MIT's Foreign Policy?; S3 & Institute Committees; Landscaping
MIT’s international activities – research programs, educational initiatives, and collaborative projects – continue to expand as part of the Institute’s increasingly global reach. We need some quantitative sense of the scale and scope of this reach, and a clear sense of the qualitative criteria used –or not used – in evaluating which opportunities to pursue. Here we concentrate on the former. In a future editorial we hope to address the question of criteria, as described by Provost Reif at the December 15 faculty meeting,and how we ensure that MIT’s resources are not simply up for sale in the international marketplace.
Among the well known “data” upon which we base our understanding of MIT’s international activities are the number of foreign students; organized international internships (with the MISTI Program as a flagship program); collaborative research institutional developments (such as the Technology and Development Program); the OCW institutional initiative; the large research programs focusing on global, rather than simply international, challenges (such as the Joint Program on Climate Change); and the international endowment (or seed) for frontier research (the Poverty Center ).
These are only the educational aspect of the Institute’s international activities, one that provides a necessary but far from sufficient view of an increasingly complex whole. Further, it highlights only activities whose scale and scope are captured by the Institutional radar. These formal programs may underestimate – or overestimate - the actual state of MIT’s international activities and influence. For example, such lists leave out the very large number of international collaborations that proceed through faculty academic and research activities, but are not explicitly sanctioned or supported by the Institute.
Perhaps a “census” of such reach would be a useful addition to the institutional data collection. Would this provide an overarching and integrated view of international activities? Would the information in such a “census” be worth the costs incurred?
Some assessment of the range of international activities that capture the actual richness is essential if we are to have a principled and systematic analysis of which sectors MIT should promote and invest in at the institutional level.
More practical, however, might be a “semi-census” drawn from all Institute-wide summaries of various types of international activities, whereby the individual “parts” are compiled and integrated into an overarching “whole.” Perhaps this “semi-census” will show facets of activities that have remained below the radar. Most likely of all we would get a better picture of MIT’s contribution to the international community. It is unlikely that we have overestimated MIT’s international activities. It is far more likely that we do not yet have a full vision of MIT’s Global Reach. The more accurate the description of what is – and is not – in play in the international arena, the better we will be able to decide on how to invest MIT resources.
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S3 and the Importance of Serving on Institute Committees
The FNL editorial board notes with approval Dean Hasting's article in this issue describing the reorganization of Student Support Services. In particular we think the expansion of available appointment hours for S3 to include walk-in hours from 9-10am Monday-Friday is a wonderful idea. All faculty and staff at MIT dealing with students in extremis should be aware of these walk-in hours. If you have strong opinions or comments about the S3 reorganization, good or bad, we urge you to communicate them to Professor Eric Grimson, who chairs the S3 Faculty Advisory Committee.
On balance these changes are an example of MIT faculty and administration sorting through a difficult situation and coming up with a stellar set of reforms. This is MIT at its best.
Unfortunately, this was precipitated by an example of MIT at its not-so-good – an action with far-reaching consequences taken without consultation with faculty serving on standing Institute advisory committees.
We note in particular that the ultimate outcome in this case was driven in part by the enormous push-back of faculty serving on the Committee on Academic Performance ? (see editorial containing timeline, “Turmoil at Student Support Services,” MIT Faculty Newsletter, Vol. XXII No. 1, September/October 2009).
We urge faculty to embrace service on Institute Committees. It is only by serving on such committees that we can influence the outcome in these kinds of cases, and it is only through such service that we can form a balanced opinion of what the issues are and what is best for the Institute from the viewpoint of the faculty, and act appropriately.
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In otherwise difficult times, the appearance of a green carpet of grass together with trees, paths, and benches, is a welcome addition to the Kendall Square end of the campus. The completion of the Koch Center, establishing a quadrangle, creates a distinct sense of community and coherence previously lacking in this corner of the campus. Faculty who do not ordinarily pass this way should take a winter stroll and encounter it, perhaps visiting also the new Koch center.
The presence of a space with human dimensions highlights how barren the corner of the campus has been for decades. Though most of the major campus building projects are complete, there remains considerable room for fine-tuning and additional landscaping.
Perhaps it is time to establish a faculty, staff, student committee on the Campus, as so many other colleges and universities have.
Maintaining campus quality of life often doesn’t bring direct costs or overhead, and so it is even more important that some groups of our colleagues have responsibility for trying to make our physical surroundings more supportive of the social and psychological fabric benefitting our university community.