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Accrediting body finds MIT 'extremely commendable'

MIT has been reaccredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc.

The commission, in a letter received last Thursday by President Charles Vest, said continuation of MIT's accreditation "is based upon the commission's finding that the institution's fulfillment of the Standards of Accreditation is extremely commendable in virtually every respect.

"It is clear that the Institute, already peerless because of its impressive faculty, outstanding academic programs and capable leadership, is consciously and successfully reshaping itself in a rapidly changing technological and human landscape," the commission said upon completing the review begun in November 1999. The previous review was in 1989, and the next comprehensive evaluation is scheduled for fall 2009.

The commission said a fifth-year report (a requirement for all institutions) should emphasize at MIT, "matters related to our standards on student services, library and information resources, and physical resources."

The commission letter, the evaluation team's report, MIT's response and MIT's self-study are available on the web.

The commission said, "Central institutional planning, grounded in a strong mission statement, embraces both annual budget cycles and an episodic series of long-range plans. The Institute has also very ably managed the shift from a funding base largely dependent on federal monies to support from industry, other academic institutions and foreign governments, and has succeeded in stabilizing its extramural revenue stream."

The commission praised "efforts to diversify the student body and the faculty, as well as to respond to recently documented gender inequities.

"A particularly striking achievement is the positive outcome of the varied attempts to create a sense of community on the Institute campus; this has been accomplished through the efforts of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning, aided by the strong commitment of the central administration to this initiative, which have resulted in measures to develop integrated living-learning environments for undergraduates, and an impressive series of campus-wide events involving faculty, students and staff."

Stating that MIT "more than fulfills our standard on student services," the commission noted, "As the Institute itself recognizes, perhaps even more could be done through closer coordination between the administrative offices that oversee undergraduate education and student life, and by implementing additional strategies for involving graduate students and faculty in campus events."


Regarding library and information resources at MIT, the commission said it was pleased to acknowledge "several initiatives designed to correct perceived deficiencies." It cited the recent completion of a library strategic plan; increased coordination between the libraries and the administrators responsible for information systems; and the development of a digital library. It also commended MIT's "plans to create a central, technologically advanced interdisciplinary library facility."

It said the visiting team (headed by Thomas Everhart, president emeritus of Caltech) cited "several specific areas that are now potentially inadequate, including digital library resources for graduate students and faculty, the computer infrastructure and the physical facilities, some of which are less than fully functional."

The commission added that "we were heartened to learn that the Institute has begun to respond in a productive way" to these concerns. It said MIT's current facilities "present a serious deferred maintenance challenge. The visiting team was surprised to discover, at such a distinguished institution, evidence of neglect and disrepair in several of the older buildings. We recognize that the Institute is well aware of the problem and has given it high priority."

Accreditation is "a continuing relationship that is reconsidered when necessary," according to the commission. It specified no length or term for the accreditation.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 31, 2000.

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