MIT Reports to the President 1994-95

Dean of the Graduate School


Concerns about graduate student support continued to occupy a central position in the deliberations of the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School (ODGS) during the past year. These concerns were driven in part by the decision of the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to disallow use of the employee benefit (EB) pool method for charging the tuition of graduate research assistants (RAs), starting in fiscal year 1999 (FY99). That method, which has been in use at MIT since the early 1980s, has been under attack for some time despite its cost advantage to the federal government and its role in keeping the support of graduate RAs financially attractive relative to other forms of research staff.

Recognizing the need to have a definitive plan in place for dealing with OMBs decision well in advance of FY99, Provost Mark S. Wrighton and a subset of the Academic Council adopted and announced a multifaceted graduate student support plan. The details of that plan will undoubtedly appear in Provost Wrighton's portion of this President's report. From the point of view of the ODGS, the most important element of the plan is a decision to allocate MIT General Funds to subsidize 45% of the tuition charge for full-time graduate RAs. This subsidy will greatly reduce the amount of tuition to be direct charged to research accounts when the new OMB rules are implemented in FY99 and will, thereby, keep the cost of RAs to a project within tolerable levels. In the absence of such subsidy, the cost of an RA to a research account was projected to rise by more than 40%, starting in FY99, resulting potentially in a major decline in the number of graduate students supported by research at MIT. Even with the 45% subsidy from MIT, the cost of an RA to a project will increase somewhat when the new rules are invoked in FY99; however, the increase is projected to be sufficiently small as to avoid any major impact on graduate enrollments.

The Academic Council plan must, of course, deal with the cost of the RA tuition subsidy and does so through a number of mechanisms, including a reduction in various fund distribution rates and the initiation of fees to certain visitors to the Institute. There continues to remain also a small ray of hope that the OMB decision about our current method of charging RA tuition might somehow be rescinded.

There exists a second graduate tuition issue which has become increasingly visible to the ODGS during the past year. This is the trend of funding agencies, both public and private, to modify their fellowship programs by replacing tuition payments with "cost-of-education allowances" which provide for less than full tuition. Such cost-of-education allowances have been a fact of life in such well-known programs as the National Science Foundation (NSF) Predoctoral Fellows Program and the Hertz Fellowship Program, and in programs of lesser visibility such as the Department of Education's Jacob Javits Fellowship Program. However, within the past year, several other programs have adopted or have hinted at plans to pay less than full tuition. These include the traineeship programs of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) -- a major source of funding for many of our students in the life sciences -- which will now pay only 70% of full tuition, and the AT&T Bell Labs Special Programs which have announced a reduction to 75% of full tuition for new fellows. We are aware of at least two other important programs which are considering similar reductions. In addition, there has been a reduction in fellowship programs being offered by the Department of Defense (DoD) such as discontinuance of the Office of Naval Research and the Air Force Labs Fellowships for 1995-96 and 1996-97.

This continuing trend toward fellowships that pay less than full tuition should be seen in the light of past decisions by MIT to subsidize the tuition shortfall of NSF Fellows and the recent decision, noted above, to subsidize the tuition of graduate RAs. The magnitude of these tuition shortfalls and attendant Institute subsidies can in the long term only result in a huge strain on Institute financial resources, a reduction in the number of graduate students, or a change in the character of graduate education at MIT.

These impacts are already in evidence. Anecdotally, the ODGS has experienced an increase in dealings with unfunded and underfunded graduate students, particularly among those who are past their first year of graduate study. More and more students in every discipline are exploring familiar and remote fellowship opportunities. Enrollment of graduate students reached an all-time high in the past year, but comparison of the data (see Figure 1) with those of previous years suggests that the growth was almost entirely associated with professional Master's degree programs (MBA in the Sloan School, M.Eng. in Engineering, and MCP/MArch in Architecture and Planning), while programs that lead primarily to the doctorate (Science and Social Science) exhibited a small enrollment decline. These are trends that warrant careful scrutiny in the coming years.


In October of this past year, MIT converted to a long-awaited new Student Information System (MITSIS) which replaced a system that had been in use for nearly 20 years. This conversion was of particular interest to the ODGS because of the system's potential to provide more complete data about graduate students than had previously been possible and, more importantly, to improve the administration of graduate fellowships and assistantships. Conversion to the new system was effected with remarkable ease in terms of its ability to provide general registration information about graduate students. Within days of the conversion MITSIS was being used effectively by the ODGS staff and many departmental administrators. However, it quickly became apparent that many of the provisions within MITSIS for processing graduate awards and appointments -- the principal function of MITSIS in the ODGS -- failed significantly to meet our needs. As a result, the planned transfer of many of these operations from the ODGS to the individual academic departments has been delayed pending resolution of these deficiencies. Considerable effort, therefore, has been expended by several members of the ODGS staff, along with selected departmental graduate administrators and representatives of the Payroll and Accounting offices, in defining deficiencies and in working with the Registrar's programming staff to develop the requisite capabilities within MITSIS. At year's end considerable progress had been made and a schedule for implementation in FY96 was in place.


