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Massachusetts Institute of Technology


2009 Accreditation Report

Institutional Self-Study

3. Organization and Governance

MIT derives great strength from its tradition of unified Institute-wide organization and governance. This guiding principle influences structural and behavioral interactions among faculty, students, and staff. Undergraduates apply and are admitted to the Institute at large and may take classes and pursue majors in any school. Emblematic of our cohesive governance structure, the president convenes a weekly Academic Council meeting with the provost, vice presidents, chair of the faculty, all school and student deans, and associate provosts to discuss issues of importance to the Institute. All faculty promotion and tenure decisions are presented to the appointment subgroup of the Academic Council, whose members make an advisory recommendation to the president. Administrators, faculty, and students serve together on more than 30 Institute committees appointed by the president and Corporation. Combined with a culture that strongly promotes interdisciplinary research, MIT's organization and governance structures foster a collaborative approach to Institute planning and problem solving.



Just as there is one Institute faculty, a single governing board is responsible for the five schools and the Institute as a whole. The MIT Corporation derives its authority from the charter granted to the Institute by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts ( The Corporation is composed of approximately 78 active and ex officio members and close to 30 emeritus life members.

The MIT Corporation holds a public trust to ensure that the Institute adheres to the purposes for which it was chartered, that its integrity and financial resources are preserved for future generations, and that the needs of the present are appropriately balanced against future needs. The Corporation and its committees are responsible for reviewing and providing guidance on strategic directions, approving annual budgets, and exercising long-term fiduciary responsibility. Their duties also include approving new degree programs or courses of study that emerge from the faculty-governance process; approving degrees; electing the president and other Corporation officers; and being available, individually as well as collectively, to advise the president on issues that may arise.

While the Corporation as a whole meets four times yearly (generally the first Friday of October, December, and March and on Commencement morning), the majority of the Corporation's work is conducted through its various committees. These include the Executive Committee, the Investment Management Company Board, the Audit Committee, the Membership Committee, the Corporation Joint Advisory Committee on Institute-wide Affairs, and the Screening Committee for recent graduates. In their capacity as Corporation members, individuals also serve on multiple visiting committees. As described in Chapter 2, the visiting committees play a central role in both the governance and the evaluation of Institute functions. The financial oversight and management roles of the Corporation are described in Chapter 9, "Financial Resources."

The Executive Committee, which is charged with "responsibility for general administration and superintendence of all matters relating to the Corporation," 12  meets approximately 10 times each academic year. The president chairs the Executive Committee, which devotes substantial time to considering budget processes, financial planning, campus facilities, and academic planning. In recent years, the Executive Committee has had discussions about MIT's global-engagement strategy, campaign planning, and restructuring the Institute's financial framework, which resulted in the first balanced budget in many years. Over the last year, the Executive Committee met with each of the deans regarding academic planning, and it devoted considerable attention to the Institute's response to current financial conditions.

Further details on the Corporation, the work of its committees, and its membership may be found online ( and in the accreditation team room.

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Organization and structure

Although members of the MIT faculty are organized into the conventional structures of departments and schools, a longstanding tradition of Institute-wide faculty governance promotes a philosophy of "one faculty." Similarly, MIT's intellectual culture promotes the cross-fertilization of ideas through collaborations among its labs, centers, and programs, which bring together faculty from across the Institute. The departments provide long-term stability and the necessary structures to advise and mentor undergraduates, admit graduate students, hire and promote faculty, and award degrees. However, the myriad multidisciplinary initiatives make it easy to "go where the action is," regardless of one's primary academic appointment. The Energy Initiative is a particularly strong example. MITEI supports research in each of the five schools, including 17 different departments and numerous labs and centers. The Undergraduate Educational Commons Task Force attributed this unity of the faculty to mutual professional respect and consensus "that the entire MIT faculty [is] responsible for the education of undergraduate students. The reasons for this are twofold: first, to ensure that the undergraduate program is balanced; and, second, to ensure that the undergraduate program keeps pace with intellectual frontiers represented by the research activities of the entire faculty." 13 

While individual departments and schools regularly hold meetings, all are invited to come together for Institute-wide faculty meetings. Held monthly during the academic year, these meetings not only address matters relating to educational policy and undergraduate and graduate degrees, but also review recommendations and reports that have emerged from the Institute-wide faculty governance structure. Open to the entire MIT community, faculty meetings include a question-and-answer period with the president, provost, and chancellor.

The governance of the faculty is defined in the Rules and Regulations of the Faculty ( The officers of the faculty are its elected chair, associate chair, and secretary, and, ex officio, the president of the Institute, who is president of the faculty.

