MIT Reports to the President 1994-95

Chair of the Faculty


This year the Faculty Policy Committee (FPC) oversaw those aspects of educational and academic policy that are specific responsibilities of the faculty and provided faculty input toward policy development at the Institute. In addition, the FPC worked with the Administration to offer faculty guidance on re-engineering, RA/TA support, Institute grievance and investigation procedures, and new educational program development.

The Committee began its work with a full-day retreat in September, during which members discussed faculty involvement in re-engineering and other potential near-term FPC agenda issues with consultants and members of the Administration. A large portion of the day was devoted to the consideration of three models for faculty involvement in re-engineering: a) individual consulting; b) a faculty group associated with each task to give perspective and feedback; c) a larger faculty advisory committee charged with providing faculty input for all of the re-engineering teams.

With regard to the first model, FPC members agreed that although it would be useful for faculty with relevant expertise to be engaged as consultants, this would not significantly enhance general faculty understanding of re-engineering nor insure that general faculty needs would be recognized in the design of new systems. The second model received wide support. FPC members pointed out that faculty should be viewed as "customers" for those processes supporting core faculty activities (teaching and research) and should be asked for input and reaction to redesign proposals at the appropriate stage in their development. The group was less enthusiastic about the creation of a standing advisory committee, arguing that no small group would have expertise in all the areas undergoing re-engineering and that the commitment would be very time consuming. On the other hand, it was pointed out that a small group might identify and recruit faculty to participate in the feedback groups recommended under the second model.

The FPC summarized two levels of necessary community involvement: 1) involving clients (students and faculty) to ensure that the final outcome suits their needs and 2) building a constituency in the community that will support and understand re-engineering and not confuse it with other budget-cutting efforts. The FPC expects to continue to be involved in discussions and updates of re-engineering activities during the upcoming years.

The FPC continued discussions begun last year pursuant to the closing of the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology (CMRAE). During the spring of 1994, the President and the Chair of the Faculty appointed an ad hoc faculty committee chaired by Professor Peter A. Diamond to examine the process followed in arriving at the decision to close the CMRAE. The Diamond Committee presented its report to the President and the Chair of the Faculty and then to the Faculty at the May 1994 meeting, identifying a number of significant flaws in the decision-making processes and the way in which the decision was communicated to the affected parties. The Diamond Committee noted that past decisions to close a center or laboratory have not been subject to the same faculty oversight as the reorganization of an academic unit, yet it concluded that establishing a new set of procedures for laboratories and centers would be too constraining, given their diverse natures. The Committee made a number of recommendations focused on providing a better mechanism for administration consultation with faculty and students who would be affected by the closure of centers or laboratories.

This past fall, Diamond Committee brought to the FPC its recommendations on the various ways that the Faculty impact and interact with administrative decisions at the Institute. The Committee also met with Professor Judith J. Thomson to discuss the motion voted at the May 1994 Faculty meeting which asked the FPC to reassess MIT's faculty grievance procedures.

In response to these concerns, Professor Jaffe appointed an FPC Subcommittee on Grievances. The Subcommittee concluded:

The Subcommittee recommended:

In response to heightened community awareness of faculty grievance issues, the President and Faculty Chair appointed the Ad Hoc Committee on Grievance Investigation Procedures, chaired by Professor Henry D. Jacoby, to consider and make recommendations to accomplish three objectives: 1) to provide for more prompt resolution of unusually difficult or complex formal complaints, 2) to avoid real or perceived conflict of interest in resolving such complaints, and 3) to develop a larger group of Institute citizens who have expertise in investigating complaints.

The Committee reported to the FPC its recommendations concerning two components for grievance investigation: 1) a system to train people who handle investigations of harassment complaints; and 2) an independent investigation procedure (utilizing a "Gateway Panel") which provides an alternative to the current system of investigation. FPC members generally endorsed the report after discussing with Professor Jacoby some concerns regarding scope, training, student membership, and possible legal ramifications. The Faculty Chair passed the FPC's comments on to the President who has taken the Committee's recommendations under advisement.

During the spring of 1994, the Graduate Student Council (GSC) prepared a report entitled Proposal for Improvements to MIT's System for Dealing with Harassment, which it presented to the FPC. In response to the GSC'S efforts, the FPC convened a subcommittee to consider implementation of their suggestions. The Subcommittee worked over the summer and presented its report in September. The report was divided into sections along lines similar to the original GSC document: 1) Education and awareness; 2) Faculty facilitators; 3) Complaint-handling handbook; 4) Record keeping; and 5) Changes to the present Guide, Dealing with Harassment at MIT. As the FPC discussed each of these subjects, suggestions emerged for implementation strategies and/or further study.

