Two-way Student Communication

September 11, 2009

Dear Students,

At MIT, the free exchange of ideas—the insistence that anyone can walk down the hallway to exchange ideas and discoveries with a colleague in any discipline—is central to our identity. As Chancellor, one of my priorities is to work with students to make MIT a great place to live and learn.  And what has always worked in our labs and classrooms is no less critical in the community at large—frequent, open, and two-way communication about the MIT experience.

As you begin the new school year, please know that the student deans and I are committed to keeping you up-to-date and involved in the discussions and initiatives on campus.  At the same time, we are always interested in hearing what’s on your mind. Last spring, at the urging of students, we took steps to strengthen our two-way communications with students. I’d like to highlight some things that we are doing and suggest how you might share what’s on your mind.

What we’re doing:

  • This is the first in a series of monthly letters from the student deans that will address topics of importance to students related to life and learning at MIT.
  • We will host several events this year—including “Dinners with Dialogue” and “Cookies with Conversation”—and invite 20 or so students from across the Institute to participate in a dialogue at each event.  The agenda for each of these events, some for undergraduates and others for graduate students, is driven by the student participants.
  • We continue to work with students and other senior administrators on the Task Force on Student Engagement to ensure that Institute decisions affecting students consider student input.
  • We are exploring ways to use existing and new interactive communication mechanisms and will keep you posted as they are put in place.
  • We will continue to work closely with the UA and GSC and other student groups to prioritize student concerns and make joint progress in these areas. We meet regularly with the student government leadership and sponsor joint projects each year, such as the Student-Faculty Dinners.
  • We will continue to use email and websites as a vital way to communicate important announcements and keep you up-to-date on key decisions.

What you can do:

  • Send your ideas and thoughts to one of the student deans via the Dean’s Comment Box; they would love to hear from you.
  • Invite the deans/chancellor to your residence/group or set up a meeting with one of the student deans.  We welcome the chance to sit with you in your residence hall or FSILG to talk/listen in an informal setting. 
  • Encourage your student government representatives (for example: UA, GSC, DormCon, IFC, Panhel, ILG) to provide updates to you. Let them know about your ideas or concerns and give them feedback about their work.

One immediate way you can provide input on the future direction of MIT is via the recently published Preliminary Report of the Institute-wide Planning Task Force. Given the current economic downturn, MIT faces a challenge to reduce its budget to match the new environment of more limited resources. During the past year, the Planning Task Force, which included more than 20 students, worked to identify opportunities for efficiency and cost reduction at MIT. The result is over 200+ ideas, which have been published in the preliminary report. I encourage you to review the report and provide input on the ideas via the MIT Idea Bank.  After a comment period early this fall, a final report will be released.

Finally, in the coming weeks, you will hear a lot about the H1N1 influenza virus and the potential for exposure on college campuses. MIT Medical is prepared to support the community in a variety of ways – from information to vaccination and treatment. Through emails and the MIT Medical influenza website, we will keep you advised on resources and appropriate actions. At the same time, Student Support Services (S^3) is prepared to provide a full-range of support should you face personal challenges.

During the coming year, we will continue to explore and expand communication mechanisms to strengthen two-way communication and enable us to work together to shape our future. Please feel free to send me your thoughts, ideas, and questions at any time via the Chancellor’s comment box. The student deans and I wish you all a very successful school year and look forward to future conversations.

Phillip Clay
Professor of City Planning