The two committees heading the search for the next president of MIT now have a working list of candidates, but there won't be a successor to President Charles M. Vest named until at least this summer.
"We've taken you at your word and we'll take whatever time is needed," faculty chair Rafael Bras told Vest at last week's faculty meeting. When Vest announced in December that he would step down, he said he would stay on until next fall, or whenever a new president was named.
In updating the faculty on the search process, Bras said he is often asked if the two search committees have a set of criteria for candidates. While "we're not interested in creating a litmus test ... we have very, very high standards" regarding the "values and principles" the next president should have, he said. The panels appointed in January are the Faculty Advisory Committee to the Corporation Committee on the Presidential Search, and the Corporation Committee on the Presidency.
The next president of MIT must be committed to continuing need-blind admissions at MIT, and must recognize MIT's science and technology focus "while recognizing that they are not separate from humanities, arts and social sciences," Bras said. The person must also have "reasonable experience," he said. "We're willing to take a risk, but there's a limit."
An international executive search firm has been hired to complement the search committees' efforts. The firm's mandate "is not to identify a primary candidate, but to make sure we're not missing people who might not be as obvious, particularly in the category of women and minorities," Bras said.
The search committees have looked at about 100 names of candidates so far. "The process of reducing that list has begun," Bras said; 20 to 25 names are now being more closely examined and the committees are just starting to contact those candidates to ascertain their interest in the job. However, he emphasized that the candidate roster is flexible; "the list is not closed until we've found the individual," he said.
Formal interviews will begin in April. Though there had been speculation that a new president could be identified as early as June, "my own sense is that we'll be working during the summer," Bras said.
The Student Advisory Group to the Corporation Committee on the Presidency has already prepared a preliminary report identifying what characteristics it would like to see in MIT's next president, Bras said. The Faculty Advisory Committee to the Corporation Committee on the Presidential Search has also completed visits to all academic units and compiled the comments it gathered.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 31, 2004.