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Community input is crucial

An essential part of the cost reduction plan is community input and effort. Several initiatives have been developed to foster response from the community to make the best decisions regarding Institute finances. Among those initiatives are several new committees and an anonymous e-mail box for suggestions.


On February 7, IdeaBank, the anonymous e-mail suggestion box, had its debut. IdeaBank was developed to gather input from everyone at MIT as to how we can save money and operate more efficiently and effectively. Since its inception IdeaBank has received about 90 messages suggesting better ways to operate.

"They've all been good suggestions," said Provost Mark Wrighton, who reads every message and initiates action or research concerning the ideas. "We're putting a number of them to work right away."

Through this new system, the administration hopes to gather people's thoughts about inefficiencies that they see in their every day work-examples of waste and better ways of doing things.

Messages are read by Dr. Wrighton and may also be read by Assistant Provost for Administration Doreen Morris or Vice President for Information Systems James D. Bruce who helped set up the suggestion box. They are then passed on to the appropriate task force or senior officer for review or action.

The comments so far vary from concerns about over-heating the buildings to recycling to a suggestion that MIT offer for-credit tele-courses to generate revenue. The tele-credit course idea is currently being discussed by the Education Committee which includes the deans, members of the provost's office and the chair of the MIT faculty.

A number of themes have developed in the suggestions received thus far. A majority of the messages deal with improving Institute mail through reduction or elimination of non-reusable envelopes, reducing the number of publications produced or limiting their distribution, instituting an early retirement program, and charging more for parking.

The Institute parking and transportation committee has studied the parking messages from IdeaBank and has developed a survey that will appear in the December 1 issue of Tech Talk and will also be mailed to a sample of employees. The survey will gather information about people's transportation needs and financial situation to make informed transportation/parking decisions, including possibly raising the fee for parking.


All suggestions are received anonymously by IdeaBank. Your own copy of the message will have your name in the "From" space, but the message received by IdeaBank will read "anonymous user" in the "From" column. If you would, however, like to receive a response to your comments, you can include your name (and/or e-mail address) in the body of the message. Send your message to the e-mail box . Messages can also be sent to IdeaBank by Institute mail to room 3-208.


As MIT studies its own processes to make improvements and cut costs, a number of staff and faculty are being, and will be, appointed to different study committees and teams. These cross-functional teams are designed to bring together input from many areas across campus to help implement the best solutions to cutting costs and making improvements.

To start, a number of people were added to last year's Academic Council task forces on academic areas, support services, administration and new revenue.

In addition, a number of study groups were established in specific areas. These groups, including the Publications Services Review Group and the Mail Committee, were asked to study an area that cuts across the Institute's functioning and develop recommendations.


The Publications Services Review Group was set up a year ago to review how MIT produces publications and to make recommendations on how cost, quality and service can be improved. The Institute has been spending $16 million to $20 million each year on printing and publications-related expenses and the number of publications produced has been increasing.

People selected for the committee include some of those most involved with printing at the Institute: representatives from Graphic Arts, Public Relations Services, Alumni Association, Resource Development, Information Systems, Industrial Liaison Program, Research Laboratory of Electronics, Libraries. The committee is headed by Stephen D. Immerman, director of special services in the Office of the Senior Vice President.

The group has been looking at questions of organization, new technologies, purchasing policy, possibilities for out-sourcing, and new services.

PSRG expects to complete its report around the end of the year.


The Mail Committee, chaired by Katherine R. Cochrane, director of alumni information services and resources, was set up in July and was charged with re-evaluating the Institute's entire mail services including all ingoing, outgoing and interdepartmental mail. The group's evaluation includes bulk mail, express mail and the possible uses of e-mail. They also are looking at the Institute's mailing lists. They will study the new technology available and try to find ways to cut costs in MIT's mail operation.

The group is in the process of conducting two surveys-one which appeared in Tech Talk a couple weeks ago and one that was conducted with academic officers concerning their department needs. The surveys will be evaluated over the next month or so. The committee expects to issue some preliminary recommendations in the beginning of next year.

Members of the committee include staff from the Alumni Association, Admissions Office, Research Laboratory of Electronics, Physics Department, MIT Press, Public Relations Services, Operations and Systems, Purchasing and Stores, Physical Plant, Bursar's Office, and Graphic Arts.

Other working groups and committees will be established over the next few months as other projects are identified. (See related story on reengineering on page 1.)

A version of this article appeared in the November 22, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 15).

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