MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXIX No. 5
May / June 2017
A Letter to the Class of 2017;
The March for Science
A Primer on Indirect Costs and Why
They Are Important to MIT
Highlights from MIT's Student
Quality of Life Survey
Some Developments, Advances, and Discussions from the Past Year
Susan Silbey New Faculty Chair
Some Musings on Retirement
After 40 Years at MIT
Day of Engagement, Day of Action
Prospects for Nuclear Disarmament
in Uncertain Times
Technology Licensing Office and You
from the 2017 Student Quality of Life Survey
Printable Version


A Letter to the Class of 2017; The March for Science


Felicitations 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 value and take pride in your accomplishments as MIT’s class of 2017. Teaching and mentoring you has been a source of deep satisfaction, as has the learning and research we have done with you. Now, as you take the next steps along career and life paths, your contributions to your communities and to society will be among the most gratifying rewards of our academic efforts.

We hope you will look back on your years at the Institute with the satisfaction that your presence and involvement contributed to enhancing the MIT environment and experience for the classes that followed. You can continue to have a positive impact on Institute life by remaining engaged and active as alumni.

You will be entering a world of considerable uncertainty and increased levels of social and political polarization. After the last presidential election, you rose to the challenges presented by the new administration, as it set about upending much that had been taken for granted. Many of you joined efforts to protect international members of our community from the threat of exclusion or deportation. Many of you also joined or supported the March for Science and the March for Climate in April, or participated in MIT’s Day of Action that month. Issues such as immigration, climate change, nuclear disarmament, the reduction of global poverty, and the need to protect fundamental democratic rights have now become arenas for greater contention. The distant problems of far-away nations now emerge as problems that this nation – and the world – cannot ignore. Refocusing constructive attention on all these issues requires the urgent involvement of us all.

During your years with us, we on the faculty have watched the burgeoning of your many talents, your creative 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 all, and on making our society more responsibly productive and more supportive of those in need. On behalf of the entire faculty, we wish you vision, strength, commitment, wisdom, success, and much happiness in addressing these challenges.

The Editorial Board of the MIT Faculty Newsletter

* * * * * * * * * *

The March for Science

On Saturday April 22, the thousands of people in the March for Science gathered on the Boston Common included several hundred MIT undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and staff. It was uplifting to see so many members of our community standing up for public investment in scientific research, and for the value of scientific approaches to the myriad problems our society is facing. The MIT group had rallied outside the Student Center, then marched over the Longfellow Bridge, joined by marchers from Harvard, and fusing with groups from Boston University, Harvard and Tufts Medical Schools, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and many other institutions, including biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms. This built on the earlier February 19 Copley Square Rally, coupled to the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.

Their creative signs expressed concern for the importance of scientific approaches to disease, to climate, to environmental protection, and to many other areas of concern. We had not witnessed such a public demonstration from the Boston area scientific community in many decades.

Unfortunately the speakers, though lauding scientific approaches to medical, social, and national problems, failed to bring a fully scientific analysis to the government policies we were rallying against. The sharp cuts in the NIH and EPA budgets that were a focus of the rallies derive from very specific policies of the Trump administration and the Republican Congress. The civilian scientific programs were not cut just to satisfy the call for reducing regulations on commerce and industry; they were cut in order to finance the enormous $54 billion increase in Pentagon spending, including nuclear weapons modernization.

As the NY Times (March 16, 2017) reported: “President Trump’s 2018 budget blueprint released on Thursday proposes cuts in discretionary spending for most government agencies to pay for large increases in military spending.” Budget Director Mulvaney was quite clear in speaking with Republican Governors: “By way of defending such extensive cuts, Mr. Mulvaney said simply that the White House’s priority was military spending and that other reductions were necessary to advance that goal.” (Alexander Burns, NY Times, March 22, 2017.) The deeply dangerous, unsound, and expensive nuclear weapons escalation was one subject of the Conference “Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War,” reported on in this issue.

Though the President proposes his budget, the actual spending of our income tax dollars is in the hands of House and Senate appropriations committees. The need to defend scientific research and scientific approaches to national problems cannot be separated from the need to have our elected representatives vote a national budget that responds to true national needs. 

Jonathan King
Aron Bernstein
Max Tegmark

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