The CGSP reviewed and recommended approval of new Master of Engineering Programs in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. These are the third and fourth M.Eng. programs adopted within the School of Engineering, and represent a continuation of the trend in that school toward programs with a strong professional practice orientation. Both programs were subsequently approved by the MIT faculty and the Corporation for implementation during the 1995 fall term.

The CGSP also reviewed a proposal from the Schools of Engineering and Management for a joint graduate degree program in the field of System Design and Management (SDM). The proposal was based on a new industry-government-MIT collaboration and contained many innovative features, including an on-campus/off-campus format, the extensive use of distance-learning methodology, and company-based projects and internships. Because of the preliminary nature of the proposal, CGSP approval for only an initial experimental year, beginning with the 1995 fall term, was sought and granted. Due to the proposed program's many new and unusual features, it is expected to receive considerable attention from the CGSP in the coming year.

The CGSP reviewed at considerable length a proposal from the Committee on Academic Performance (CAP) for a new grading system which would include the use of intermediate grades (i.e., +/- grades). The CGSP was unable to reach a definitive position on this proposal, with a roughly equal number of members in favor, opposed, or taking no position. The proposal was subsequently adopted for a three-year trial period by the faculty. Two members of CGSP will serve on an ad hoc committee to oversee and evaluate the trial.

The CGSP approved a proposal for a Graduate Internship Program in the Program in Media Arts and Sciences (MAS).

The CGSP conducted its usual reviews of degree lists and end-of-term grades and issued a number of Dean's warnings and denials of further registration. Several other graduate academic policy issues were discussed during the year but resulted in no formal actions.

My colleagues in the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School (ODGS) wish to express thanks and appreciation to members of the CGSP for their service during the past year. A special note of thanks is extended to the following members who will be replaced in the coming year: Leslie Norford (Architecture) replaced by Roy Strickland, Linn Hobbs (Associate Chair of the Faculty) replaced by Leigh Royden, Cheryl Blankenship (the Bursar's Office) replaced by Sandra Chauncey, Olivier Blanchard (Economics) replaced by David Genesove, Carl Thompson (Materials Science and Engineering) replaced by Michael Rubner, Allan Henry (Nuclear Engineering) replaced by Jeff Freidberg, Lily Kay (STS) replaced by Kenneth Keniston, and Steven Tannenbaum (Toxicology) replaced by Peter Dedon. We would also like to thank the departmental graduate administrators who worked so closely and effectively with the ODGS and the official CGSP members. Monthly luncheon meetings of these administrators, organized this year by their chair, Linda Peterson (MAS), and secretary, Cynthia Stewart (Civil & Environmental Engineering), have again been extremely helpful to the ODGS.



We have continued to expand our national network and build strength through partnerships. The foundation was laid for a dialogue among MIT faculty, and faculty and students at several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), using academic research as a common theme. Our objective is to forge cooperative efforts and to enhance personal and professional relationships through Student Research, Faculty Collaborations, and Campus Visits.

A significant strength which we have begun to utilize with increasing frequency is our built-in network of MIT minority alumni who are faculty members and deans at schools with significant minority populations. A sampling of these schools include the HBCUs -- Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, North Carolina A&T State, Spelman, and Tuskegee -- as well as Purdue, UCLA, Princeton, Boston University, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, and the University of Maryland at College Park. Their activities offer a rich set of opportunities for MIT's faculty to develop relationships and research collaborations with minority students and faculty at other institutions.

Information Technology

During the past year our efforts have expanded to include the practical use of information technology applications, using the Internet and multimedia to increase the Institute's visibility and access to communities of color. We expect that these efforts will allow us to help potential students better understand the opportunities and intellectual diversity of the MIT Graduate School.

The MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP)

The MSRP celebrated its tenth year of operation and has been in place long enough to have become an integral part of the MIT academic and research landscape. There is broad and growing participation by MIT faculty. In addition, many students who participated in this program in previous years have now matriculated in doctoral and professional programs at MIT and elsewhere.

The MSRP is characterized by tremendous success both in meeting its stated objectives and in catalyzing institutional change regarding the identification and development of young scholars of color. Nineteen MSRP alumni have matriculated in graduate programs at MIT. Two of these graduated during the past academic year: Dr. Squire Booker, Department of Chemistry, currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Paris, and Dr. Gillian Reynolds, Department of Physics, the third African-American Woman to receive a doctorate in physics from MIT. Several have been co-authors on research publications. Two have been invited by faculty to spend a fall term at MIT to continue their contributions to the research agenda.

