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Many forces drive growth of MIT's support activities

There are about 4,000 members of the administrative, support, and service staffs on the MIT campus--2,500 in the administrative support operations, and about 1,500 within the academic programs and services. These people provide support services for an on-campus population of almost 14,000 faculty members, students, post-docs, research and other academic staff, and academic visitors such as visiting scientists.

Over the past ten years, the staff has grown by just over 300 in the support operations and just over 100 on the academic side.

This growth followed a period in the early 1980s when, as part of an effort to bring the budget into balance, some 400 jobs were eliminated, primarily in the administrative and support operations. About half of that staff reduction was achieved through attrition, that is, by not filling jobs that were vacated when someone retired or left to take a job elsewhere. But the rest, nearly 200 positions, had to be accomplished through layoffs. Through these and other serious cost-cutting measures, the budget was in balance again by the end of the 1984 fiscal year.

Why has the staff grown in the intervening decade?

On the academic side, some of the growth in the administrative, support and service staff was in response to a growing need for services that could not all be provided centrally, some had to do with the growth in programs and activities within the Schools, and some had to do with the increasing complexity of "doing business" in the face of increasing government regulations and funding changes. The largest percentage growth has been within the Schools of Architecture and Planning, Management, and Humanities and Social Science. There was a decrease in the School of Science, reflecting the closing of the Department of Applied Biological Sciences and the transfer of some related activities to other Schools and to the Provost's area. The size of the administrative, support, and service staff within the School of Engineering has remained fairly constant over this period.

Within the support operations, the areas of greatest percentage increase were in Resource Development (reporting to the Vice President and Treasurer) and the Association of MIT Alumni and Alumnae. These increases were tied to the Institute's need, in a changing economic climate and in an era of changing relations with the federal government, to generate a greater proportion of financial support from the private sector (foundations, corporations, and individuals). While the Campaign for the Future has concluded, the need for intensive fundraising activities in these areas has not.

The next greatest growth area was in Information Services, reflecting the growing need to provide computing services for teaching and research, as well as in operations such as the libraries. This was the period during which Project Athena was launched. James Bruce, Vice President for Information Services, estimates that there are well over 400 people throughout MIT (not just in IS) whose primary job has to do with computing.

Other areas where staff growth has been large in numbers, although not as large in percentage terms, include the Vice President and Secretary of the Institute and the Senior Vice President. The largest staff increases in the areas reporting to the Vice President and Secretary included Personnel, where the benefits services were reorganized and expanded; the MIT Press, associated with a doubling of sales and a significant planned growth in journals published; and the Medical Department, where the laboratory service was brought in-house (for a net cost savings) and several positions were added in the Environmental Medical Service to address government mandates about asbestos removal, radiation protection and other environmental concerns.

Within the operations reporting to the Senior Vice President, the largest staff increases had to do primarily with increasing security (both in the dormitories and through the addition of the Saferide service), and with the operation and maintenance of new buildings.

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

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