MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XX No. 5
May / June 2008
Financing Undergraduate Education
MIT Faculty Survey: It's About Time
Berwick, Lee, and Orlin Elected to
FNL Editorial Board
Reconsidering the Value of Service to MIT
Confidentiality in Recruitment, Promotion, and Tenure Reviews
Provost Announces Faculty Renewal Program
Endowment Spending Policy at MIT
A New Approach to MIT's Financial Planning
A Primer on Indirect Costs
Changes in Engineering Education
Anthropologists Express Concern Over Government Plan to Support Military-Related Research in Universities
Reflections on Nominations and Elections for Faculty Officers and Commmittees at MIT
Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity: Research Team and Effort Launched
The Man I Killed; Lise
Creating a Culture of Communication: Assessing the Implementation of the Undergraduate Communication Requirement
The Vision Thing
Lerman Now Dean for Graduate Education
The Spellings Commission Backs Off
Who Should Be Allowed to Speak
at Faculty Meetings?
from the 2008 Faculty Survey: Reasonableness of Workload
from the 2008 Faculty Survey:
Satisfaction with . . .
from the 2008 Faculty Survey:
Sources of Stress
Printable Version


Who Should Be Allowed to Speak at Faculty Meetings?

To The Faculty Newsletter:

I am writing to comment on the amendment to the motion presented at the April faculty meeting that would allow speaking privileges to professors emeriti. In reviewing the proposed amendment I wondered why this opportunity is only being granted to Professors Emeriti faculty and not expanded to others such as Adjunct, Senior Lecturers, or Professors of Practice.

I was informed by colleagues that one reason for not granting speaking opportunities was concern that in broadening the definition of who can speak there is a risk of having others ask for the same privilege and leaving the faculty without a reasonable framework for deciding who should or should not be granted speaking privileges.

I believe there is another way to look at this issue. For me the primary question is as follows: Why would any group think its best interest is served by limiting which members can provide the group with information and knowledge?

During my eight years at MIT I have noticed an increased emphasis on behalf of the Institute to teach students the importance of inclusion and the necessity of listening to and learning from those who hold different experiences, worldviews, and ideologies. How then can we justify a policy that says that the same members of the faculty who are entrusted with providing for the education of students and the advancement of knowledge should not be allowed to voice their experience at faculty meetings just because they are not part of the "regular" faculty?

There is nothing in the passage from adjunct or part-time to associate or full professor with tenure that alone makes one wiser.

Nor does it make one the sole holder of information or knowledge that should inform the rules that the faculty of this institution follow in fulfilling their responsibilities in research, education, and service. Quite the contrary. The collective body of faculty at MIT has an extensive range of experiences that is relevant in defining policy in the Institute and needs to be seen as such. By enabling any rule that silences any part of our collective knowledge we are limiting ourselves and turning our backs on our most precious value: knowledge.

Currently, I am on partial leave from MIT running an organization called Dropping Knowledge. The goal of the organization is to support free and open exchange of knowledge especially among those whose voices are often neglected or purposefully silenced. The premise in our work is that the world improves because people are able to raise their voices and name their experiences in the world and to ask questions as to why something is so. I think this is an apt perspective for us to consider. Just as we lead in research and teaching innovation, we can also effect change in how decisions are made. We can believe that an open exchange of ideas and full engagement with each other is necessary for us to discern the best road to travel.

Towards that end I wish to offer a friendly amendment to extending speaking privileges to Professors Emeriti. It would read as follows:

“That all individuals who are entrusted with the privilege and honor to engage in the education of students also be granted speaking privileges at faculty meetings regardless of rank or duration of service.”

Should the same privileges be expanded to include voting? I don’t know, but when we open the floor to all faculty we will have to discuss who and what representative structure makes discussions and sets rule on behalf of the entire faculty.

I hope that in this case we can make new history for MIT and connect ourselves to the global history of the struggle for voice and inclusion.

Ceasar L. McDowell

Back to top
Send your comments