the university acting in loco parentis are undesirable at least in that they fail to facilitate the student's transition to adulthood.
The first key strategic issue that appears above reflects the consideration that since the university must prepare the student for life, the environment it provides for academic learning must be conducive to students' acquisition of intentionality in their life, work and budgeting of time. The second key strategic issue is a consequence of the need for MIT to allow its students to practice intentionality as much as possible, which they cannot do if large-scale decisions concerning their personal lives are often made for them regardless of their views. MIT must, therefore, seek consensus with its students on macroscopic student-life issues; in so doing it will encourage exactly the kind of independent thought that students need to develop and exercise, while keeping students informed of the realities and constraints of the situation, to ensure that they appreciate that there are necessarily limitations not on what is allowed, but on what is possible. By informing students of these limitations and allowing them to make their own decision, or to decide in conjunction with the Institute, on a large-scale student-life issue on the basis of those limitations, MIT will fulfill a major part of its commitment to prepare students for life.
THE COMMUNITY OF SCHOLARS
Most universities have a certain measure of collegiality, but at MIT we take it a step beyond that. The triumph of MIT is that it really is a community of scholars, in which the expected norm is to judge each idea on its merit, regardless of whom it came from. Students, faculty, administrators and staff are able, more here than at probably any other university, to see themselves as co-workers and fellow citizens of a community of learning.
A student who feels part of such a community is challenged to exercise independent thought, to set priorities, to make personal decisions, and to interact with others respectfully. This is why the "community of scholars" is so central to the student's transition to adulthood.
In a collegial community, decisions are made by consensus. Therefore, one facet of MIT's "community of scholars" must be the value of seeking consensus with students on administrative decisions that affect them (or will affect future students). Of course, unanimity on any issue is unrealistic, but it will be necessary to aim for a broad and general consensus of students in support of any student-life decision. The more the decision is likely to affect students, the more critical this is.
Everything the Institute does regarding students must be done with the central goal in mind of facilitating and guiding the transition to adulthood.
BARRIERS TO ADULTHOOD
Although there is much about MIT that impacts this transition positively, there are some aspects of the MIT experience that currently have a very negative effect on students' ability to become self-motivated. The current problem of academic pace and pressure figures critically among these.
Learning to be intentional is one of the crucial transitions from adolescence to adulthood. However, the severe level of academic pace and pressure that students face at MIT impedes this maturation process by making the intentional self-budgeting of time and effort impossible. Students do not and cannot learn intentionality if they are constantly overburdened by external pressures, if they are constantly forced to run from one overdue commitment to the next most overdue. If there is one critical reason that the Institute must take pace and pressure seriously, it is this: MIT's very high pace and pressure may have a positive impact on the amount of declarative knowledge students are able to take in, but the university in which such high levels of pressure exist is not teaching students to be self-motivated adults. And for all that it may do well, the university that does not teach adulthood thereby falls short of its potential.
There are those who might argue that MIT's high pace and pressure does aid students in learning intentionality, because it forces them to prioritize, to decide the order of importance in which to place the things they would like to do, and then to spend their time as they have decided. It is true that MIT's current level of pace and pressure does do this, but this is not intentionality. Students understand, under the current system, that they cannot accomplish all of the work that purports to be required of them; thus, they assess (often, quite mechanically) which piece of work is likely to be most important to their GPA or future success, and assign that work the first priority. Snyder characterizes this behavior eloquently in The Hidden Curriculum as "selective negligence." Indeed, MIT students are "selectively negligent" in order to survive. They do not choose intentionally how to spend their time; they only react to what is required of them. Their degree of "choice" in the matter amounts to nothing more than a pragmatic assessment of what it is that is required. In short, MIT's current level of pace and pressure teaches students to be reactive rather than proactive; in so doing it fails to teach intentionality. There is also the consideration that the student who is as overwhelmed by work as most MIT students are cannot pay adequate attention to his or her own personal issues arising from the transition to adulthood.
