MIT Administration Support for the Faculty Newsletter
The Faculty Newsletter is a valuable vehicle for communication among the faculty. It has been financially supported by the administration since its inception. I am responding to an article in the March/April 2007 issue of the Faculty Newsletter in order to provide the readership with the administration’s point of view regarding the Editorial Board and its request for increase in financial support for the Managing Editor position.
Over the last 10 years, the FNL has had an average of five issues per year, with contributions from faculty and staff and occasional short articles by the Managing Editor, a part-time support position. In June of last year, the Editorial Board made several requests of President Hockfield regarding the FNL operations. In response, President Hockfield asked Professors Steve Graves, Nazli Choucri, Robert Jaffe, David Marks and Dr. Kirk Kolenbrander, a group who had reviewed the FNL earlier in 2002, to review the Editorial Board’s request; Professors Graves, Choucri, and Marks are on the Editorial Board. In September, the group, led by Professor Graves, made the following recommendations:
- the FNL should be placed administratively under the direct supervision of the Provost's Office
- the Editorial Board should prepare a job description for the Managing Editor, outlining the responsibilities, duties and expectations which could then be the basis for a formal proposal from the Editorial Board to the Human Resources department to reclassify the position to administrative staff
- the FNL should provide a justification for the expansion in the job from half-time to full-time
- the salary request should be referred to Human Resources to determine what the fair salary range for such jobs is within MIT, once the questions of the job classification and of full-time versus half-time are resolved.
At the request of Provost Reif, I took the lead to respond to the recommendations. There was a delay in obtaining a job description for the position because of a miscommunication to the Editorial Board, for which I was responsible, that a job description was needed. I received the job description in early December.
As Human Resources representatives regularly do when there is a review of a particular job position, the human resource officer for the Provost’s office consulted with several members of the Editorial Board and revised the job description. Based on the recommendations of HR, the Managing Editor position was reclassified at the end of January as a full-time administrative staff position, at a salary commensurate with the job position responsibilities for MIT positions. In addition, the FNL was placed administratively in the Provost's Office. The change in the status of the position was effective February 1, 2007.
In our faculty governance system, faculty can become members of faculty committees through two routes: by being placed on a slate of candidates selected by the Nominations Committee, or by being nominated by two faculty colleagues. The faculty vote on the membership of faculty committees. The chairs of faculty committees are appointed by the Chair of the Faculty, who is also elected by the faculty. Presently, the Editorial Board of the FNL is outside of the Institute’s usual faculty committee system, having instead a volunteer board, not elected by the faculty. In addition, there is no connection between the Editorial Board of the FNL and the elected Faculty Officers, who represent the faculty. While this is a matter for the faculty to decide, it is my opinion that an elected Editorial Board, with several routes to membership on the Board, would be more representative of the MIT faculty.
Balanced Perspectives in the FNL
The FNL is a vehicle for faculty communication on a wide range of topics. Some are contentious. While free expression of ideas should be advanced, some issues of the FNL have published one perspective of a contentious topic without any alternative views. Although this is a matter for the faculty as a whole, my view is that there is a need for greater balance in the FNL. This is particularly important when a topic is directed to select members of the MIT community. In this case, those individuals should be given the opportunity to respond in the same issue in order for the readership to gain a balanced perspective on a particular topic or set of circumstances.