MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXV No. 1
September / October 2012
I. Graduate Student Housing Difficulties
II. Response to MIT 2030 Concerns
III. edX Front and Center
IV. 25th Anniversary of the FNL
edX: Hostile Takeover or Helping Hand?
Comings and Goings
Concerns Over Affordability
of On-Campus Housing
New Strategic Directions for DUE
From Imagination to Impact: Empowering Graduate Students to Create the Future
Survey Says: Faculty Happy But Stressed
Teaching this fall? You should know . . .
Alumni Association Seeks Traveling Faculty
Nominate a Colleague for the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program
Request for Preliminary Proposals for Innovative Curricular Projects
Thanks and some reflections
From the 2008 and 2012 Faculty Survey
Printable Version


I. Graduate Student Housing Difficulties
II. Response to MIT 2030 Concerns
III. edX Front and Center
IV. 25th Anniversary of the FNL


I. Addressing Graduate Student Housing Difficulties

The education, research training, and instructional experience of graduate students are at the core of research universities. The MIT graduate community, engaged directly in the research enterprise, interacting intimately with its members, with faculty and with undergraduates, is a major force in MIT’s creative engine. The quality and dedication of our graduate students form the foundation of MIT’s productivity.

Given their importance, it is deeply disturbing to learn of the difficulties that graduate students face to secure affordable, decent housing. Last June, the Faculty Newsletter published an informative article describing the acute housing shortage off campus. In this issue we carry an article by several graduate students who are very familiar, as residents and as office holders, with the state of on-campus housing. They note the increasingly untenable costs to graduate students of on-campus housing, despite the importance of such accommodation to graduate student life and work.

MIT has taken some important steps in ensuring on-campus housing for first-year graduate students, through construction of residences such as Sidney-Pacific. However, beyond the first year, the Institute appears to have no overall policy for protecting and enhancing the ability of our graduate students to secure affordable on-campus housing. The Graduate Student Council should not have to negotiate with housing managers. These costs should be set by MIT as institutional policy.

Graduate students involved in hands-on research need to live close to the campus, a requirement that sharply limits their housing options. The failure of the MIT 2030 and MITIMCo proposals to address this acute problem is one of the reasons those proposals need to be carefully scrutinized. New housing may need to be built, for example in the East Campus, or off-campus housing costs subsidized from Institute resources.

Clearly we need to develop a coherent policy to ensure adequate and affordable housing for our graduate students. The administration needs to create a task force – one that includes significant representation of the Graduate Student Council – to develop a comprehensive graduate housing policy. It may turn out that the MITIMCo proposal needs to be revised, so as to include adequate graduate housing on the East Campus.

II. The New Administration Responds to MIT 2030 Concerns

Faculty Chair Sam Allen’s article in this issue of the Newsletter describes the establishing of the Provost’s Task Force on Community Engagement in 2030 Planning. This necessary and healthy step to re-examines MIT 2030 and the MITIMCo up-zoning proposals for the East Campus. We commend the President and the Provost for responding to the widespread faculty and graduate student concerns (see for example the May/June issue of the Faculty Newsletter, Vol. 24, No. 5).

III. edX Front and Center

The implementation of edX will represent a significant transformation in higher education. In this issue of the Newsletter, the article by Woodie Flowers and the article by Ruth Perry raise a variety of questions about how to proceed. edX will be a continuing theme in the Faculty Newsletter over this next year. We need to explore not only faculty roles but the identity, training, and compensation of the teaching assistants required to service courses with tens of thousands of potential students. Our graduate student community has not yet been included in this discussion. In addition to printing articles relevant to edX, we plan to organize forums for direct exchange and debate. We welcome letters, articles, and participation at the forums.

IV. 25th Anniversary of the FNL

This year is the 25th anniversary of the launching – by Prof. Vera Kistiakowsky and other faculty – of the MIT Faculty Newsletter, in response to events that made clear the acute need for an independent vehicle for faculty communication and discourse. (See “20th Anniversary of FNL: A Brief History of its Founding”.) During the ensuing years, the FNL has provided a forum for expression of faculty concerns and views, a major channel of communication among the faculty, and a means for candid debate on difficult issues. Areas where the independence of the Newsletter have been important include exploration of the status of women faculty; undergraduate curricula; health insurance, pension, and retirement issues; compacts with foreign governments; minority recruitment and promotion; graduate housing and campus planning.

We believe the lessons are clear and increasingly relevant: Faculty need a means for independent expression and exchange of views. The resulting increase in communication and transparency results in improved decision making and policy formulation.

The FNL is edited and published by a faculty Editorial Board that is directly elected by the faculty. We hope to continue the tradition begun by Prof. Kistiakowsky and her colleagues. (Click here to see that first issue of the Faculty Newsletter.) We plan to host a number of special lectures and forums to mark this milestone 25th anniversary, review key issues at MIT, and discuss the role of research universities in American life. 

Editorial Subcommittee
Jean E. Jackson
Jonathan King
Stephen J. Lippard
Ruth Perry
George Verghese

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