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Faculty committees

The faculty develops and carries out policy through its standing committees, almost all of which include student members. The standing committees of the faculty are the following: Faculty Policy, Graduate Programs, Undergraduate Program, Curricula, Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid, Academic Performance, Student Life, Discipline, the Library System, Outside Professional Activities, and Nominations.

Of particular importance is the Faculty Policy Committee (FPC). The FPC maintains a broad overview of the Institute's academic programs, deals with a wide range of policy issues of concern to the faculty, and coordinates the work of other faculty committees. After review, the FPC forwards the requests of the standing committees to the full faculty meeting for voting. The FPC is chaired by the chair of the faculty and includes eight additional faculty members, one undergraduate student, one graduate student, two nonvoting members designated by the provost, and one nonvoting member designated by the president. Both the president and the provost meet with the FPC each year.

Ad hoc committees are periodically formed to address particular issues and report back to the entire faculty. For example, different committees are current focusing on open-access publishing, promotion and tenure processes, and quality of life for faculty.

The committee system allows faculty members to examine issues in more depth than would be possible if items were presented only at the monthly meetings. Without faculty committees, certain changes, especially those related to the curriculum, could not be enacted. While certain committees overlap somewhat in their purview, that provides an effective safeguard to ensure that ideas are vetted, often multiple times, to key stakeholder groups. The committee system also gives students a voice in the process, as students are represented on all standing committees except Nominations. Chapter 4, "The Academic Program," discusses the efforts of faculty committees to ensure that MIT's educational programs keep pace with advances in research, technology, and pedagogy.

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Other links to the administration

Several informal structures also contribute to a strong working relationship between the Institute administration and the faculty. The president meets with past chairs of the faculty to hear their perspectives on issues facing the Institute. The president also meets monthly with the faculty officers to develop and plan the agendas for faculty meetings. As mentioned above, the chair of the faculty is a member of the Academic Council (AC), and he or she therefore can speak on behalf of the faculty in AC meetings. Throughout the academic year, the president also hosts monthly meetings of department heads from across the Institute to discuss important issues.

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Just as MIT's structures and philosophy reinforce the unity of the faculty, they bolster an unusually high degree of unity in its administrative functions. The Academic Council anchors this cohesion. Chaired by the president, the AC consists of the Institute's senior academic and administrative officers plus the elected chair of the faculty. The AC meets for two hours weekly during the academic year to confer on matters of importance to the Institute. In addition to its role as a central deliberative body, the AC is a vehicle for discussing and coordinating school-specific efforts. Each of the school deans is currently engaged in an academic planning process (see Chapter 2), which was reviewed at AC retreats and meetings throughout 2008–09. As outlined in Chapter 5, "Faculty," a subgroup of the AC—including the president, the provost, the five school deans, the three student deans, the associate provosts, and the director of libraries—reviews tenure recommendations proposed by the individual schools.

MIT's senior-leadership structure is shown on the Institute's organization chart (found in Appendix 1, Prefatory Matter, and online at The Corporation bylaws vest authority in the president; she, in turn, partners with members of her senior staff on key leadership functions. The provost and chancellor have oversight responsibility for MIT's academic program. The provost, as the Institute's chief academic officer and chief budget officer, is responsible for academic and financial planning and for MIT's research mission. In this role, the provost convenes a weekly Deans' Group meeting that, in addition to the five school deans, includes the three student deans, the chancellor, the vice chancellor, the chair of the faculty, the director of libraries and the associate provosts. Collectively, the group discusses academic issues that cut across the Institute such as teaching policies, subject evaluation, core requirements, and graduate-student support.

The chancellor oversees undergraduate and graduate education and student services. During MIT's last accreditation, a lack of clarity was noted in regard to the respective roles of the provost and the chancellor. The original role of the chancellor has evolved, and the chancellor is now understood to be a highly visible senior representative of student issues within the administration. In June 2008, MIT announced the creation of a new vice chancellor position to serve as a full deputy supporting the chancellor on operational issues across all student and educational areas for which the chancellor is responsible. The first vice chancellor appointed was the dean for graduate education who currently serves in both positions. Together, the chancellor and the vice chancellor and dean for graduate students work with the deans of undergraduate education and student life on initiatives impacting students, such as community, diversity, and leadership.

As the Institute's chief fiduciary officer, the executive vice president (EVP) and treasurer is responsible for leading all administrative and financial functions at MIT. He or she works with the president, the provost, the Corporation, and the senior leadership team to ensure that MIT's financial, capital, and operational resources are optimally deployed to support the Institute's academic mission of education and research. The EVP and treasurer also is responsible for financial-strategy development, capital-budget planning, debt issuance, and the integrity of financial reporting. The role of the EVP and treasurer, and MIT's Office of Budget, Finance, and Treasury are further described in Chapter 9, "Financial Resources."

