Three years ago, Susan Allen arrived at MIT as the advisor to student activities. Since that time, several facets of student life have improved, largely through the attention and commitment of Assistant Dean Allen. From student activity finances to event registration, from mediation@mit to the Committee on Campus Race Relations, from the BSU (Black Student Union) lounge renovation project to administrative advising of GaMIT (Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders, and Friends at MIT), Dean Allen has been a driving force behind so much positive change at the Institute, that her departure is a serious loss. In light of the above, it is frustrating that some factions of the MIT community seem to have reveled in singling out Dean Allen with nitpicking virulence to criticize her (often brave) stances on various issues and her work in reshaping administrative policy. Dean Ayida Mthembu notes that Dean Allen has been an innovator on this campus. [She] doesnt hesitate to do the right thing, whatever that might be, and people get flak when they're visibly vocal. Certainly, any administrator who maintains visibility on issues of racism and refuses to ignore or erase effects of inequality is often dismissed or vilified. And Dean Allen, a Black woman who unapologetically spoke out and advocated for change at MIT, not surprisingly became a target for both student and administration backlash. As graduate student Robin Chapman explains, she's not someone they're necessarily used to listening to and hearing no from. As such, students have felt empowered to resist her. Criticisms that were leveled at Dean Allen during her time at MIT most often showed an incomplete understanding of the complexity of issues that impact upon student life at the Institute. Indeed, Dean Allen is one of the few administrators who has the vision and sensitivity to truly foster campus community and student empowerment; her work has been dedicated to students and their needs through education, understanding, and respect. Toward Clarity: Policy and Structure As advisor to student activities, Dean Allen explains that one of her first priorities was to put some order to things in the way student groups were treated, advised, and governed at MIT. This was no small task; at the time of her arrival, most procedures and regulations for student activities lacked organization, clarity, and enforcement. There was no structure in place within the Office of Residence and Campus Activities (RCA) that connected the administration of student activities with the finances of student groups. The process of planning an on-campus event was confusing, and the rules governing registration were unevenly enforced. The ASA (Association of Student Activities), the group responsible for the administration of student group recognition and office allocations (among other functions), lay dormant. Additionally, Dean Allen's position had no explicit communication with either the administrator of student accounts (currently Eleanor Crawford) or the administrative assistant for the Undergraduate Association (currently Lelo Masamba), both of whom play an integral role in the day-to-day operations of student groups. Recognizing these obstacles, Dean Allen saw [her] job as involving making connections, and creating a student activities office that had an understandable structure. Within the next year, the re-organization of student accounts, the development and fostering of student leadership and creative problem solving, and the drafting of an official Alcohol Policy and Event Registration Process marked the change and restructuring of RCA through Dean Allen, as she, all the while, sought to maintain an emphasis on making people aware of the whole process. These re-assessments and changes of policy pertaining to student activities became a popular target for criticism and venom, doted on like a spoiled child by some parts of the student population. The RCA enforcement of the 1989 MIT Audit Division's policy of no outside student group bank accounts was a particularly contested issue. Dean Allen described the situation as an issue of things making sense for 250 student groups. Her efforts focused on developing strategies and structures within RCA and student activity administration such that student groups could adhere to Institute policy while also enjoying an accounting system that would meet their wishes. Again, hammering out a workable solution was no small feat, considering the high percentage of groups which suffered from poor financial management. Student groups were operating with negative balances (often without being aware of their situation), they had no records of their financial transactions, and money was being lost through irresponsible accounting, poor documentation, and questionable bookkeeping. While a few student groups may have enjoyed a level of convenience in outside accounts, the dire financial situation of many other groups, as well as the confusion and disarray of the system as a whole, demanded a fundamental re-structuring of student group accounting. Through the combined efforts of Dean Allen, Eleanor Crawford, and Lelo Masamba, the accounting system has improved tremendously; groups now enjoy descriptive records of their transactions from as far back as 1991, a process for making account transactions that is straightforward, and a drastically shortened turnaround time for obtaining funds. Dean Allen also engaged in the development and implementation of new policies associated with RCA, from the now-established Alcohol Policy to the Event Registration Policy. In her own words, the work required in holding an on-campus event is an involved process, but one that need not be confusing or inflexible. Dean Allen's goal has