Long-Term Planning for MIT's Future
The administration and the MIT Investment Management Company have recently put forward an ambitious proposal – MIT 2030 – for the redevelopment of the Main Street/Kendall Square area with both commercial and academic components. In this issue of the Newsletter, a group of Architecture and Planning colleagues lay out their views and visions, O.R. Simha expresses a number of concerns about the MIT 2030 proposal, as does Faculty Chair Sam Allen. These pieces reveal the complexity and impacts of the decisions that will be made in implementing MIT 2030. We are concerned that there is insufficient involvement of faculty in long-range planning of land use for MIT.
As stated on the associated Website (web.mit.edu/mit2030),
MIT 2030 is a long-range planning process designed to help MIT make thoughtful, well-informed choices for the renewal and evolution of its facilities and physical environment, based on a continuously refreshed understanding of the Institute’s academic, research, and community priorities.
As pointed out in the article by Simha, the MIT Investment Management Company (MITIMCo) has played a large role in the development of the MIT 2030 proposal. The mission of MITIMCo is “to provide stewardship of MIT's financial resources.” It is appropriate that plans for the future use of MIT real estate take into account the financial implications of the use. And MITIMCo is uniquely positioned to evaluate the financial implications. But MITIMCo is not in a position to balance the financial implications of long-term planning with the future academic needs of MIT. For example:
Long-term planning for MIT 2030 may have implications far beyond that date. To illustrate, a few years ago Novartis was granted a 40-year lease of MIT properties. MIT 2030 is charged with considering other long-term leases as well, which would not end until after 2050.
The plans in MIT 2030 involving the revitalization of the existing campus have had limited direct faculty involvement. This is regrettable, as it deprives the planning process of potentially significant inputs from a supportive and important constituency. The editorial subcommittee is concerned that MIT 2030 has not sufficiently involved MIT faculty on the long-term planning of non-campus properties, and that the current process will lead to decisions that are not in the long-term interest of MIT.
MIT has a long tradition of reaching out to the faculty in the course of framing important long-term decisions. Currently, there is no faculty committee that is charged with helping to develop (or even analyze) the implications of the MIT 2030 initiative with respect to the off-campus land.
The articles in this issue make clear that we need an Institute committee with full faculty representation to plan the growth and further reorganization of our campus, considering all the diverse requirements of maintaining a vibrant university community.
A faculty committee could help address, even remedy, another gap in the MIT 2030 planning: the lack of communication. Based on anecdotal evidence, it appears that faculty have little awareness of MIT 2030, and few faculty have even heard of MITIMCo. One indication of a lack of information is that MIT News refers to only four articles that provide any information about MIT 2030. Two of the articles describe different speeches given by President Hockfield in which she mentioned MIT 2030. A third article was about a Website created to explain MIT 2030. And the fourth article was about a sale of bonds whose revenue would support the MIT 2030 project. None of the articles discusses the planning of the remaining MIT properties.
Simha raises another important policy issue within his article. Does MIT have the responsibility to honor promises made by previous MIT administrations? We believe that past promises should be taken seriously, and there should be transparency concerning what promises were made and what were the circumstances.
We close with an additional recommendation: MIT should draw more on its own faculty and alumni in strategic planning. With respect to MIT 2030, faculty with expertise in urban planning or in financial investments can contribute to this process. And some of our alumni could share their great expertise in real estate management and development for MIT strategic planning.
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Perry and Winston Elected to FNL Editorial Board
Professors Ruth Perry (Literature) and Patrick Henry Winston (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) were elected to the Newsletter Editorial Board in the Institute-wide faculty election held last month. We’d like to thank our colleagues for participating.
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We mourn the recent passing of three honored and devoted faculty members: Har Gobind Khorana (Biology); Robert Silbey (Chemistry); and David Staelin (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science).
MIT obituaries for each can be found at:
• Prof. Khorana (web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/obit-khorana-1110.html)
• Prof. Silbey (web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/obit-silbey.html)
• Prof. Staelin (web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/obit-staelin-1115.html)
We also offer a fond remembrance of Bob Silbey.