Opinion letter to the editor

Who lost Senior House?

A call to action for the MIT Corporation

Thousands of hours of student time were lost preparing for, attending, and following up on meetings that were part of the official Turnaround, Probation, and Readmission processes for Senior House, all of which failed. These failures can be attributed to poor leadership. The Turnaround process lacked clear goals, objectives, and evaluation criteria. The Probation process lacked clear goals, objectives, and evaluation criteria. The Readmission process had the vague goal of creating "a new community" but no clear evaluation criteria.

For MIT's top administrators (President, Vice-President, Provost, and Chancellor) to put students through such clearly flawed but time-consuming processes was, at best, amateurish. Due to the gross imbalance of power, students felt compelled to devote considerable time to try to save their community by participating in the administration's ill-defined Turnaround, Probation, and Readmission processes, each of which, lacking clear goals, objectives, or criteria, was doomed to fail.

Affected students were naturally reluctant to raise this issue with the very academic officers who still wield immense power over them, and this hesitation may be exacerbated by the fact that each of the three processes was initiated and terminated unilaterally by the administration, without student input or consultation, accompanied by statements blaming the entire Senior House community. In a rare public account, an MIT Admissions blogger reports having "spent late nights drafting documents to present at these meetings, losing sleep only to have to wake up that next morning for even more 8 a.m. meetings. I missed classes and mandatory recitations... I was exhausted, overcome with guilt, and felt powerless. Hours and hours of meetings, writing, and planning for nothing... once again, with no discussion, the nuclear option was taken..."

To protect these students from further harm, and to protect other and future students from similar harm, the MIT Corporation should fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to investigate how the Institute’s senior leadership came to compel the waste of thousands of person-hours of precious MIT student time. The Corporation should then direct corrections to any misaligned programs, policy, or personnel, in order to ensure that MIT upholds its core values, and that students can safely pursue their studies.

James J. Pekar, Ph.D.
S.B. Physics ’81, Senior House resident ’77-’81