MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXIV No. 1
September / October 2011
Political Climate Change Threatens
Scientific Endeavors
Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle:
MIT Faculty and Nuclear Disarmament
Rise of the Rest, Fall of the Best?
Innovations in Communication Instruction at MIT: Celebrating Ten Years of the Communication Requirement (CR)
HASS Exploration Program:
Entering Phase Two
Faculty Fallout
A Letter to President Hockfield
MIT Ranked 3rd in the World, 5th in the U.S.?
Teaching this fall? You should know . . .
MISTI Expands Faculty Seed Funds and Launches New MIT-Chile Program
College Admissions 101
Request for Preliminary Proposals for
Innovative Curricular Projects
Nominate a Colleague for the
MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program
Commenting on “Departmental Discussions of Diversity and Inclusion”
U.S. News & World Report: Best College Rankings for Nartional Universities, 2003-2012
Printable Version


Political Climate Change Threatens Scientific Endeavors


Following a summer of record-breaking heat and devastating storms, from tornadoes to hurricanes, students, faculty and staff have all returned to the relatively safe haven of the academic semester. Whereas the summer weather may have represented the reality of climate change, the summer was also replete with the reality of American political climate change – the rise of the right wing of the Tea Party, the Republican elevation of the federal deficit as the defining feature of the U.S. economy, rather than its productive components; the emerging budgetary threats to Social Security, Medicaid, research, and education. 

Congressional unwillingness to invest in the U.S. economy and eagerness to cut social support programs does not bode well for millions of people out of work, with the young particularly at risk. The pursuit of a policy that represents disinvestments in the U.S. economy and in our people will soon spill over into erosion of federal support of our institutions of higher learning, research universities in particular.

The emergence of Presidential candidates critical of the teaching of evolution and skeptical of the scientific study of climate is deeply disturbing. Those of us in a position to understand the essential role of knowledge, science, and technology in the development of the economy and society will need to speak more clearly, more loudly, and more effectively.

The Coming Year

There are many issues of both national and local concern that the Faculty Newsletter hopes to address in the coming academic year. Some of the topics discussed by the Editorial Board are listed below. At the same time, we strongly encourage our faculty colleagues to offer us additional suggestions for articles they’d like to see (or write!) in the FNL. Although the print version of the newsletter only circulates to MIT personnel, the web version is visited by many tens of thousands of individuals throughout the nation and the world.

  • Decreasing federal financial support for research universities – are critical programs at risk?
  • Issues of U.S. manufacturing: Are we losing ground to the rest of the world and MIT’s potential role in improving the situation (see Prof. Amsden’s article in this issue);
  • Post-Japanese tsunami follow-up: How has it affected the outlook for nuclear energy and engineering?
  • How best to prepare our students for life after MIT;
  • The MIT-Russia research program. Who, what, where, why, and how much $?
  • Implementation of plans for increasing faculty, staff, and student diversity;
  • Proliferation nationally of alternate education scenarios (For-profit colleges and universities, virtual learning; privatization of K-12 public schools);
  • Changing aspects of MIT education – increased class sizes, loss of student athletic opportunities, other cost-saving measures;
  • Loss of faculty benefits through the years;
  • Issues of faculty governance at the Institute (see “From The Faculty Chair”).

In order to pursue these topics (and others) in the depth they deserve, we will need the continued assistance of you, our faculty colleagues. Please send us your comments and ideas, and don’t be surprised if we contact you for some further assistance.

. . . . . . . . . .

George Verghese New FNL Secretary


Faculty Newsletter Editorial Board member and Professor of Electrical Engineering George C. Verghese was elected Secretary of the FNL by acclimation at the Editorial Board meeting held on September 8. Verghese was elected for a two-year term, and in addition to his duties as Secretary he will also chair the Newsletter Nominations Committee, which is responsible for vetting candidates for the FNL Editorial Board.

. . . . . . . . . .

Editorial Board Elections to be Held in October

In accordance with the Policies and Procedures of the MIT Faculty Newsletter, Institute-wide elections for new members of the FNL Editorial Board will be held in October. The elections will be electronically-based, and all faculty members and emeritus faculty will be eligible to vote. E-mail providing a link to the voting site will be sent to all eligible voters, and we encourage all faculty and emeriti to participate in the only Institute-wide faculty election at MIT.


Editorial Subcommittee
Jean Jackson
Jonathan King
Helen Elaine Lee
Stephen Lippard

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