MIT, responding to a discrimination complaint being investigated by the federal government, announced yesterday (Feb. 11) that two pre-college summer programs of educational enrichment will maintain their critical goals and purposes but will be open to students from all races whose background indicates they will benefit from and contribute to the programs.
The two programs were created to achieve the goal of increasing the participation of underrepresented minorities in science and engineering. The programs--Minority Introduction to Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Science (or MITE2S) and Project Interphase--have almost exclusively served underrepresented minority high school students and incoming MIT freshmen since 1974 and 1969 respectively.
Dean of Undergraduate Education Robert Redwine said, "Our best [legal] advice was that for racially exclusive programs, our chances of winning were essentially zero. We'd be much better off putting our energies into redesigning our programs to achieve the goals that we want, while opening it up to other students."
Redwine said in a statement:
"The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is reviewing two pre-college summer programs at MIT for underrepresented minority students. One program is for high school students (MITE2S) and the other is for freshmen admitted to MIT (Project Interphase).
"After reviewing the programs and relevant law, MIT decided earlier this year to modify the selection criteria while maintaining the critical goals and purposes of these programs.
"We believe that it is important for minority and non-minority students to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully study and pursue careers in science and engineering in an increasingly diverse world.
"To that end, individuals of any race or national origin may apply to these programs. MIT will take many factors into account when selecting students for these programs, such as academic qualifications, and whether the individual is the first generation in his or her family to be headed for college, comes from a high school that does not send a high percentage of students to four-year colleges, comes from a background that presents challenges for success at an elite urban institution such as MIT, or comes from a racial or ethnic minority group that is underrepresented in educational programs and careers in science and engineering.
"MIT is committed to recruiting excellent students from all ethnic and racial backgrounds, because all students benefit from learning in an environment that mirrors the diversity of America and our global society. We developed the MITE2S and Project Interphase programs many years ago to foster increased participation by African-American, Hispanic American and Native American students in science and engineering, fields in which these groups have been underrepresented at MIT and in our society.
"Similar programs have in the past been encouraged and actively financed by the federal government itself and continue to be supported by industry. Outreach to advance these goals continues even in U.S. service academies.
"MIT is committed to assuring that the long-standing goals of these programs are preserved in ways that fully comply with the governing laws," Redwine concluded.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 12, 2003.