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Three committees work toward diversity

In welcoming participants to the annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast, President Susan Hockfield reaffirmed MIT's commitment to pursuing King's agenda within its own community. She emphasized the goals of inclusiveness and diversity for students, faculty and staff, and pointed out three initiatives recently launched by Provost L. Rafael Reif.

Reif, who was named provost last August, has established separate committees to assess the recruitment and retention of minority faculty and has charged a panel with reviewing the MLK Visiting Professors and Scholars Program after a decade of operation.

In January, Reif announced the three diversity initiatives in letters to the faculty and staff.

Reif charged the new Minority Faculty Recruitment Committee with "identifying, supporting and assessing efforts to increase the pool of minority candidates for faculty positions at MIT, with developing new approaches, and serving as a resource for department heads and deans throughout the Institute."

This should include, he noted, identifying the most successful approaches in place at MIT and at peer institutions.

The members of the Minority Faculty Recruitment Committee are co-chairs Paula T. Hammond, associate professor of chemical engineering; Akintunde Ibitayo (Tayo) Akinwande, professor of electrical engineering and computer science; and Nancy Kanwisher, professor of brain and cognitive sciences.

In the same letter, Reif charged the Committee on the Retention of Minority Faculty with developing a "deeper understanding of the experience of minority faculty at the Institute and with devising ways to assist and support their career development."

The group will work in close collaboration with the schools and departments to assess best practices inside and outside MIT and consider potential changes to current policy and practice that might strengthen retention.

The members of the Committee on the Retention of Minority Faculty are Wesley Harris (chair), professor and department head, aeronautics and astronautics; Leigh Royden, professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences; and Merritt Roe Smith, the Cutten Professor of the History of Technology.

Each committee is to report annually to the provost.

Writing of the 10-year-old MLK Visiting Professor and Scholars Program, Reif said, "It behooves us to evaluate [this program] in light of the Institute's renewed commitment to promote diversity in our academic ranks."

Reif charged the MLK review panel with evaluating the selection process; weighing how such a program may be used for faculty recruitment purposes; and considering modifications or expansion of the MLK program as a way to improve the pipeline for faculty candidates.

The MLK review panel members are Rafael L. Bras (chair), the Edward A. Abdun-Nur Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Stephen C. Graves, the Abraham Siegel Professor of Management; Sabine Iatridou, professor of linguistics; Ceasar L. McDowell, professor of the practice of community development; Dale F. Morgan, professor of geophysics; and Christine Ortiz, associate professor of materials science and engineering.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 15, 2006 (download PDF).

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