MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XVIII No. 5
May / June 2006
Meritocracy and a Diverse Faculty
A Brief History and Workings
of the MIT Corporation
Committees of the Faculty:
An End-of-Year Recap
Lippard and Sharp Awarded
National Medal of Science
Energy Research Council and Forum:
A Major New Institute Initiative
Efficient Use of Energy:
Part of MIT's New Energy Initiative
Fueling Our Transportation Future
Lighting a Fire in MIT's
Undergradute Education
Some Thoughts on the Arts
Reflections on the "Visualizing Cultures" Incident
On the "Visualizing Cultures" Controversy and its Implications
Communication Requirement
Evaluation Process Begins
A Modest Proposal:
A Dental Insurance Plan for All Students
New Resource on Faculty Website:
"Current Practices"
"Soft Skills" to Help Avoid the "Hard Knocks"
Computer Space Planning for MIT
Tops IT-SPARCC's Priority List
Seniors Report Increased Satisfaction
with Faculty Interaction
Smart Buy Purchasing Initiative
Primary Form of Support
for Doctoral Students
Printable Version

From The Faculty Chair

Committees of the Faculty: An End-of-Year Recap

Lorna J. Gibson

In this last Newsletter for the semester, I would like to summarize some of the main accomplishments of the standing committees of the faculty for the past year.

Committee on the Library System (Chair: Brian Evans)
The Committee on the Library System (CLS) has been working on the issues of Open Access (e.g., the NIH request for NIH PIs to post their articles on its PubMedCentral Website). CLS has also been working with Ann Wolpert, the director of the Libraries, and Alice Gast, Vice President for Research, to create an amendment to standard copyright transfer agreements, to allow authors to retain more of their IP rights on papers accepted for publication in journals. A copy of the amendment is available at:; or I encourage you to use the amendment with the standard copyright transfer agreement to preserve your IP rights.

Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid (Chair: Nigel Wilson)
The Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid, working in close conjunction with the Office of Student Financial Services, was instrumental in developing MIT’s new policy of matching Federal Pell Grants for all eligible students, starting in September 2006. This policy directs additional financial assistance to our most needy students (federal Pell grants are limited to students from families with incomes less than $40,000). Both the federal Pell Grant and the MIT Pell Matching Grant do not have to be repaid.

Committee on the Undergraduate Program (Chair: Denny Freeman)
Following last year’s joint Committee on the Undergraduate Program (CUP)/Committee on Student Life Report to the Faculty on Advising and Mentoring of Undergraduates, CUP has been focused on undergraduate advising this year. The Committee has recommended that the Academic Resource Center work to increase the number of faculty participating in freshman advising and explore possibilities for expanding the resident-based freshman advising program. If you are interested in becoming a freshman advisor, please contact Donna Friedman in the Academic Resources Center (; 3-9762).

Committee on Student Life (Chair: Hazel Sive)
The Committee on Student Life is looking at next steps to implement the recommendations of the CUP/CSL Report to the Faculty on Advising and Mentoring of Undergraduates, reporting to the faculty at the May 17, 2006 faculty meeting. A new Website, Interact at MIT, designed to promote student/faculty interaction, will be launched over the summer. CSL has also been focusing on harassment at the Institute. A brochure entitled “Is it really just a joke: A guide to reasonable behavior at MIT” will be distributed in the fall to members of the MIT community.

Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement (Chair: Suzanne Flynn)
The Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement has launched an 18-month evaluation of the Communications Requirement. In the first phase of the evaluation, on-line surveys of faculty and seniors will be conducted to collect the impressions, attitudes, and experiences with this GIR. (See "Communication Requirement Evaluation Process Begins" in this Newsletter.)

Committee on Curricula (Chair: David Pesetsky)
The Committee on Curricula (COC) approved, and the faculty voted on, course number 20 for Biological Engineering. COC also approved a new minor in Japanese and is currently reviewing the evening exam policy.

Committee on Academic Performance (Chair: Tom Greytak)
The Committee on Academic Performance (CAP) has been working on policy guidelines to make decisions more uniform. CAP has also been discussing “ghost” students who are not registered but take classes and live in the dorms. These students are either on financial hold (because they did not pay for the previous semester) or have received notice of a required withdrawal. The CAP recently sent out a letter to department heads and academic officers asking for assistance in identifying such students.

Committee on Discipline (Chair: Margery Resnick)
The Committee on Discipline (COD) operations have been running more smoothly as a result of changes recommended by last year’s review of the discipline system. One of the current COD initiatives is improving communication with advisors, housemasters, Student Support Services, and the Registrar.

Faculty Policy Committee (Chair: Lorna Gibson)
The main focus of the Faculty Policy Committee this year was the restructuring of the Committee on Graduate School Programs, to make it more effective in developing general policies across departments related to graduate students and programs, and in encouraging best practices for graduate educational programs. The membership of the committee has been reduced, from 38 to 12, including seven faculty. The Nominations Committee will be selecting members for the committee to begin work this September. Possible agenda items include: approval of proposed graduate degrees; collection and dissemination of best practices; policies related to international students; global competition for graduate students. The Dean for Graduate Students will continue to convene a separate committee of Graduate Program Administrators.

Committee on Graduate School Programs (Chair: Ike Colbert)
The Committee on Graduate School Programs has compiled best practices among departmental graduate programs for communication, advising, mentoring, and mediation into a handbook, “Current Practices in Graduate Student Administration.” The Graduate Administrators, working with the Dean for Graduate Students, plan to advertise the handbook through various Websites and to continually update it by encouraging departments to include their best practices in it. The restructured Committee on Graduate Programs will have oversight of the handbook. (See "New Resource on Faculty Website: Current Practices" in this Newsletter for more information.)

The Committee on Faculty-Administration (Chair: Mary Fuller) and the Committee on Outside Professional Activities (Chair: Bruce Tidor) have both been relatively inactive for several years. The current chairs of the committees are evaluating the role and charge of their respective committees and are considering bringing motions to the faculty to disband these committees in the fall.

Reflections on the Past Year

In my role as Chair of the Faculty, I have had the opportunity to meet faculty from across the Institute, to learn more about their activities and to renew my appreciation for just how remarkable are MIT faculty. Sitting on Academic Council and various committees, I have learned much about the cultures in different fields; the biggest surprise for me has been seeing just how different are these cultures. I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with students and have valued their perspectives on faculty committees. It has been a pleasure to get to know more of our students through social events such as dorm dinners, the Burchard Scholar dinners, and the Society of Women Engineers “Meet the Professor” dinners; I encourage you to attend student dinners and events.

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