been to create policies that document and make explicit MIT's legal guidelines and motivations, while at the same time outlining a process that creates as little red tape as possible. By structuring Institute concerns in this way, Dean Allen has made it possible for student groups to find creative alternatives, making arrangements for people that wouldn't otherwise be possible. And the new policies have simply resulted in events going off without the hitches that there used to be. Similarly, Dean Allen has worked with student government groups, and especially with the ASA, to implement structures and organize procedures for clearer understanding of and among student groups. ASA was effectively inactive a few years ago, and has since become one of the motivating forces in restructuring student government. Office allocations, bulletin board space allocations, and student group recognition processes have all been resurrected, and as such the organization of student activities on campus has progressively improved. They've come a long way in three years, Dean Allen remarks. The re-assessment and implementation of RCA policy has been an undeniable factor in allowing the ASA to become the active group it is today; ASA's revitalization reflects another way in which Dean Allen's work has encouraged and facilitated student activities at MIT. On a broader scale, administrative support of students across the Institute has also been a focus for Dean Allen. When filling the position of advisor to student activities, the Dean's Office wanted someone who could change things and who would come in with skills to accomplish that change, according to Dean Andy Eisenman, who headed the search committee that invited Dean Allen to MIT. The development of both the mediation project (mediation@mit) and the student judicial system (going into effect February 1 of next year) highlights the knowledge and skills base Dean Allen has brought to this campus. Not only has Dean Allen accomplished positive change by creating new structures of support and recourse for students, she has also consistently brought issues and concerns of diversity and fairness to these efforts from the training of mediators, to the development of the mediation program in general, to the consideration of judicial and disciplinary problems. Toward Progress: Sensitivity and Support One remarkable example of her dedication to addressing racial diversity at MIT is represented by the establishment of the Committee on Campus Race Relations (CCRR) in 1993. Dean Allen's commitment to fostering communication and understanding around issues of race and diversity is nowhere more distinguished and inspiring than through her role in the creation of the CCRR convening the initial group that sought to make diversity a prominent part of MIT dialogue, participating in a national tele-conference on campus racial climates, forming the ad-hoc committee on race relations, and drafting the proposal sent to President Vest for an official Institute race relations committee. Sensitivity to the campus atmosphere around race and racism, and an incisive understanding of the changes needed for progress characterize her most influential and far-reaching accomplishments in the last three years. Ironically, Dean Allen is conspicuously absent from the membership of the CCRR, though she observes that the group is doing what I [had] wanted it to do. Though she was not included in the Institute's formal committee for addressing campus race relations, Dean Allen continued to be a vital part of the efforts in dealing with racial tensions and incidents at MIT. She was among the first administrators to notice the implications of the monkey image produced on the cover of the first-year picture book for the class of 98. Recognizing the potential harm to African American students on this campus with widespread circulation of the cover, Dean Allen sought to defuse the situation before protest and student mobilization became imminent. For first-year students to be introduced to race relations at MIT through anger and conflict with the picture book cover would have done more harm than good. Indeed, the timing of the picture book cover could not have been much worse. After the insulting and ineffective manner in which the administration dealt with the controversy of shouted racial slurs at PBE, after the pioneer efforts put into the creation of the Intuitively Obvious videos, and in the midst of an atmosphere of profound disenchantment and discouragement within the African American student community, the offensive cover would have had far-reaching effects on continuing race relations at the Institute. Those who balked at the president's action regarding the picture book cover clearly did not take into account, as Dean Allen had, the prevailing climate on campus at that time. In recounting the picture book incident, Dean Allen recalls, there was a situation [at her previous position at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst,] where the students of color were protesting a new policy of the administration. And one part of their complaint was with the administrators of color, for standing by something obviously harmful to communities of color on campus. When the picture book cover crossed Dean Allen's desk, it was clear that the repercussions of the monkey image asking what intuitively obvious meant would be significant. Twenty years ago when I was [an undergraduate] student and pushing the administration for change, we hoped that things would be different in twenty years, Dean Allen explains. So here it was, twenty years later, and it was obvious to me that the administration should act on it before the students had to deal with the hurt. Through her position in the