The ODGS continued efforts to obtain foundation support for its programs to enhance minority participation in graduate education. Dr. Isaac M. Colbert, Associate Dean of the Graduate School, was instrumental in receiving three grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: (1) a three-year grant totaling $375,000 in support of the Minority Summer Research Program; (2) a four-year grant of $660,000 to support the Minority Graduate Bridge Program for the Toxicology Division, the Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory, and the Departments of Chemistry and Physics; and (3) a $30,000 Officer's Grant to assist faculty in the stated areas with recruitment travel for academic year 1996.


The GTE Service Corporation sponsors a Summer Science Program for students and faculty who are associated with United Negro College Fund (UNCF) institutions. Similar to MIT's MSRP, the objective of the GTE program is to encourage UNCF juniors to continue their studies in science and to consider teaching as part of their professional plans. GTE scientists engage the students in hands-on research in the areas of chemistry, physics, or computer science. As part of the minority recruitment agenda of the ODGS, we welcomed this group of faculty, students and administrators to the MIT campus for the sixth consecutive summer. The program allowed for informal discussion with current students and faculty regarding the challenges and opportunities associated with graduate education at MIT. For the past three years the Corporate Relations Office has joined the ODGS in this effort.


Following his tenure during the 1994 Spring Term as a member of the Institute's Core Team for Reengineering, Dean Colbert continued his contribution to that effort. In August he became Captain of the Community Involvement Team, developing and leading activities to educate, inform and involve segments of the MIT community concerning the reengineering initiative and its anticipated impact across the Institute. His essentially full-time involvement in these activities was accompanied by his relocation to centralized reengineering facilities in Building 16 for most of the past academic year. In Dean Colbert's nearly full-time absence, Margaret Daniels Tyler, Assistant Dean of the Graduate School was temporarily appointed to the position of Acting Associate Dean. Mr. Roy Charles also joined the ODGS on a part-time basis in the position of Special Projects Administrator.

Ms. Cheryl Thornton was appointed as Administrative and Special Staff Assistant in the ODGS replacing Ms. Linda Lifsey Hughes who took a leave of absence from MIT.

Dean Colbert was elected to the Executive Board of the GEM Program (National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science). MIT is a founding member of this organization, now entering its 20th year, and is one of the most successful members in graduating GEM Fellows with advanced degrees. Dean Colbert successfully nominated President Vest to be the incoming president of the Consortium, and will assist President Vest with his duties as he assumes the post in September 1995.

Dean Colbert continued to represent MIT as a member of the board of the Bay State Skills Corporation, a quasi-public state agency seeking to maintain Massachusetts' manufacturing industries and retrain workers for jobs in emerging fields. This past spring he was elected as Secretary of the Board.

Dean Tyler completed a second publication, Catalyst for Success: The Summer Research Opportunity Program, which was published by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) in Washington, D.C. She also presented a paper of the same title at the International Seminar of Staff and Educational Development: Transforming Higher Education, in Cape Town, South Africa, in April 1995. This opportunity allowed for the development of a network of potential Black South African graduate students, several of whom intend to apply to MIT in the next academic year.

In December Dean Perkins announced his decision to step down as Dean of the Graduate School at the end of August 1995.


Dean Perkins and Jacqueline Sciacca, Assistant to the Dean of the Graduate School, again participated in the planning and implementation of MIT's annual Orientation Workshop for New Faculty and Graduate Teaching Staff. They also met throughout the past year with other members of the Teaching Resource Network (TRN), a newly formed organization which serves to link together various activities at MIT committed to encouraging and supporting teaching effectiveness. TRN is sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs and the ODGS.

The annual Tax Workshop (for citizens and permanent residents) sponsored by the ODGS was held in February. This event was initiated some years ago, following adoption of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 which changed in fundamental ways the tax status of many graduate students. The Workshop was again led by Mr. Frederick Crowley of the Comptrollers Accounting Office and by Attorneys Malcolm Hindin and Mystica Alexander of Palmer & Dodge. The Workshop has proven to be a valuable service to our graduate students in assisting them to understand and meet their tax obligations. A separate workshop for international students was sponsored by the International Students Office.


Important statistics concerning the Graduate School are presented in Tables I-IV and Figures I-III, which follow. The format and content of these figures and tables are identical to those which have been presented in recent years with the exception of Table II, Sources and Amounts of Graduate Student Support, 1994-95 Academic Year. Because of changes imposed by the new student information system, MITSIS, the support data were not available in the same format and level of detail as in previous years. Therefore, the support data in Table II have been presented in a revised format/. Anticipated modifications of MITSIS are expected to permit presentation of the support data in a more useful form in future years.

Frank E. Perkins

MIT Reports to the President 1994-95