MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXXII No. 5
May / June 2020
Challenging Systemic Racism at MIT
Greetings to our Graduates
in the Year of the Pandemic
Interview with Ragon Institute Director
Dr. Bruce Walker
"May You Live in Interesting Times":
The Year in Review
Heartsick. Anguished. Enraged.
Words + Words + Words
The Case Against "#BlackLivesMatter?"
Voices from the MIT Community Vigil
A Faculty Testimonial
CMS/W and Racial Justice: A Path Forward
Literature's Statement of Solidarity
Statement from MIT Anthropology
Statement from the
Graduate Student Council (GSC)
Ramping Up On-Campus Research at MIT
On the Risks and Benefits of
New International Engagements
Anonymity, Liquidity, Mobility: A Quandary
Printable Version

A Faculty Testimonial

Jonathan A. King

Years back I was privileged to have a very talented African-American graduate student. She was awarded her PhD for a superior thesis in physical biochemistry. Though offered a prestigious research fellowship, she decided that the best way to serve her community was to go into science education. She did a postdoctoral fellowship in that field, and then wrote a proposal to the NIH for an outreach program directed to high school biology and chemistry teachers, based on her thesis research, to be located in the Biology Department. She was awarded the grant (very few such grants were then awarded by NIH) as well as full salary as an Instructor.

When we received the notice, I started the process of getting her appointed as an Instructor. At the levels of Department, School, and Institute I was told her appointment had to be as Technical Instructor, not Instructor, because of some argument that the teachers she would be instructing weren’t MIT students.  Neither she nor I viewed that appointment as recognizing her substantial accomplishments and professional stature.  This was during a period of considerable discussion of the need to make MIT friendlier and more supportive of scientists of color. In her experience, the ensuing reports turned out to be merely public relations.

I told members of the Administration that she wouldn’t stay under those conditions, and that we would lose a unique member of our scientific and educational staff. Even the chair of the committee responsible for increasing diversity offered no support. Note  that despite the current substantial  pool of highly-trained African-American biomedical and biochemical scientists (some of whom have benefitted from Mandana Sassanfar’s summer programs), the MIT Biology Department has no Black faculty members. Is it any wonder that Black members of the biomedical research community, inside and outside of MIT, don’t all view MIT as a bastion of progress?

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