Several other organizational changes have taken place at the senior administrator levels. In 2007, MIT appointed its first general counsel. The new Office of the General Counsel is MIT's internal law office and includes all practicing attorneys employed on campus. This consolidated office replaces MIT's prior system, whereby lawyers worked in various units scattered throughout the Institute. The Office of the General Counsel allows MIT's lawyers to work cooperatively and more efficiently, and it provides for consistency in legal advice, broader risk management, and one central point of contact for MIT's legal services.

After experimenting with the organization of its communications efforts, in 2008 MIT restructured many of its internal and external communications functions in the Office of Institute Affairs. This newly configured office handles news, public relations, the MIT homepage, and selected publications and public events. The Office of Institute Affairs takes a holistic view of happenings on campus and maximizes access to news and information for both the MIT community and the public at large. To better serve this mission, in January 2009 the Institute combined some of the communications activities of the News Office and MIT's magazine, Technology Review, under one management. Although Technology Review retains its own governance structure and editorial independence, this reorganization eliminates duplicative functions, lowers expenses, and improves the quality, range, and reach of editorial services offered by both Technology Review and the News Office.

In another administrative change since the 2004 interim report to NEASC, the Institute has appointed two associate provosts for faculty equity. See Chapter 5, "Faculty," for more details.

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Student governance

All undergraduates belong to the MIT Undergraduate Association (UA). This student-government body seeks to improve student life at MIT and serves as a liaison between undergraduates and the MIT faculty, staff, and administration. Much of the UA's work is conducted through committees. Especially notable are the Finance Board, which coordinates budgets and allocates funds to student organizations; the Student Committee on Educational Policy, which provides student feedback to the departments and the Institute on important educational issues; the Committee on Nominations, which recommends student representatives for more than 50 administrative and faculty committees; and the Events Committee, which produces major social events including autumn and spring weekends. Each undergraduate class annually elects a president and an executive committee to handle class activities.

All graduate students are represented by the Graduate Student Council (GSC), which consists of elected representatives from all academic departments and graduate residences, as well as members at large. The GSC organizes and encourages academic, athletic, cultural, social, and other cocurricular activities; promotes closer relations between graduate students and the faculty outside formal academic contexts; and voices the concerns, ideas, and suggestions of graduate students. In addition, the GSC nominates two students to serve on the Committee on Graduate School Programs and one to serve on the Faculty Policy Committee, and it is represented on many other Institute committees as well. The Council's graduate officers (president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer) meet weekly with the dean for graduate education and the dean for student life to collaborate closely on matters of importance to graduate students. Among the GSC's notable contributions are (1) annual recommendations to senior administrators about stipends for research assistants, teaching assistants, and fellows, based on a cost-of-living analysis produced from surveys and government inflation statistics; (2) the proposal and implementation in spring 2009 of a pass/D/fail grading option for graduate students, which encourages them to explore new subjects and broaden their educational experiences; and (3) the creation of the first-ever dental plan for graduate students, implemented in fall 2008.

The Association of Student Activities, a joint committee of the UA and the GSC, is responsible for recognizing student groups and activities, allocating resources, and organizing an activities fair during MIT's fall orientation.

Multiple student-led governance organizations serve the fraternities, sororities, and independent-living groups at MIT. The Interfraternity Council governs the 26 fraternities, the Panhellenic Association oversees the sororities, and the Living Group Council represents the five independent-living groups. Each of these governance organizations represents its constituents in dealings with the MIT administration and faculty. In addition to fostering the exchange of information so that each group may learn what the others have to teach, these organizations encourage cooperation and interaction to improve intergroup relations. More information about residential life and student organizations can be found in Chapter 6, "Students."

The Dormitory Council is the governing body of all MIT undergraduate residence halls. Its purpose is to engage in those activities that cannot be better performed by the individual house committees. The voting members of the Council are the house presidents, although all house residents are members and may attend meetings. The Council's main function is to act as a student advocacy group, representing the interests of all dormitory residents to the administration.

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Shared governance

In addition to the student-led organizations detailed above, undergraduate and graduate students participate on most of the standing committees of the faculty and on more than 30 Institute committees that also include faculty and staff members ( MIT administrators worked closely with students in 2003–04 on the search for MIT's new president, when a student-managed committee on the effort ran in parallel with committees of the Corporation and the faculty. The student committee recommended issues to explore during the search and suggested candidates for consideration. In a little-known but significant departure from tradition, two graduate students and two undergraduates interviewed final candidates for the position. Overall, the student involvement with the process was considered highly successful.

