MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXX No. 1
September / October 2017
DACA Issues; Grad Housing Struggle;
Steve Lippard Retirement; Verghese Gift;
Call for Nominations
A Brief History of the MIT Faculty Newsletter
as it Marks 30th Anniversary
The Fundamental Challenge
Facing Higher Education Today
A Hole in the Flag
How Deeply Are Our Students Learning?
Thank You From the MIT Alumni Association
Nominate a Colleague
as a MacVicar Faculty Fellow
Request for Proposals for
Innovative Curricular Projects
Teaching this fall? You should know . . .
Postdoctoral Scholars By
International Status and Ethnicity
Citizenship of Postdoctoral Scholars
Printable Version


DACA Issues; Grad Housing Struggle; Steve Lippard Retirement; Verghese Gift; Call for Nominations


DACA/Other Immigration Issues

The summer months have been dominated by President Trump’s pronouncements on various policy issues of national significance. Most immediately relevant to MIT is the fate of immigrants in our MIT and Boston area community. President Reif issued a strong statement in support of those at risk in the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program; Chair of the Faculty Susan Silbey circulated a letter from our colleagues Phil Sharp and Tom Kochan calling for continuing support of MIT custodial staffer Francisco Rodriguez, who is currently in U.S. Immigration and Custom enforcement custody. MIT is providing legal support in his case. Our faculty needs to support these individuals and groups in every way possible. Contributions to the Rodriguez defense fund can be made at:

Graduate Student Housing

This is the 30th anniversary of the publication of the Faculty Newsletter, the major campus outlet for the independent voice of the faculty. Over the decades, the pressing issues have changed. A major problem in the past few years needing our attention has been the failure of the MIT administration to provide adequate affordable housing, accessible to campus, for graduate students. MIT has the land, the need, and the financial resources to reduce the onerous housing pressure on thousands of our graduate students who must find somewhere to live further and further away from campus. The intense commercial development in Kendall Square is not only pushing long-term residents out of the community, but also forcing many hundreds of graduate students to seek affordable rentals at greater and greater distance from campus. The shortage of graduate housing has been a consistent concern of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty, as reported in many letters and articles in the Newsletter. The FNL Editorial Board opposed the MITIMCo (MIT Investment Management Company) decision to use our own East Campus to build commercial office buildings and market-rate housing, rather than substantial graduate student housing and academic buildings. We can’t ignore our responsibility to our graduate students.

More recently MITIMCo has purchased the Department of Transportation Volpe Site (John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center) adjoining Broadway in Kendall Square. This provides another opportunity to build the needed graduate student housing. Unfortunately that goal is absent from the MITIMCo proposals to the Cambridge City Council. Again, our graduate student needs are ignored.

This spring, the MIT Graduate Student Council (GSC) again took up the issue of inadequate housing. They proceeded carefully and thoughtfully, collecting further data on housing needs from their membership, investigating municipal zoning, and came up with a concrete need for more than 1400 additional units. The GSC voted 36 to 2 to proceed with a zoning petition to the Cambridge City Council that would call for MIT to build 1800 affordable housing units. Their engagement was a model of responsible leadership. Just prior to submitting the petition, a delegation of GSC leaders met with representatives of the MIT administration to inform them of their plan of action.

Rather than appreciating the initiative and civic engagement of the GSC, the MIT and MITIMCo representatives expressed sufficient hostility to this effort so that the GSC leadership backed off from submitting the petition. Instead of increased housing, Chancellor Barnhart offered to constitute another Working Group to examine graduate student housing needs and prospects. Of course, the prior MIT Clay Commission had already had innumerable meetings on the same subject (“The Current East Campus Plan Still Needs More Grad Student Housing,” MIT Faculty Newsletter, Vol. XXVII No. 3, January/February 2015.)

On their own initiative, a group of graduate students who are not GSC officers decided to go ahead and filed the petition on August 14, which will be heard by the Cambridge City Council and its Ordinance Committee. The petition is supported by Cambridge community groups who have long been concerned over MIT’s inadequate response to graduate student housing, because it increases the difficulty for other Cambridge tenants to afford to stay in their apartments. “The graduate student effort should be celebrated by Cambridge officials, especially those who truly understand the housing crisis in Cambridge,” said City Councilor Dennis Carlone (quoted in Cambridge Day, August 14, 2017). “The submitted petition very much matches what many on the council know is an essential part of easing the housing squeeze in our neighborhoods, especially for families and people in need.” More detailed accounts of these dilemmas, challenges, and clearly problems are covered in prior FNL articles, for example, “MIT Construction Plans Continue to Undervalue Graduate Student Needs,” MIT Faculty Newsletter, Vol. 28 No. 1, September/October 2015.

Steven J. Lippard

One of the core members of the FNL Editorial Board for many years has been Steve Lippard, former Chair of the Department of Chemistry, National Medal of Science awardee, and a staunch advocate for the role of faculty in maintaining MIT’s key contributions in national scientific and educational needs. Steve was deeply attentive to the needs of faculty, students, and staff in maintaining an optimally productive and supportive academic and scientific environment. Steve is moving to Washington, DC to be closer to his family. We will miss him and wish him all the best in his new life.

Verghese Gift

We are delighted to announce a generous gift from former Newsletter Editorial Board member George Verghese and his wife Ann, in honor of George’s parents, George Verghese Sr. and the late Mariam Verghese, both of them science teachers all their adult lives. This gift will allow the FNL to organize a number of activities, including timely forums addressing pressing issues before the MIT community. Our deepest thanks to George and his family.

Call for Nominations

This is a call for nominations to the Newsletter Editorial Board. All nominees will be reviewed by the Nominations Committee, and faculty-wide, electronically-based elections are planned for later this fall. Nominees should give evidence of commitment to the integrity and independence of the faculty, and to the role of the Faculty Newsletter as an important voice of the faculty. Please forward all nominations to Nominating faculty should include, both for themselves and their nominee, full name, department, Institute address, phone number, and email address.

Editorial Subcommittee

Manduhai Buyandelger
Nazli Choucri
Woodie Flowers
Jonathan King
Ruth Perry

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