Are You There Chris? It’s Us, Students.

In August 2008 the newly-appointed Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo told The Tech that “there is a process where the conversation goes both ways” in regards to student life policy. However, this vital communication pipeline has been ineffectual or broken down in a number of areas since Dean Colombo took office last year.

The Division of Student Life’s job is made especially difficult given the Institute’s budget crunch. But there are ways Dean Colombo can ensure that students remain an active part of policymaking. Reports from Institute committees, visiting Corporation committees and task forces, such as the Student Support Services task force and the Division of Student Life Visiting Committee, should be made publicly available. MIT students are a fantastic source of ideas and it pays off to give them the data they need to contribute to a meaningful discussion on policy. We have proven this — the budget task force solicited student input and incorporated that input into their report. And especially when student life decisions hang in the balance, an administrator’s interpretation of report or survey is not always correct.

In this spirit, The Tech calls on Dean Colombo to engage in active discussion regarding current DSL activity. Why have the deliberations on dining reforms stalled? Two committees, one tasked by the administration and the other by the Undergraduate Association, have submitted dining recommendations to Dean Colombo. And why have we seen a number of controversial changes within Student Support Services, including the dismissal of women’s advocate Lynn Roberson and S^3 Co-Director Jacqueline Simonis? S^3 is a “first line of defense” for students who are struggling or ill, and significant changes to its structure warrant public explanation. The Tech would like to know why the DSL has shown a lack of initiative in some key areas and publicly unjustified reforms in others.

By making data collected by Institute Committees and Task Forces open to the public, soliciting input from students and outlining a clear direction for the Division of Student Life, Dean Colombo can make more informed and effective policy. Active student engagement is a crucial part of two-way communication and should be a core characteristic of Dean Colombo’s administration.