Unfortunately, the problem of academic pace and pressure at MIT is very much systemic, but it must be satisfactorily addressed even if this means broad-based systemic change if MIT is ever to achieve its potential.
GUIDING THE TRANSITION
The university committed to facilitating the transition to adulthood eventually finds itself faced with a dilemma. Clearly it is necessary for the university to offer guidance in many areas to its students, but how shall it offer this guidance within the framework of cultivating student self-motivation and independent thought? How can we mediate between the two extremes of, on the one hand, placing too many boundaries on students so that their transition to adulthood is impeded; and on the other hand, offering too little guidance so that students find themselves with nowhere to turn for needed support?
A useful criterion to resolve this dilemma is to ask whether the "guidance" would be more likely to help or to hinder the student transition to adulthood. For instance, a program such as Counseling and Support Services is necessary, because it provides advice and counseling to those who request it, and it does not in any way impede students' independent thought. As another example, the idea of opening more dormitory dining halls is in harmony with student wishes, and it will also strengthen the communities in the dining-hall residences, which in turn adds to the human side of the students' education. And, while some students may not agree with everything in the undergraduate curriculum, few would take very far an argument that they are in a better position to judge a proper requirement for a degree than a faculty member would be, and the undergraduate curriculum (except insofar as it contributes to an inappropriately high level of pace and pressure) has a strong positive impact on students' later ability to function as adults.
As a negative example, however, the suggestion of the Strategic Housing Planning Committee of a few years ago, to move all undergraduates to west campus, does not appropriately fall under "guidance" because its educational value was questionable, while it would have impeded and infringed upon student self-determination to a severe degree. (The committee did not communicate with the community and ended up making recommendations that met with stiff opposition.) In the future, should there ever be any recommendation that ignores and directly opposes student concerns on a student-life issue to the degree of the SHPC, it must be justified very compellingly in terms of the benefits to the transition to adulthood before the thought of implementing it is entertained. Mandatory meal plans, for instance, given the deep-seated resistance to them among students on exactly the grounds of self-determination and personal choice, would fall into this category.
"CORE" AND "OPTIONAL" EXPERIENCES
Of course, the criterion proposed is quite vague, and most issues are unlikely to be as clean-cut as the preceding examples. One way to frame this basic idea in a somewhat more useful way is to ask whether there are any "core" facets of student life that the university must provide. There are at least a few: the university must be a safe place to live, free of harassment, and offer quality courses of academic instruction. These are examples of a "core" set of experiences that MIT bears a responsibility for ensuring. There are also many "optional" experiences that MIT bears a responsibility for providing or making possible, such as a particular type of residence, counseling support, nightly communal dining, athletics and extracurricular activities, etc. It is difficult to maintain that MIT should ensure that every student takes part in, say, a weekly soccer game, but it is difficult not to maintain that MIT bears a responsibility for making it possible to play soccer for those who wish to do so.
To elucidate some of the things that this "core" might include, we might ask what the qualities of adulthood are that flow from supporting the educational mission. In other words, with what "life skills" do we want students to leave MIT equipped? Such ideas as citizenship, general interpersonal skills, the value of teamwork, etc. come to mind. Again, MIT should not act in loco parentis, providing required "citizenship" activities and a "finishing school" for interpersonal skills. Rather, it should operate in the mode of making its general environment conducive to the acquisition of these skills by providing opportunities for teamwork (especially in academics), by providing ample realistic opportunities for social interaction, and by providing opportunities for citizenship and supporting the principle of service. Note that in none of these cases will it do to require certain activities or choices, since this may have exactly the opposite effect from what was intended on the life skills students will ultimately take with them.
As a general outlook, MIT must realize that its core is rather small, consisting of a few very important concerns, such as the absence of harassment. These, too, seem to fall into a general category of creating an environment conducive to learning, not of any specific experiences, no matter how potentially beneficial they may be. In the last analysis, the university cannot force the student to learn anything, and the extent to which it can force the student to behave in any particular way is quickly limited by practical as well as philosophical considerations. The issue of a nutritious diet is an example of this point: it is obviously in the student's best interest to eat a balanced diet, and the university most certainly has a responsibility to provide each student an opportunity to do so.
