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Phillip Clay named next MIT chancellor

President Charles M. Vest announced on Tuesday the appointment of Associate Provost Phillip L. Clay as chancellor of MIT.

"It is with great enthusiasm that I am appointing Phil Clay as MIT's chancellor, subject to confirmation by the Executive Committee of the Corporation later this week," Dr. Vest said. "Phil brings great wisdom, strength and experience in academic leadership to this new role, and he has an extraordinary ability to build consensus on some of the most complex issues we face as a university. We will look to him especially for determined leadership and effective advocacy in the areas of education, student life and campus community.

"As one of the world's leading research universities, with strong emphasis on science and engineering, we must excel in rapidly emerging intellectual areas that cross the traditional academic boundaries. It also is crystal clear that to attract the best students, faculty and staff, we must be doubly attentive to the quality of campus life and the integration of our five schools into a coherent community of scholars. Phil Clay will be an ideal member of the leadership team that will help make this happen," Dr. Vest said.

As chancellor, Professor Clay will report to the President. He will be responsible for continuing the enhancement and integration of education, student life and campus community -- in keeping with the recommendations of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning. Both the dean for undergraduate education and the dean for student life will report to him. (Professor Clay chaired the search committee for the dean for student life and served on the search committee for the dean for undergraduate education.) The dean for graduate students will report to him through the vice president for research, who also will report to him in matters of graduate education policy.

Other areas of the new chancellor's responsibility include oversight of major educational and international institutional partnerships, such as the Cambridge-MIT Institute and the Singapore-MIT Alliance. He also will play a key role in some of the Institute's large industrial partnerships. He will continue to chair the Council on International Relationships, which works with program leaders and senior administration to frame and advise on MIT's policies in this area.

As chancellor, Professor Clay will have, within the senior administration, primary responsibility and overview of faculty affairs, including quality of faculty life issues, dispute resolution and broad policy oversight. Together with the president and provost, he will work closely with the faculty governance system. In recent years, as associate provost, he has led institutional assessment and planning in such areas as promotion and tenure policies, faculty leave policy, academic integrity, information privacy, intellectual property rights, planning for child day care, alcohol policy and implementation of faculty recommendations regarding the ROTC program.

Professor Clay will co-chair the Council on the Environment, together with Professor David Marks, and also will continue to co-chair the Council on Faculty Diversity, together with Professor Nancy Hopkins and Provost Robert Brown.

Professor Clay's appointment as chancellor will become effective July 1. He will succeed Professor Lawrence Bacow, who will leave MIT this summer to become president of Tufts University.

"I am delighted and honored by this opportunity," said Professor Clay. "This is an exciting time for MIT and I look forward to working with students, faculty and staff on a range of new challenges. One of the great things about MIT is the intense energy and passion that people bring to everything they do. We don't have to motivate people to act, take risks or work across traditional boundaries. This is our competitive advantage -- whether in education, research or building a stronger sense of community.

"We have a great team to manage student life and educational programs, and the progress we have made in educational innovation, classroom renovation, new and renewed student residences, and facilities for athletics and recreation are evidence that we are on a roll.

"I look forward to working actively with students, faculty and staff to enhance the quality of learning and the quality of life for everyone in our community. This includes a commitment to using the rich diversity of backgrounds and talents that everyone brings to this place and modeling its power in the academy, the workplace and in our everyday interactions."

Professor Clay, a member of the MIT faculty since 1975, served as assistant director of the MIT-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies from 1980-84 and as head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning from 1992-94, when he was appointed associate provost.

An MIT alumnus (PhD 1975) with an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he is widely known for his work in housing development policy.

Professor Clay has engaged in several studies that helped establish the national agenda for urban policies. He is author of one of the first studies to document the process of urban gentrification. His work on gentrification and neighborhood upgrading was among the first to explain that all neighborhood change is not associated with the degradation of place and social life. His urban policy work has focused on housing and related strategies that public-sector and other organizations can employ to revitalize communities.

His 1987 study, commissioned by the federal Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp., identified the processes and conditions that contribute to the loss of low-cost rental housing and documented the need for a national preservation policy. He later served on the national commission that recommended the policies that became incorporated into the Housing Act of 1990.

Professor Clay is a founding member of the National Housing Trust that continues to address the issue of housing preservation. He is also vice president of the board of The Community Builders, one of the country's largest nonprofit producers of affordable housing. Presently, Professor Clay is senior advisor on projects in several areas including public housing, community capacity-building and urban job initiatives.

Other current community and professional activities include serving on the board of the Housing Research Foundation, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, the Emma Hunt Trust and the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, where he co-chairs the subcommittee on the feasibility of the "Garden Under Glass" that is part of the landscape planning associated with the Big Dig. He is also a member of the editorial board of the Journal of the American Institute of Planning.

Professor Clay and his wife Cassandra, who is on the faculty of social work at Boston University, live in Boston. Their daughter, Elizabeth, is a senior at Columbia University.


A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 6, 2001.

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