The Next President of MIT
The unexpected announcement in mid-February of Susan Hockfield’s decision to step down as MIT President is both a loss and an opportunity. Since she joined the Institute in December 2004, MIT has seen growth and expansion in a variety of areas, both academically and financially. From the establishing of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) in 2006 through the recent MITx initiative, the Institute has maintained and expanded its preeminent position as a leading science and engineering university in the country (and, indeed, the world).
Still, as with many changes in leadership, the opportunity for an innovative perspective and for a unique approach should guide the selection of the next President of MIT. In order to attain a more varied view on whom or what type of person might be best to next serve in that capacity, this Faculty Newsletter has varied the usual editorial-writing process. Instead of restricting the writing of the editorial to the FNL Subcommittee for this particular issue, a request was sent to the entire Newsletter Editorial Board soliciting opinions on this question. What follows is an amalgam of the different ideas and viewpoints offered by the Editorial Board respondents.
“Moral rather than financial leadership is what matters to me. Someone who pays attention to the people at all levels on this campus. We need a President to protect the intellectual property that is our subjects and our research from those who would profit from them and who understands what a treasure our student body is.”
“In my personal view, the last great MIT President was Jerry Wiesner. We need someone like that: not only a great scientist and intellectual, but someone who has international prestige, who has managed large institutions, and has great fund-raising skills, already giving evidence that they can raise funds of a billion dollars (and more).”
“We need a person who is technologically savvy, particularly with regards to needed changes in teaching methods, subjects, and research.”
“We want someone who is a scientist or an engineer; not an administrator.”
“We need a President who will speak up against those who would pervert scientific findings or muzzle the scientific community for the sake of corporate contributions, and who will defend the truth even when it might look more politic to remain silent.”
“Someone who will help broaden MIT’s impact and involvement, particularly in reinvigorating U.S. technological and manufacturing prowess.”
“We want one who puts the best traditions of MIT – the disinterested pursuit of knowledge – above any other consideration, be it branding or marketing. We want the principles of science to prevail, not those of the business school.”
“We need a President who will make sure that the people in whose neighborhoods we sit will gain some advantage from our presence rather than any disadvantage.”
“We want someone who will do something to restore the collegiality that used to distinguish the way that MIT did business.”
“We need a person who has a good understanding of industrial relations and contact management. A leader who will bring people and ideas together that will lead toward cooperation and mutual support.”
“We want someone who will listen to his or her constituency.”
There were also a few specific suggestions of candidates from both inside and outside the Institute. From within they included:
Candidates from outside MIT (but often with MIT affiliation) included:
Ultimately, the decision of who will be offered the next Presidency of MIT resides with the MIT Corporation. A joint faculty/Corporation Presidential Search Committee has been established, and input will be solicited from MIT faculty, students, and staff. The Committee’s recommendation(s) will then be forwarded to the entire Corporation, where a final decision will be made. For more information on how this process will proceed, please see the article by Faculty Chair Sam Allen, “The Search for MIT’s Seventeenth President.”
The Passing of Alice Amsden
It was with profound shock and deep sorrow that we learned of the sudden death of Professor Alice Amsden on March 14. A longtime Newsletter Editorial Board member and the Barton L. Weller Professor of Political Economy in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Alice was an innovative and vibrant presence on the MIT campus.
A contributor both in the pages of the FNL and behind the scenes, her most recent Newsletter article was “Rise of the Rest, Fall of the Best,” in the September/October 2011 issue. Calling upon her expertise in economic development, Alice wrote of the role the Institute could play in the return of American manufacturing prowess.
For a more extensive review of her career see the article in the MIT News. As a colleague and friend she will be greatly missed.