Education and awareness

Because certain groups in the MIT community have not been reached by existing education and training initiatives, efforts should be made to find ways to reach out to these groups which have significant contact with undergraduates. Support should likewise continue for existing training programs for all members of the community. TA training at the beginning of the academic year should be expanded to reach more incoming graduate students, and more harassment policy information and training should be included in that activity. The Personnel Office should develop a program to inform new MIT community members of the Institute harassment policy.

Faculty Facilitators

Faculty facilitator systems should be established in all academic units, with guidance and coordination through the offices of the Institute ombudspersons, Dr. Mary Rowe and Dr. Clarence Williams. An electronic mail discussion group could provide helpful feedback to facilitators.

Complaint Handling Handbook

MIT should publish a small, practical handbook for complaint handlers containing answers to questions such as what constitutes: (a) a timely response to a complaint; (b) a prompt, thorough and fair investigation of a complaint, and (c) a timely resolution to a complaint. Specific information on resources and on alternatives for the uneasy complaint handler should be available to the community. Examples and case studies would be particularly helpful.

Record Keeping

Steps should be taken to improve record keeping of harassment cases at the Institute. For generic or statistical records, the policy (newly reinstated last year) of annual reports to the Faculty by the DUESA, the COD, and the ombudspersons should be continued.

The Subcommittee also presented several thoughtful and well-worded suggestions for changes and additions to Dealing with Harassment at MIT, which dealt in a sensitive way with some of the most difficult questions raised by harassment policy. The FPC recommended adopting these changes in future printings of the Guide.

The FPC also heard from and coordinated the work of several other committees and reviewed several changes in academic policy and programs and in Institute procedures, some of which were forwarded to the Faculty for approval.

The FPC also discussed several issues and events with a broad impact on MIT:

As MIT's relations with the federal government continued to dominate Institute business, the FPC invited Dr. John C. Crowley, Special Assistant to the President and Director of the MIT Washington Office, and Mr. Ronald P. Suduiko, Assistant to the President for Government and Community Relations, to report on the activities of the Washington Office. Dr. Crowley and Mr. Suduiko explained the mission of the Washington Office and briefed the Committee on the current political climate in Washington DC. They also reported on a number of programs that the Washington Office has sponsored or co-sponsored in coordination with the Government and Community Relations Office, which share President Vest's vision of educating politicians in the areas of science and technology. They also discussed better ways of gathering and disseminating time-sensitive information and material to the Faculty. Professor Jaffe asked Dr. Crowley and Mr. Suduiko to work with Professor J. David Litster, Vice President and Dean for Research, and Ms. Julie T. Norris, Director of the Office of Sponsored Programs, to consider models for communications networks linking the faculty with the Washington office.

President Charles M. Vest visited the FPC twice to discuss a broad spectrum of issues. During his first visit, he discussed with the FPC issues important to the continuing development of the Institute: the student experience, faculty life, race and identity, continuity and change, communications, the view from inside and outside the university, and electronic information. During his second visit the group discussed outside opinions of universities and the Institute's commitment to diversity. The group also discussed the Institute's outlook on housing and an anticipated effort to examine broadly undergraduate life and learning. During Provost Mark S. Wrighton's visit during the second semester, the group discussed new education and research initiatives, searches for new academic officers, new international initiatives, Institute finances, and potential sources of funds for RA/TA funding.

Many thanks to all FPC members for their thoughtful participation on the Committee throughout the year, especially to the Committee's departing members: John H. Lienhard (faculty member), Raajnish A. Chitaley (undergraduate student member), and Anand Mehta (graduate student member). Special thanks go to Professor Jay Keyser and to the FPC working group he chaired on the GSC recommendations; to Phil Clay, Joan Rice, Leigh Royden, and Jake Jacoby (chair) who served on the Ad Hoc Committee on Grievance Investigation Procedures; to Judith Thomson for her participation in the review of faculty grievance procedures; to Larry Bacow (chair), Raaj Chitaley, and Tom Kochan who served on the FPC Subcommittee on Grievances; and to Deans Margaret Enders, Margaret Jablonsky, and Travis Merritt for their advice on many issues concerning undergraduate education and student life.


MIT Reports to the President 1994-95