Improving Institute Faculty Meetings
To The Faculty Newsletter:
Bravo to Patrick Winston for speaking out in the Faculty Newsletter to make the faculty meetings more truly engaging for the members (“Does MIT Really Need a Faculty Senate?”MIT Faculty Newsletter, Vol. XXVIII, No. 4).
Over the half-century that I have watched these meetings I have noticed the erosion of the faculty meetings as a place where communal issues were once comfortably raised and a sense of real participation in the governance of the Institute was the norm. I have wondered when someone would speak up.
I trace the lack of attendance to a growing sense that everything that mattered was already decided and that the opportunity to speak without fear of retribution or at least disregard was the norm. The desire for administrative convenience and a patronizing sense that those in charge know best has done real damage to the sense of loyalty and civic responsibility that faculty used to display in abundance.
Perhaps those days were a reflection of the wartime and post-war sense of shared mission and communal commitment to MIT. Much of that seems to have diminished. Perhaps the present administration would profit from remembering how that sense of common purpose and loyalty proved to be so valuable during the painful days of the late ’60s when the Institute was under siege. I remember one night standing at the barricade in Building 20 with Ray Weiss and other faculty members when ROTC was under attack. The conversation both between faculty and others on one side of the barrier and the concerned students on the other side was a testimony to how powerful the sense of community was when confronted with such challenges and how effective an engaged faculty were in making a learning moment out of what could have been a wound that would have lingered.
I hope your proposals are pursued and congratulate you on putting them forward.