MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVIII No. 3
January / February 2006
Life Sciences at MIT:
A History and Perspective
Reflecting on the Report of the
Task Force on Medical Care
Promotion and Tenure for
Interdisciplinary Junior Faculty
Reviewing the Committee on
Graduate School Programs
The Challenge and Rewards of Faculty-Student Interactions in the Residence Halls
Troubling whistle-blower article
Regarding the Report of the Task Force on Medical Care for the MIT Community
Valentine: Faith; Valentine: Invention
Mildred Dresselhaus
OpenCourseWare at Home
MIT Retirement Plans: A Brief Summary
MIT Rated 7th in Latest U.S. News Ranking
% of MIT Constituencies Using OCW
OCW Impact on the MIT Community
Printable Version


Troubling whistle-blower article

To The Faculty Newsletter:

I was horrified by the article in the Faculty Newsletter Vol. XVIII No. 2 written by David G. Wilson, entitled "Tyranny against a whistle-blower at MIT." I have no personal knowledge of the atrocities alleged in that article, but if only half of the allegations are true it points at a serious problem in our treatment of staff.

I have been at MIT for 41 years (undergraduate + graduate + faculty), and I have not heard any similar story at MIT. I have heard from a friend about a similar case of mistreatment of staff at Caltech. Until I read David's article I thought that this was a one-of-a-kind event: that somehow there was a special problem at Caltech.

If we assume that the allegations are true in both cases, perhaps this is a symptom of a structural problem. Since the "bad" people in both cases usually seem to be "good and honorable" humans, I am having a great deal of trouble trying to figure out the forces that cause their awful behavior. Indeed, I have a fear that if I were an administrator (a position which I never intend to be in!), I might be driven to act in a similarly horrible way. So I wonder what is the mechanism by which all these "good people" are let to act in such an obviously nasty manner. If they are indeed lying, do they really believe the lies that they spout, or are they being intentionally dishonest? If it is the former, what makes them believe the lies? If it is the latter, how can they live with themselves? It seems like "Recovered Memory Syndrome," where people "remember" things that did not occur.

I know that I am being utopian, and perhaps silly, but if we could figure out the mechanisms, perhaps we could learn how to reform the organizational structures and/or social systems to prevent such bad situations in the future.

Gerald Jay Sussman

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