To ensure that the interests of recent graduates are represented in Institute-wide governance, the Corporation reserves five of its membership slots for graduating students and recent alumni/ae. These members play an important role in connecting the administration, the trustees, and the student population. Through the visiting-committee process, undergraduate and graduate students have opportunities for direct interaction with Corporation members. Corporation members also meet with students in the Corporation Joint Advisory Committee on Institute-wide Affairs (CJAC). CJAC is unique in that it brings together members of the Corporation, undergraduate and graduate-student representatives, and faculty appointees, but not members of the administration, to address issues shared across the Institute. Concerns arose in recent years that this group was not as effective as it could be. In 2008, the chairman of the Corporation, the president, and the secretary to the Corporation launched a plan to infuse CJAC with fresh energy and more focused discussion. During 2008–09, CJAC conducted an informal review of MIT's efforts to implement recommendations from the September 1998 Report of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning. Committee members assessed progress to date and identified remaining and new challenges. Their report (available in the accreditation team room) was distributed to the Corporation and discussed at its March 2009 meeting.

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Although MIT's tradition of Institute-wide governance and committee-driven work has served us well, we continue to make changes and improvements to reflect the evolving needs of the Institute. The Humanities Visiting Committee, for example, has been challenged by the vast intellectual scope of its portfolio. 14  As a result, in 2009–10 the Committee will split into two new committees: one focusing on the humanities and the other on the social sciences. These are the first new committees since a Visiting Committee for Student Life was created in 2001–02. The Institute's increasing focus on global engagement is also influencing how we think about our governing board. Ten years ago, nearly all members of the Corporation and visiting committees were American MIT alumni. Because many of today's complex challenges require an increasingly global perspective, MIT has made a concerted effort to recruit more international leaders and nonalumni to join the Corporation and its visiting committees.

In recent months, issues of communication and transparency have received enhanced scrutiny as MIT undergraduate and graduate students have expressed concern about their role in certain decisions affecting student life. Specifically, some feel that the administrative decision-making process is too opaque and that students have been consulted too late to give meaningful input. In response to these concerns, MIT established the Task Force on Student Engagement in 2007. Chaired by the chancellor, the Task Force is composed of students, administrators, and faculty who are examining existing structures and looking for ways to improve communication and maximize transparency, in order to enhance the educational and community experience at MIT. Additional steps to improve communication between students and administrators include increasing the number of student meetings with the senior administrators who directly serve students, adding more Web-based communication tools, and holding informal dinners with administrators and small groups of students selected by lottery.

CJAC, as part of its 2009 report, urged the MIT administration to further involve students in decision making, especially as it relates to upcoming budget cuts. Because student participation is recognized as desirable and beneficial, undergraduate and graduate representatives serve on all nine working groups of the Institute-wide Planning Task Force (see Chapter 2).

Given the changing nature of technology and communication, CJAC also suggested that the administration consider additional tools—such as blogs, instant messaging, and Facebook—to reach MIT's broad community of faculty, students, staff, and alumni. Preliminary analysis revealed that every MIT class from 1988 onward has more than 500 alumni/ae members connected through Facebook. To use technology to promote transparency on governance issues, the Institute launched an experiment with the MIT Idea Bank in 2009. As explained in Chapter 2, the Idea Bank is an online forum where all members of the community can discuss how to make MIT more effective and efficient. In addition to putting forward their own ideas, visitors to the website can read other suggestions and rate those with the greatest power to make a difference. MIT's Information Services and Technology department developed the custom-built site with guidance from technology-savvy Corporation members and faculty from MIT Sloan's Center for Collective Intelligence. Within the first six months, the Idea Bank had over 3,000 visitors who submitted more than 1,000 ideas. The Task Force on Institute-wide Planning reviewed the suggestions and acted on many. Given such positive response to the site, other MIT offices and initiatives are incorporating the Idea Bank model into their efforts to communicate in a transparent and technologically relevant way with students, faculty, and staff.

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12 Bylaws of the MIT Corporation, Section 14.2.4 (
13 MIT, Report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons (October 2006), p. 16.
14 Fields of study at the undergraduate level include foreign languages and literatures; writing and humanistic studies; anthropology; history; and the Program in Science, Technology, and Society. Graduate programs include those in comparative media studies, science writing, and HASTS (MIT’s doctoral program in history, anthropology, and science, technology, and society).