MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVIII No. 3
January / February 2006
Life Sciences at MIT:
A History and Perspective
Reflecting on the Report of the
Task Force on Medical Care
Promotion and Tenure for
Interdisciplinary Junior Faculty
Reviewing the Committee on
Graduate School Programs
The Challenge and Rewards of Faculty-Student Interactions in the Residence Halls
Troubling whistle-blower article
Regarding the Report of the Task Force on Medical Care for the MIT Community
Valentine: Faith; Valentine: Invention
Mildred Dresselhaus
OpenCourseWare at Home
MIT Retirement Plans: A Brief Summary
MIT Rated 7th in Latest U.S. News Ranking
% of MIT Constituencies Using OCW
OCW Impact on the MIT Community
Printable Version

From The Faculty Chair

Reviewing the Committee on Graduate School Programs

Lorna J. Gibson

Among the improvements to faculty governance considered by the Faculty Policy Committee (FPC) last year was a suggestion to reorganize the Committee on Graduate School Programs (CGSP). CGSP has representatives from each department (along with several other members) authorized to recommend candidates for advanced degrees; currently there are 38 members of the Committee.

This large group works well in evaluating the performance of graduate students at the end of each term, in approving changes to graduate subjects, and in approving requests from students for minor departures from the general requirements for advanced degrees, but is too unwieldy for policy deliberations.

As a result, Dean for Graduate Students Ike Colbert reports that often policy decisions are delegated to the Dean, with little faculty input.

Last fall, FPC started discussing ways that CGSP might be improved. We met with Dean Colbert as well as with several faculty responsible for departmental graduate programs (Professors Steve Bell (Biology), Art Smith (EECS), Michael Piore (Economics), and Joe Ferreira (DUSP)).

We believe that there are a number of broad, Institute-wide policy issues that should be considered by a smaller standing committee of the faculty, including:

  • approval of new graduate degree programs
  • collection and dissemination of best practices for:
  • teaching research ethics
  • recruiting of minority graduate students (in collaboration with the Council on Faculty Diversity)
  • resolving conflicts between students and advisors (e.g., the Department of Chemistry Resources for Easing Friction and Stress (REFS) program:
  • improving advisor/advisee relationships (assisting in implementing recommendations from the Graduate Student Council’s report from last year)
  • policies related to international graduate students (e.g., visa issues, proposed federal deemed export rules)
  • global competition for graduate students
  • increased use of the ad hoc interdisciplinary PhD
  • tuition structure relative to our competitors (this has recently been discussed by the Provost’s Committee on Funding of Graduate Students)

We recognize that departments operate with much more autonomy at the graduate level than at the undergraduate level, in particular in admitting and supporting students, and believe that this is appropriate. Each department has its own culture that must be respected.
This spring, we plan to meet with Alice Gast (Vice-President for Research), Emilie Slaby and Sylvain Bruni (GSC President and Vice-President) and Mary Rowe (Ombudsperson). In addition, the Faculty Officers (me, Bruce Tidor, Associate Chair, and Diana Henderson, Secretary) plan to meet with faculty responsible for the departmental graduate programs in each School. Our goal is to produce a white paper with proposed changes to the CGSP for a vote at a faculty meeting either later this spring or next fall. I welcome your comments and suggestions (

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Other FPC Discussions

In other business this past fall, FPC discussed:

  • the final report of the Special Committee to Review the Discipline System from Professors Lorna Gibson and Margery Resnick
  • an update on the Task Force on the Educational Commons from Dean Robert Silbey
  • the final report from the Task Force on Medical Care for the MIT Community from Professor Paul Joskow
  • a request for a course number for Biological Engineering (Professor Doug Lauffenburger); a faculty vote is planned for the February faculty meeting
  • a report from the Council on Faculty Diversity (Professors Nancy Hopkins, Rafael Reif, and Ken Manning)
  • a report from the Graduate Student Council on Task Force on Diversity (Mr. Hector Hernandez)
  • a range of topics with President Susan Hockfield, including academic integrity, cross-disciplinary work, diversity, graduate student recruiting, faculty rewards structure, faculty retirement, and OpenCourseWare.
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