The Value of a Faculty Campus Planning Committee
Following the faculty meeting at which a group of faculty moved to create a Campus Planning Committee, I had the pleasant sense that I agreed with everyone. I agreed that we should have a faculty-centered campus planning committee, and I agreed that its exact shape needed more thought. In particular, I wondered how we could ensure that our urban planning faculty are well represented on the committee.
Now, I expect the Faculty Policy Committee is working closely with those who introduced the motion to craft an improvement. I hope they can arrive at a wording that maintains the spirit of the original motion.
Why? Probably because I knew Herbert Simon. He was enough of a force in my field, Artificial Intelligence, to be considered one of its four founders. He was enough of an economist to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1978 for his work on decision-making.
Simon famously noted that people in large organizations tend to champion options that favorably affect the various groups to which they belong, which may or may not be aligned with what is best for the organization as a whole. It is human nature.
We could argue at length about exactly how membership in various groups influences thinking, but I think no one could argue convincingly that there is no influence. When I served on the Provost's Task Force on Community Engagement in 2030 Planning, it was evident that everyone wants what they believe is in MIT's bests interests; it was also evident that what one group believes is in MIT's best interest can be different from what another group believes. Believing something different does not mean more or less right, just different.
Accordingly, it is important that those who make our biggest decisions hear from a variety of groups, certainly including the faculty, who think about the future of education, as well as MITIMCo investors, who think about the future of the endowment. We are entering a period of rapid change in education that we have to manage our way through. What we do in 2024 may be more different from what we do now than what we do now is different from what we did in 1914, so projections into the next few decades using just one kind of crystal ball may turn out to be wrong and impossible to reverse. Cambridge land is scarce, and buildings, once built, are not easily unbuilt.
Patrick Henry Winston