However, the university cannot force a student to eat anything, and while it is possible to erect a system of rewards and punishments to encourage healthy eating, this seems a silly and unwise distance to go for the sake of the few who may actually benefit (in the short term) from it. In the long term, no one would benefit from such a system, because it certainly does not encourage intentionality. Quite the opposite, with the university acting in loco parentis, it makes personal intentionality impossible, or at least quite a bit more unlikely. For the student (representing most) who would have chosen a nutritious diet anyway, if it were presented, such a stand in loco parentis renders a decision that would otherwise have been intentional merely a decision conforming to the system of rewards and punishments. If such a system actually changed any student's mind that is, made him or her eat a healthy diet when that is not what the student would have chosen in the absence of a reward-and-punishment scheme it actively works against intentionality, for such a decision is a reaction to a superstructure of requirements. There will always be a dedicated core of anti-nutritionists who prefer to eat candy in place of meals, even in the face of ample nutritional information and common sense, and in the end MIT must accept that there is very little it can do about this. It may take consolation, however, in recognizing that this group of candy-eaters is in all likelihood very small, and that if the opportunity is provided for a nutritious diet, a compelling majority of students are likely to take advantage of it.
STUDENT INVOLVEMENT IN DECISION-MAKING
It is imperative, and will become increasingly so, that students be involved at every stage of a major decision-making process that concerns them. Students should serve on committees in order to provide a student's perspective and ensure that the decision-making takes student realities sufficiently into account. Also, periodically throughout the process, the opinions of the larger student body on the issue must be actively sought out, so that the final decision represents a consensus between the administrative process and the student body it is meant to serve.
This is correctly interpreted as supporting the conclusions of the Bacow Committee report, released in 1994. The Bacow Committee (formally the Ad Hoc Working Group to Review Past Reports on Undergraduate Life and Learning) correctly notes that having students serve on committees is necessary but not sufficient to ensure proper student input into decisions. The student on a committee brings to the table an expertise: he or she necessarily has a better feel than the other committee members for student needs, for the likely immediate effect a decision will have on student life, etc. The student contributes this expertise to the group, just as a director of an MIT office might contribute the expertise of that office's perspective.
However, no individual student (not even the Undergraduate Association President) or small group of students can appropriately be assumed to convey the opinions of the average student on any given issue. Students on committees play a role in that they bring a special expertise to the table, and the UA should play a role as the official representative of the student body. If, however, an administrative process wishes to be successful, it will be necessary to work openly in the public arena to reach consensus with the entire community. This will often require significant initiative such, for instance, as the Institute Dining Review's evening visits last October to MIT living groups. It would be appropriate, if possible, to undertake such broad community involvement in cooperation with the UA. If this does not prove effective, however, the administrative process must undertake to gather community opinion on its own.
Moreover, it should be noted that MIT is undergoing a fundamental paradigm shift in the relationship between the administration and students. (Witness the events of the most recent Dean's Office Visiting Committee student meeting at which the students concluded by applauding the administrators in contrast with the bitter tone of the 1995 meeting.) It is safe to say that, while MIT has not yet achieved the ideal relationship between students and administrators, the general climate of distrust that only recently was MIT's operating norm no longer exists today.
OPTIONS FOR THE FUTURE
Appendix E: Advising (Sarah McDougal)
Advising should be interest based, not residence based (i.e. freshmen should be organized by FASes, not by floor). This will help build more sub-communities that interact with each other.
Each residence should decide for itself how it wants to deal with advising - what will work for Random Hall might not work as well for McCormick. However, central supervision (likely from Academic Services) should ensure that all programs are of MIT caliber. Some ideas for programming:
The fear is that another layer of formal advising would complicate things and give the student more things to do. The intention is to create more informal interaction in the dorms to increase communication and the body of community knowledge. A student also might be more likely to her URA or GRA if she has spent time recreationally with that person.
