A Letter to the Class of 2016;
Diversity; Campus Planning; Thanks
Greetings to you the graduates – and to your families!
We join with the thousands of family members and friends gathered for Commencement, in sharing the excitement of your graduation. MIT’s faculty both respect and take pride in your accomplishments as MIT’s new class of 2016. Teaching and mentoring you has been a source of deep satisfaction for us, and we have also learned and grown and received new insights in the process. As you take the next steps along career paths, your contributions to your communities and to humanity will be among the most gratifying outcomes of our academic labors.
We hope you will look back on your years at the Institute with a positive feeling, and sense that your presence contributed to enhancing the MIT environment and experience for the coming classes. Note that by remaining active as alumni you can continue to influence the MIT environment. As you move on to other opportunities and challenges, MIT and other universities are in the midst of a vigorous and healthy reexamination of how and what and when we teach.
You will be entering a world where new forms of social communication, new needs for research and scholarship, and global interconnectedness and interactions are the norm. Issues such as climate change, nuclear disarmament, and reducing global poverty, once in the distance, have now established themselves as requiring the urgent attention of us all. Instabilities in nations that may have once seemed very far away now emerge as problems that the world – and this nation – cannot ignore.
During your years with us, we on the faculty have watched the unfolding of your many talents and ambitions, your resilience in the face of setbacks, your thoughtful and quirky self-expression, your creative and entrepreneurial energy, and your myriad achievements. We hope that as your various individual paths unfold, you will put your powers to work on solving some of the problems that confront us, and on making our society more responsibly productive and more supportive to those in need. On behalf of the entire faculty, we wish you vision, strength, commitment, success and much happiness in addressing these challenges.
The Editorial Board of the MIT Faculty Newsletter
The diversity of our community continues to be a matter of great importance. It has been 12 years since the passing of a resolution that called for doubling the percentage of URM (Underrepresented Minority) faculty and tripling the percentage of URM graduate students. We applaud the members of our community as well as the leaders for their persistent hard work in reaching MIT’s diversity goals. The report delivered at the November Institute faculty meeting “Update on Faculty Diversity” by Provost Martin Schmidt notes that MIT has reached its initial goal in doubling the percentage of URM faculty. However, this has not been uniform across departments and some have a ways to go. Women and underrepresented minorities remain underrepresented on our faculty, and we support the call from, for example, MIT’s black student groups [from “Report on the Initiative for Faculty Race and Diversity”] to continue to press forward on these fronts. The detailed proposals of the ICEO report provide a template for action.
The effort to triple the percentage of URM graduate students still remains an issue. Why is the recruitment of URM graduate students more challenging than the recruitment and retention of URM faculty? One answer may derive from the manner in which the definition of URM excludes non-U.S. citizens. International students usually do not have U.S. citizenship and do not fall into a category of URM, whereas faculty often gain citizenship upon becoming employed and automatically gain the status of URM. Hence there is a disconnect in defining and measuring URM. MIT might be doing more successfully in practice than it reports by using official (U.S. census) measurements. Furthermore, the category of "whites" and "Asians" includes more diversity than at any time since the end of the Cold War and collapse of socialism. There are the “other” “whites” from Ukraine and Siberia, and “other” Asians from Cambodian refugee camps, who would not fall into typical "whites" and Asians. In this context, the U.S. census’ definitions are outdated, whereas in practice, MIT’s inclusion of people of various backgrounds may make it more diverse than is evident from the numbers.
Faculty Committee on Campus Planning
We were encouraged to receive the first report from the new Faculty Committee on Campus Planning. Both the Principles and Goals articulated in the report appear sound and comprehensive. As the Committee continues its work, we trust that the other entities driving campus development will become attentive to their work and priorities.
We remain anxious that plans, initially developed by MITIMCo, with inadequate faculty input, are proceeding in roller coaster fashion, without coming to the Committee on Campus Planning for their advice and consent. We note that among the most consistent concerns of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty during the past decade, has been an acute shortage of affordable housing. The proposed lead use of the irreplaceable East Campus site for commercial office buildings fails to respond to these concerns. The latest plan builds even less graduate student housing than was called for by the Clay Committee report. Hopefully it is not too late to request that the administration hearken to the call to focus the East Campus on strengthening the educational and research missions of the Institute, rather than on MITIMCo’s return on real estate investments.
Thanks to Mail Services
The sorting, labeling, and mailing of the Faculty Newsletter can often be a complicated and cumbersome job, replete with requests for unrealistic turnaround time. We would like to take this opportunity to offer our sincere thanks to MIT Mail Services, and in particular to Mail Specialist Debbie Puleo, for the outstanding service and assistance they give us each and every issue. Thanks for all your help, always.
Stephen J. Lippard