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Faculty discuss issues of campus openness

The federal government's new concern with restricting international participation in academic research has manifested itself in "troublesome clauses" in some federal research contracts, Alice Gast, the vice president for research and associate provost, said at the May 21 faculty meeting.

But MIT is sticking to the recommendations of the Faculty Committee on Access to and Disclosure of Scientific Information, chaired by Institute Professor Sheila Widnall, as outlined in its June 2002 report, "In the Public Interest." That report, Gast said, "has been widely used and has had a major impact across the country" as other institutions struggle to define their response to the issue.

Gast said MIT's Office of Sponsored Programs works to ensure that offending clauses--those attempting to limit participation on a research grant by foreign nationals or place restrictions on the publication of results--are negotiated out of contracts.

"Sometimes we must refuse funding," she said. "Your ability to negotiate is only effective if you're able to walk away from the table.

"The close marriage between education and research can only go on with the free access by students between labs and classroom."

William Kettyle, medical director at MIT Medical, addressed a different sort of campus openness in his briefing on the SARS virus. While the threat of SARS is serious, "we have seen no reason to change our welcome to people from endemic areas," he said. MIT guidelines for dealing with the threat need to be "durable enough to deal with whatever comes along, nimble, and be based on the best medical knowledge," he added. Kettyle gave the following prevention advice:
Stay informed about SARS issues
Control sneezes and coughs to stem the tide of the virus
Wash hands frequently to decrease the spread of organisms
Call the medical department if there is any question of SARS
Check the web site at for the latest information.

In other faculty meeting business:

  • Chancellor Phillip Clay reported on the status of efforts to implement the 1996 faculty vote regarding the exclusion of gays and lesbians from participation in ROTC. The report concluded: "While we see no shift in national policy and no opportunities for effective leverage on our part or in collaboration with peers to change national policy, we are increasingly hopeful that our efforts can model tolerance and inclusion."
  • Clay also reported on changes to Policies and Procedures, based on the principles developed by the Ad Hoc Faculty Committee on Intellectual Property and Conflict of Commitment.
  • The faculty applauded retiring members Robert J. Birgeneau, James D. Bruce, Anita Desai, Bernard J. Frieden, Kent F. Hansen, Jack B. Howard, Arthur K. Kerman and Robert M. Rose.
  • Provost Robert Brown gave an overview of MIT travel policies in light of the threat of SARS and violence in some regions.
  • Professor Leon Glicksman announced that Institute Professor Peter Diamond has been selected as the 2003-04 Killian Faculty Award winner.
  • The faculty approved a proposal to codify the process for creating new undergraduate degree programs.
  • The slate of new officers of the faculty and standing committees was approved.
  • Professor Anthony Patera gave an update on the Singapore-MIT Alliance, which will initiate SMA II next fall.
  • Glicksman gave an update on MIT's industrial partnerships.
  • Five members of the faculty ex officiis were approved.

Click here for minutes of the faculty meeting (MIT community only).

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 4, 2003.

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