A few other ideas:
Appendix F: Student Leadership Program (John Hollywood)
II. Description of Student Leadership Training Class
III. Description of Practicum Program
We propose a program designed to train students as leaders and managers both on-campus and in their future careers. The program would include both a 12-unit class to be offered over IAP and a "practicum" program whereby students would be hired to work with campus improvement and maintenance projects.
II. STUDENT LEADERSHIP TRAINING CLASS
We propose the creation of a 12-unit class (probably pass/fail) that would cover important "hard" skills necessary to be a leader and a manager. The class would start this IAP. Currently, the curriculum would include the following:
A. Project Management. Would include the material covered by Duncan-Nevison's course on generally accepted project management principles, namely project planning, risk management, change control, and a few basics on teamwork. We would also include material on "run-time" management, discussing issues such as how to assign and manage people's time while the project is underway.
B. Negotiation. Would be similar to the material covered by Project Negotiation's one-week seminars, focusing on the work done by Professor Robert McKersie of MIT, Professor Richard Walton of HBS, and other members of the Project on Negotiation (popularized by Roger Fisher).
C. Communications Skills. Would include the following: (1) Effective Presentations. (2) How to conduct a meeting and run interviews. (3) Supportive confrontation. (4) Active listening. These would be based on the sessions offered by MIT consultant Karen Rancourt, MIT Ombudsperson Mary Rowe, and Residence and Campus Activities (especially by former Dean Mary Ni).
D. Ethics. Material to be determined.
E. Complete training for the Student Resource Service, which includes a very detailed program on MIT's current organization and student resources.
F. LeaderShape (under discussion). We understand that LeaderShape may conduct a one-week program during IAP. We would like to coordinate with this program so that participants in this class would be able to participate in LeaderShape's personal development program, as well.
Training materials currently would include the following: -- GETTING TO YES (Fisher / Brown) -- A GUIDE TO THE PROJECT MANAGEMENT BODY OF KNOWLEDGE (Project Management Institute) -- STUDENT RESOURCE SERVICE GUIDEBOOOK, Third Edition (Institute Foundation)
To run this class, we would need the following resources:
A. A faculty sponsor(s) who would advise and oversee this project, and would guide us through the Committee on Curriculum's subject approval process.
B. Lecturers for all of the above topics. (We can provide the lectures on MIT's organization and resources ourselves.)
C. Funds sufficient to pay for training materials and lecturers.
III. STUDENT LEADERSHIP PRACTICUM
We propose a program that would place students on campus improvement and maintenance projects such as Reengineering efforts, task forces, Institute Committees, and improvement projects internal to MIT agencies. Students would provide managerial and administrative support to these efforts, for which they would receive credit or pay. The program would be open to anyone, although graduates of the student leadership class (or similar programs) presumably would receive preference.
To run this program, we (or the sponsoring agency) would need the following resources:
A. Staff to coordinate the recruiting and placement of students for this program. (The staff could be volunteer.)
B. Funds necessary to support the recruiting and placement staff.
C. Widespread requests to have "student administrators" on campus improvement and maintenance projects.
Implementing this student leadership training program would be very beneficial to MIT student body (both to students in and outside the program), to MIT itself, and to the world outside of MIT.
First, the program would help students develop critical skills for use both here and in the outside world. As we all recognize, students with leadership skills will have more opportunities both in their careers and in their personal lives than those who do not. Here at MIT, students who go through the program would have the knowledge needed to make valuable contributions to the MIT Community.
The program would be useful to students who do not go through it, as well. We expect that students who go through the program would be heavily involved in student government and other campus improvement programs. These trained students would influence these programs to use generally accepted practices that would help these programs to meet the needs and requirements of the student body.
