MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVII No. 5
May/June 2005
Provost Responds to
Professor Postol's Allegations
International Students and Scholars:
A Legacy for MIT and the U.S.
Lorna Gibson New Chair of the Faculty
Back to the Future
Academic Expectations
Strengthening TA Training
Faculty Mentor Program:
A Growing Success
Advising and Mentoring of Undergraduates
Mission to Banda Aceh:
Excerpts from a Journal
Summer Without Summering;
Slave Huts, Bonaire
The Purpose of Poetry
Survey Says:
Faculty Approve of Updated Lunch Program
Alumni Attitudes and Involvement
Tenure and Promotion
[from the 2004 Faculty Survey]
Have you ever considered leaving MIT? [from the 2004 Faculty Survey]
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Academic Expectations

To The Faculty Newsletter:

Academic institutions are for learning, exploration, research, and discovery. They stand for open, free, and unhindered search of the truth, and disdain any overt or covert infringements of such searches. These are the historic goals of academic institutions and, to a large extent, their reasons for being.

Traditionally, academic institutions manage themselves and are administered by peers, among peers usually elected or selected from among faculty. Their management is responsible to their faculty and student constituents. Yet at MIT, the divide between faculty and administration seems more pronounced, with faculty playing a declining role in the matters of the institution. There are many issues that are examples of this trend, and they vary from the de facto closure of the Faculty Club as a meaningful place of assembly and socializing by faculty, to various other administrative decisions that have changed the life and workings of the institution. Even the faculty lunch program that was established some years ago is apparently under scrutiny now. Yet the most difficult issue to understand is probably the failure of faculty to question the administration.

The troubling silence by faculty that followed the repeated suggestions by Professor Theodore Postol to investigate possible scientific fraud or cover-up at Lincoln Laboratories relating to missiles is disturbing to me.

I am not an expert on missile defense technology or missile physics, but I was in Israel during the first Gulf War when that country was attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles and the so-called U.S. Patriot missile defense shield so abysmally failed not only to shoot down or divert incoming missiles, but actually caused collateral damage on the ground. At that time, Professor Postol also reported on these failures, only to be criticized by some members of the MIT administration.

My concern is the increasing gap between administration and faculty. Whenever faculty, and for that matter students, question the administration, few, if any, colleagues join the discussion. This is worse than the environment in private industry or government. I worked many years for both and found a much greater freedom, involvement, and mutual responsiveness. For me, these are ominous developments that do not bode well for the future of academic inquiry, research, and learning.

Ernst G. Frankel

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