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New Ideas for MIT

Institute-wide Planning Task Force releases preliminary report.
October 20, 2009

Create a market for space on campus. Launch a summer program for non-MIT undergraduates. Streamline and digitize more administrative processes.

These are some of the more than 200 ideas proposed in the preliminary report of the Institute-wide Planning Task Force, which was asked to identify opportunities to reduce MIT’s expenses by $50 million to $100 million over the next two to three years, starting with the 2011 fiscal year. These cuts would follow an initial $58 million expense reduction already under way for FY2010.

Task force members were charged with exploring how MIT translates its mission into day-to-day operations and finding ways to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of these operations. The approximately 200 faculty, staff, and students on the task force have been working since February.

Their report, released in August and available at ideabank.mit.edu, contains some ideas that are sufficiently well developed to be implemented this fall. Others will take months or years to evaluate and will require extensive consultation with the many faculty, student, and staff committees that are integral to the Institute’s culture of shared governance.

That culture powerfully shaped the process that the task force and its nine working groups followed. David ­Singerman, a graduate student in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society and one of the members of the working group on student life, says he and his colleagues on the panel went about their work with “a shared sense of experiment” and a belief that “this whole place is in it together.”

Cochair of the student-life working group Steven R. Lerman ‘72, SM ‘73, PhD ‘75, who is vice chancellor and dean for graduate education, says he was impressed that so many people the group heard from “were really ready to embrace significant changes.”

One strong recommendation that emerged from that working group was to find creative ways to use undergraduate dormitory space during the summer. “Wouldn’t it be better to find ways to use that capacity, rather than just letting it sit empty?” says Lerman, one of three coördinators of the task force. He adds that finding appropriate uses for the space could represent a “win-win.”

Members of the MIT community were able to share their feedback on the preliminary report through the early fall. The task force was scheduled to complete its final report by the end of October.

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