Second, the program would be very beneficial to MIT. In the short term, having "student administrators" would address MIT's current manpower shortage for campus improvement projects. Currently, many projects are having a very difficult time finding the manpower necessary to carry out their work, due to early retirements, turnover, hiring caps, and the need to maintain current systems. Students could provide critical managerial and administrative support to these projects. For example, students on a 10-20 hour a week UROP could develop project plans; supervise work assignments; conduct interviews; facilitate meetings; write ideas into proposals and reports; and so on. As an added benefit, students are far less expensive to hire than temporary or full-time employees.
In the long term, we believe this program would create a large body of students very likely to become managers, entrepreneurs, and executives. These alums would look very favorably on the unique opportunities and training they were given at MIT, and would "return the favor" both by direct contributions and by directing research funds towards MIT. The latter is critical as we seek to replace diminishing government funding.
This program also would help MIT's reputation and its recruiting efforts. We are hard pressed to find a recruiting motto better than "Come to MIT and Help Run The World's Premiere Research University." Further, the program, combined with campus improvement efforts supported by the program, would only drive up MIT's student satisfaction ratings. As we know, this is the only area where MIT's ratings lag; a well-executed campaign in this area could make us undisputedly the nation's premiere university.
Finally, we believe MIT has a duty to provide students with managerial and leadership training. First, MIT is conceived as a community of students, faculty, and administrators. As we know, however, these groups are fragmented from themselves and from each other. We believe that this program would help break down these walls and move us towards our ideal of a true community of scholars.
Next, MIT has a duty to produce technically-literate leaders. The demand for managers who understand science and technology is increasing rapidly; one need only look at the comic strip "Dilbert" to understand this critical need. And, no other university is better positioned -- or has a greater responsibility -- to train these leaders. Perhaps MIT President Julius A. Stratton best addressed this responsibility when he said:
"... The men and women themselves who graduate from MIT are by far the most valuable product that we have to give to our country or to the world. They are, in fact, the essential reason for our being, and we shall be judged not only by the quality of their intellectual discipline, but equally by the firmness of their moral fibre, by their attitudes towards the whole of learning, by the manner in which they speak and act, and by their understanding of the obligations of a citizen." (1963)
Appendix G: Residential Advising (Hermann Haus)
An alternative way to assign freshmen to residence halls is to assign freshmen based on their Freshmen Advising Seminars and having their Associate Advisors serve as URAs. This will avoid duplication of efforts and encourage coordinated programming and advising
Appendix H: More Time Off? (Lisa Tatterson)
To provide for continuous orientation and for more comprehensive during-term programming, two or three days without academic classes could be inserted into the calendar, with concurrent expansion of the term at the beginning or the end to prevent losing academic time.
Appendix I: Letter of Invitation
MIT is beginning an exciting new experiment. Faculty, students, staff, and alumni/ae will be working together to design a world-class residence system.
A steering committee is guiding the process, but it is essential that many non-committee members participate in this fundamental redesign of residence life at MIT. One avenue for community members to participate is the IAP residence system design team competition. Everyone at MIT is eligible to be a team member, with the exceptions of the committee members, Chancellor Bacow, and Deans Williams, Hodges, and Bates.
I am writing to ask you to be a member of my team.
While I am one of the members of the MIT community who doubts that requiring freshmen to live in residence halls is the best way for MIT to go, for the duration of the contest I have decided to embrace the idea wholeheartedly. I want to contribute my time, energy, knowledge, and experience to designing the best damn residential system in the world for the best damn university in the world.
I have learned a lot about residence life in the almost three-and-a-half years I have been at MIT. I have also learned that everyone in this community has valuable knowledge and experience to contribute. I would be honored to work with you on this opportunity to design the residence system at MIT.
If you know of anyone else, in your office or elsewhere, who would be interested in participating, please let me know or ask them to contact me. The more hearts, minds, and souls we have working on this project the more successful it will be.
Please do not hesitate to ask me any questions you might have. More information about the process is available at (http://web.mit.edu/residence/systemdesign/)
PS: Bill Hecht, chairman of the steering committee, announced yesterday that the winning team will be sent to Cambridge University, England, on a 'fact-finding' mission to examine its residential system. The second place team will be flown either to Stanford or CalTech for the same purpose.