The MIT faculty voted to establish the titles of "Professor of the Practice of." and "Associate Professor of the Practice of." in the final meeting of the academic year on May 21, which also marked the selection of Professor Robert Langer as the new Killian Award winner, and the report of the ROTC Implementation Team presented by Associate Provost Phillip Clay.
The MIT faculty also recognized Dr. Paul E. Gray's retirement as chairman of the Corporation and applauded his return to teaching 1997-98.
Robert S. Langer, Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, was awarded the 26th Killian Faculty Achievement Prize. Professor Alice H. Amsden, Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Political Economy and chair of the Killian Faculty Award Committee, said that though the committee was "drowning in excellence," it had found a "winner who personified all the qualities of James R. Killian: an outstanding scientist with daring, boundless energy and prophetic vision, an excellent teacher and a superb human being" (see story on page 3).
Provost Joel Moses announced the creation of new academic titles, "Professor of the Practice of." and "Associate Professor of the Practice of." and reminded the faculty, "We've had adjunct professors for years. but `adjunct' is not so high or prestigious a title. Some people don't want adjunct [status]."
For example, schools of architecture routinely use the title "Professor of the Practice" for distinguished practitioners. The proposal to create the new titles was suggested by Dean William Mitchell of the School of Architecture and Planning.
"Especially with architecture, 30 or 40 years' practice reflects very, very useful experience," but it doesn't necessarily come with a PhD, Provost Moses observed. The goal of the new title is to recognize professional standing in certain areas. The new titles, along with their extended initial appointment (three years), will also help MIT nurture younger people in areas of practice such as design.
The "Professor of the Practice" title will be interchangeable with the "Adjunct Professor" title at the discretion of the relevant school. "Adjunct Associate Professor" appointments will now also be allowed.
Concerns about the new titles, including whether MIT was creating a parallel, part-time faculty or "another ladder," were "discussed and handled," Provost Moses said. The number of people who will hold "Professor of the Practice" titles will be very small--10 percent of the faculty in the departments of the School of Architecture and Planning and 5 percent elsewhere--and the new title will exist in addition to the title "Adjunct Professor."
J. Kim Vandiver, professor of ocean engineering and director of the Edgerton Center, noting how naval architecture had been "hit hard by retirements," said he had heard "good argument for 10 percent 'Practice of' professors" in his department. Provost Moses said a new recommendation would be made if the need arose.
Provost Moses also recapped the new faculty summer pay policy, which allows faculty to be paid for up to three summer months of work, rather than the former maximum of two months' pay if no summer vacation is taken.
The ROTC Implementation Team rededicated its commitment to a more inclusive ROTC program that continues to train MIT students for national service and effective leadership.
"We are at a delicate point with respect to submitting a final report," Professor Clay said.
Acknowledging that the team was directed last spring to report to the faculty in a year, Professor Clay, the team's chair, apologized for the lack of details while noting that discussions with ROTC officials and the US Department of Defense were ongoing and "both open and quiet at the same time." He expects to deliver a more comprehensive update in the fall.
The discussions revolve around a revised ROTC curriculum and program that would be open to all MIT students. This task was complicated by Congressional prohibition of non-ROTC students from wearing uniforms or taking part in military exercises, legislation that committee members feel was aimed at thwarting goals sought by MIT.
The Implementation Team highlighted the importance of placing parallel emphasis on improving the climate for gay and lesbian students.
After conferring with other universities, Professor Clay said the team discovered that military reform is not "high on the agenda of our academic colleagues." He said the best hope to change the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on sexual orientation was through the courts. President Vest and Professor Clay said MIT was monitoring cases in the pipeline with an eye toward playing an active role if they progress.
Stephen C. Graves, co-director of the Leaders for Manufacturing program, noted that the recently adopted policy of reinsuring MIT students who lose ROTC scholarships because of their sexual orientation should assure that no student "is financially hurt." As it currently stands, the policy requires the students to cover the self-help portion with loans or work as part of the standard financial aid package. ROTC scholarships cover the complete cost. Professor Vandiver, a member of the committee and chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid, said the issue would become "part of the dialogue in the fall."
Assistant Professor Ralph Wedgwood of linguistics and philosophy said he was disappointed that MIT had not assumed a leadership role in a national debate on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. "Have we started to work with advocacy groups?" he wondered. "Are we preparing amicus briefs in relevant lawsuits? We really should seek out concrete commitments."
"Over the last five years, we have visited two secretaries of state and one head of the Armed Services Committee," President Vest said. Finding the tone in Congress unlikely to result in change, MIT will "go for cases likely to make it to the Supreme Court."
In the meantime, Professor Clay responded to inquiries about the ROTC team's makeup, stating that membership on the design team represented "various functions for now," and that it would include gay and lesbian members of the community as implementation of a new ROTC program proceeded.
Of four motions on housekeeping changes introduced by MIT Professor Lawrence Bacow, chair of the faculty, three were accepted and one was withdrawn.
Lotte Bailyn, professor of management and chair-elect of the faculty, explained that a number of prior faculty chairs had met recently to consider whether it was wise to amend the rules to make the dean of undergraduate education eligible to serve as chair of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program. Considering the potential discomfort of the individual trying to serve both the faculty and the administration, the prior faculty chairs concluded it would be best to leave this section of the rules unchanged. Professor Bacow accepted this recommendation as a friendly amendment, and withdrew the motion.
The faculty accepted the slate of nominees for members of standing committees (presented by Professor of Management Arnoldo Hax at the April meeting) and the list of members of the faculty ex officiis, presented by Professor Bacow.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 4, 1997.