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Vest letter emphasizes mission

In a letter to the members of the reengineering redesign teams, President Charles M. Vest reiterated the importance of the mission to the Institute.

His letter said in part:

"What you are being asked to accomplish during the coming months is not a routine matter. We are asking for a revolution.

"We need to face the fact that universities are not immune to the need for change that has been felt, and acted upon, in other areas of American society, especially in our manufacturing-based companies. We are in the midst of an era of change brought about by the end of the Cold War, the globalization of the economy and advances in information technology.

"American higher education, and especially our great research universities like MIT, remains the best in the world by far. But our base of societal and financial support is eroding badly. And part of this erosion is our own fault. We persist in following systems and behaviors of a past age. Our administrative processes and systems are those of federal contractors from the '50s and '60s. They served us well in their time, and the federal government continues to expand the regulatory requirements that they place upon them. Nonetheless, they must change with the times. We must each see ourselves as providing the best possible services to our student and faculty customers as efficiently and effectively as possible. We must gain new levels of flexibility, robustness and cost effectiveness.

"We began to analyze our management structure and administrative processes for the simple reason that our budgets are out of balance. We are spending money faster than it is coming in. That must stop. But we have come to understand that the issues are far deeper than that.

"The world is changing around us. It demands lower costs in education; it views us as clinging to the past, unwilling to change and improve. We must regain the public trust if we are to realize our aspirations and serve the future as we always have. We will not regain that trust until we change substantively, becoming organizationally lean and effective. This cannot and will not be accomplished by thoughtless budget-cutting. It will be accomplished by you as you open your minds, pick up a blank sheet of paper, go back to basics and design administrative organizations, processes and systems for the 21st century."

A version of this article appeared in the September 21, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 5).

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