Two years ago, as I was becoming more involved in MIT’s undergraduate student government, I read an article in the faculty newsletter by Martin Holmes et al. entitled The Task Force on Student Engagement: A Path Forward (<i>http://web.mit.edu/fnl/volume/204/martin.html</i>). The opening paragraph succinctly put the latest student engagement struggles into context: “In recent months, MIT’s undergraduates and graduate students have expressed concern about their role in certain decisions, including the way NW-35 was presented to the community, the conversion of Green Hall to undergraduate housing, and communication regarding W1 and student dining.” As I mentioned in a previous piece (One Undergraduate Voice, <i>http://tech.mit.edu/V130/N3/bennie.html</i>), members of the MIT Community have responded to this call for student engagement through a variety of efforts. Some of them have been very successful in informing students or collaborating with them, while others have fallen short.
In the wake of several hasty decisions by the MIT administration such as the decision to convert Green Hall to a sorority residence, a string of hacking incidents that resulted in arrests, the Star Simpson statement, and transparency problems surrounding the preliminary Blue Ribbon Dining Committee report, members of the MIT community began to evaluate the framework of student engagement. Administrators bolstered their communication staff and refined their methods of connecting and involving students in important decisions. Some faculty members began to question the merits and foresight of these decisions. Student leaders asked for more direct methods of communicating with senior members of the administration, which lead to the formation of the Task Force of Student Engagement (now the Student Engagement Committee).