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Faculty votes to take national leadership role in diversity

A bold step toward strengthening the Institute's diversity profile was taken when the faculty committed "to taking a leadership position among our peer institutions in the recruiting and success of underrepresented minority faculty and graduate students."

The resolution adopted by the faculty at its May 19 meeting also "urges the provost, academic deans, dean of graduate education and department heads to take all necessary and sufficient steps to increase the percent of underrepresented minority faculty by roughly a factor of two within a decade."

The resolution urges the MIT leadership to use identical methods to increase the percentage of underrepresented minority graduate students by roughly a factor of three within a decade.

Through the unanimously adopted resolution, the faculty also asks the provost to "provide guidance and direction as requested by the departments, including examples of best practices around the country, in order to achieve these goals."

Annual reports measuring the progress of the recruitment process--including the recruitment of women--are anticipated by the faculty, the Faculty Policy Committee (FPC) and the Council on Faculty Diversity, by school, department and laboratory, according to terms of the resolution.

In a detailed explanation of the FPC report before the vote, Professor Rafael Bras, chair of the faculty, provided faculty and undergraduate statistics over the years at MIT.

For example, of the current 6,228 graduate students, 113 are African-American, 153 Hispanic and 16 Native American. Those ratios have remained almost constant over the last five years, according to the report.

The report also noted the following application numbers and selectivity (percentage admitted) for graduate students since 1999.

African-American--80 applied and 38 percent admitted in 1999,198 applied and 40 percent admitted in 2000, 179 applied and 31 percent admitted in 2001, 200 applied and 24 percent admitted in 2002, and 201 applied and 29 percent admitted in 2003.

Hispanic--220 applied and 39 percent admitted in 1999; 227 applied and 36 percent admitted in 2000; 221 applied and 36 percent admitted in 2001, 276 applied and 32 percent admitted in 2002, and 338 applied and 30 percent admitted in 2003.

Native American--14 applied and 21 percent admitted in 1999, 14 applied and 50 percent admitted in 2000, 16 applied and 63 percent admitted in 2001, 27 applied and 26 percent admitted in 2002, and 56 applied and 34 percent admitted in 2003.

The proportion of underrepresented minorities on the MIT faculty is just under 5 percent.

Other business

A proposal for the establishment of an S.B. degree in archaeology and materials (course 3-C) was presented by professors Mark Schuster and Sam Allen. The program was conducted as an experimental program for five years as required by the Committee on Undergraduate Program (CUP). CUP and the FPC have now voted in favor of establishing it as a permanent undergraduate degree program in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Schuster described it as a "small, high-quality program that combines the humanities and sciences."

"It integrates archaeology, anthropology, geology and materials science," said Allen. "No other degree program in the U.S. is comparable." The faculty will vote on the proposal at its September meeting.

Chancellor Phillip Clay gave the annual report of the ROTC Task Force regarding efforts to implement the 1996 faculty vote regarding the exclusion of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgendered persons from participation in the ROTC at MIT. While no shift in national policy has occurred and no appropriate court case been found to allow MIT participation in challenging the federal government in that regard, several campus initiatives have seen success.

MIT has become a more welcoming environment for LBGT people, Clay said, as evidenced by greater attendance at campus-wide events to support the LBGT community and by the renewed "welcome campaign" marked by the "You Are Welcome" signs recently distributed on campus.

Alternative leadership programs that take advantage of ROTC's leadership development capacity, as agreed to by the faculty eight years ago, now are flourishing on campus.

Eight retiring faculty members were recognized for their service to the Institute: William L. Porter of architecture, Ronald M. Latanision of materials science and engineering, Donald E. Troxel of electrical engineering and computer science, Franklin M. Fisher of economics, Bruce Mazlish of history, Judith J. Thomson of linguistics and philosophy, Cynthia G. Wolff of the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, and Daniel Kleppner of physics.

Recommended as ex officii members of the faculty for next year were Jeffrey Meldman, associate dean in the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education; Robert Randolph, senior associate dean for students; Mary Rowe, special assistant to the president and ombudsperson; and Alan White, senior associate dean at the Sloan School.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 2, 2004 (download PDF).

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