administration, Dean Allen has maintained this consistent awareness of the impact of Institute policy and campus controversy on student life. While the details of her job, as Dean Eisenman describes it, puts her on the interface between the students and [the administration of] MIT, Dean Allen has gone beyond the usual involvement of planning events with students and student groups to proactively establish communications and support. Robin Chapman points out Dean Allen's interest in working with students as an investment in them learning about how to function within the regulations and framework of the Institute. They teach you so little of that here. She sees the importance of her role as a lesson in coping and dealing with the real world, while learning to find creative solutions. Indeed, Dean Allen's administrative support of a variety of campus groups has consistently been a fostering not only of administration-student communication, but of student empowerment. Her efforts focus on making students aware of the processes and vehicles for change in the administration; or as MIT graduate Kristen Nummerdor puts it, she works with you to explore all the possible options, and then helps you to shape a plan of action so that you are able to meet your goals and effectively make a difference. Many student groups and individual students have had the opportunity to work with Dean Allen in this way. Graduate student Deirdre Lawrence recognizes how Dean Allen has helped in so many ways, just by letting me know what kinds of issues or meetings were coming up [at the Institute] that would affect the BGSA (Black Graduate Student Association). Dean Allen's administrative support of GaMIT has been invaluable, working with the group's officers as acting Advising Dean for the last year through the Metal Detector Policy, in the midst of hate incidents, during conflicts and harassment from within the administration, and around difficulties with R/O week. The BSU also enjoyed the community and administrative connections established by Dean Allen throughout the three year-long project of its lounge renovation. And through some of Dean Allen's efforts, the Thistle and other campus publications in need of more support have become an issue for the administration. "In each of these situations, Dean Allen is consistent and genuine," says Chapman. "She doesn't play favorites, and she doesn't let people get away with things. But [Dean Allen] is so creative; she's always ready to work something out with you." Making Connections, Making a Difference "By creating networks and establishing communication between students, student groups, and the administration, Dean Allen has been instrumental in foregrounding the notion of student activities on this campus, [in creating] a strong Institute understanding of the importance of student groups," as Dean Ayida Mthembu explains. In the interest of student development, student voice, and student agency, Dean Allen has fostered connections and increased communication within the Institute. Dean Eisenman observes that Dean Allen has strengthened relationships with other areas of MIT by establishing contact between RCA, the Campus Activities Complex, the Campus Police, and even the Housing and Registrar's Offices as a part of improving the event registration process. Through Dean Allen's efforts, the mediation process and the new student judicial system both represent new structures within the Institute focused on bringing people with differences together. Dean Allen's approach to issues of racial diversity and understanding have also centered around encouraging dialogue between disparate groups. Dean Mthembu sums it up well in saying, "It wasn't a dean's position when Susan arrived, but she's turned it into one." Dean Allen's skill in cultivating communication is described by Dean Eisenman, who notes that she is always open for discussion and willing to change her mind or ready to stand her ground depending on the course of the discussion. She wants to let people be heard, and to talk things out. "[Dean Allen has] an honest way of dealing with the fact that there are differences, engaging in a process that is fair to people. One of the things that she'a always brought is integrity." Lelo Masamba comments that Dean Allen is "people-oriented and fair- minded." When asked to reflect on her work at MIT, Dean Allen explains, "there are a lot of things that have been started that I won't be able to see through to the end. Most of those things were good projects that I've wanted to be a part of." She concluded by noting that "some of MIT has worn off on me, and I hope that some of me has worn off on MIT. But I wouldn't expect that my leaving would be that big of a deal." On the contrary, many of us do indeed lament the departure of Dean Susan Allen. The legacy of changes in Institute structure and policy that she has fostered will positively affect student life for years to come. And the influences, lessons, and support enjoyed by students who have had the pleasure of working with Dean Allen will help us in the rest of our time at MIT, and in our lives after leaving the Institute. As Dean Mthembu declares, Dean Allen has given us a "model for making something out of nothing." I would like to thank Deirdre Lawrence, Robin Chapman, Lelo Masamba, Kristen Nummerdor, Margaret Jablonsky, and Andy Eisenman for taking the time to participate in interviews. Thanks also to Dean Ayida Mthembu and Assistant Dean Mary Ni, who were both vital to the formulation of this article. Finally, I thank Dean Susan Allen for her interview and for being one of the reasons I have thrived at MIT. This article was written with the help of Kristen "Nummi" Nummerdor, who also thanks Dean Allen for her wisdom and support.