Friday October 11, 2002
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State of the Institute from one student’s perspective

By Jody Shaw Editor-In-Chief

It’s that time of year again. The faculty and staff members take a break from researching and grading midterms, put on their cleanest mismatched clothing ensembles and gather in the Student Center ballroom on a Tuesday afternoon. There, Institute President Wayne Clough presents the highlights of the past year and his goals for the next. It’s called the “State of the Institute” address.

Usually later in the same week, Omicron Delta Kappa sponsors a student version of the address, when the president delivers a similar address to the student body and answers questions. The address usually hits all the issues about which students are dying to know-like what new research buildings are being built, what new research money Tech received and who will be doing the research with the money and the buildings. In all seriousness, it is an informative report, if usually one-sided to show only the Institute’s successes.

Due to scheduling issues, however, Clough will not be able to deliver the address to the students until late November. I know what you’re thinking: “How will I make it until then? I must know the state of the Institute now.”

Well, don’t worry. I’ve decided to use the power of the press to give a student version of the State of the Institute address. I am, of course, imminently qualified for this task, having spent just over two years here at Tech, never having attended another university, never having any experience in education and being only functionally literate.

Based on my observations, I can easily say the state of our Institute is strong. (This is the part where you put down the paper and start clapping. Go ahead. Do it. No one is watching). Though Tech seems to be headed in the right direction overall, you, the Technique reader, deserve more than a one-sentence statement from your Editor-in-Chief. Well, here goes-the State of the Institute, student-style.

Institute leadership: You know these guys-G. Wayne, Jean-Lou and the rest of the suits up in Carnegie. And you know they rock. Take Clough for example. What else could you want from a university president? He’s warm and personable, yet managerial and intellectual. And with that beard, he’s got the perfect look, too. Like any good chief, he also surrounds himself with a strong supporting cast to run the Institute while he works on schmoozing, fundraising and beard-grooming techniques. Grade: A.

Academics: In last year’s address, Clough said he wanted to provide a more “student-focused” education. I’m not really sure what that means, but it seems like we’re doing okay here, though we are still seeking that elusive perfect balance between the research enterprise and classroom instruction from the faculty. The more I learn about the new CS alternative, the more I believe my initial opinion was probably a little bit off-base. The new Ivan Allen College degrees seem to be great additions to the social science programs, and renaming the MSM to an MBA was a good move as well. Grade: B.

Auxiliary services: Rosalind Meyers, the ‘Nique’s favorite target for years now, never gets enough credit; she’s got the toughest job at the Institute, with the exception of maybe Chan Gailey, and she does it well. Everything is improving in auxiliary services whether students believe it or not. The biggest challenge in the coming year for Meyers will be filling the void left by Parking Director Rod Weis’ departure-the man who brought meaning to a Tech parking pass, though often through enforcement measures that brought students to tears or profanities. Grade: A.

Student life: Classes are tough, the city is expensive and we are generally unhappy. Still, retention is up and students are staying at Tech more, which means they are either enjoying life here and just like to complain, or Tech students don’t place much value on things like “fun.” It could be either. With the advent of events like Ramblin’ Nights and the move of the Ferst Center to the jurisdiction of Student Affairs, there seem to be more things to do around campus, even if most students choose weekend fun that is slightly more fermented. The Greek community still dominates this arena for better or worse. Grade: B

Student organizations: Will we ever work together? Over-entrepreneurship remains the dominant trend among student organizations, as folks rush to fill apparent “needs” on campus without stopping to talk to ask if anyone else is working on the issue or if anyone actually cares. Even the non-student groups, like Auxiliary Services, have been getting into the organization building business, with this summer’s creation of Emerging Leaders, yet another outlet to help freshmen find their “leadership potential.” A group like Presidents’ Council could be the solution, but it is young and lacks a clear mandate from other organizations. A number of individual organizations, however, do great things with small budgets, which helps raise the overall performance in this area. Grade: C

If each of these categories were worth three hours, like an average class, the Institute’s grade point average would be a 3.2-not bad considering the average student GPA around campus. Clearly, the State of our Institute is indeed strong.

Tech is in a truly unique position. Never before has it been in a position to so drastically influence the city, state and nation with its research and graduates. Everything needed in today’s uncertain world-from engineers to encryption technology to linguists to policy makers-is being produced at Tech. People are starting to notice our progress in both academic and non-academic areas, and Tech will continue to flourish as we continue to make efforts to improve all the areas of our campus.