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Faculty honor Virginia Tech victims, applaud Edgerton winner, in April meeting

The faculty observed a moment of silence at the April 18 faculty meeting for the victims of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Theresa M. Stone, MIT's executive vice president and treasurer, and representatives from Campus Police and Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) presented an overview of how news of the shootings has impacted emergency response discussions on campus.

Stone emphasized that police and EHS personnel routinely use drills and exercises to anticipate every kind of emergency.

William Van Schalkwyk, managing director of Environmental Health and Safety Programs, said an extensive communications system is in place that includes e-mail, emergency channels on cable TV and other ways to get messages out to the community. Some faculty members requested a system for following up on students whom they had referred to student services, while maintaining the students' privacy.

Edgerton Award announced

Nergis Mavalvala, associate professor of physics and Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, received the Edgerton Award from the award selection committee. The annual award goes to a junior non-tenured member of the MIT faculty. "It means a lot to me, and almost everything I do is because of the fantastic mentoring I get at this wonderful place," Mavalvala said.

Philip S. Khoury, associate provost and Ford International Professor of History, gave an update on MIT's international engagements, which include 75 projects in more than 35 countries. While 2,000 students now participate in either a summer or semester abroad, the goal is to increase international educational experiences for students and to increase the 6 percent of sponsored research and 9 percent of cash gifts that come from foreign sources in 2006.

Khoury told the faculty that, at a time when research funding for the physical and biological sciences is decreasing domestically, MIT should develop an international strategy to pursue students, research updates and funding sources.

Suzanne Berger, professor of political science, agreed, noting that MIT graduates will function best as sophisticated contributors to their fields if they have the ability to create and access knowledge outside of their home society.

Daniel Roos, associate dean of engineering for engineering systems, gave an overview of the new MIT Portugal Program funded by the Portugal Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education. The program, involving seven universities, 15 research centers and a government laboratory, aims to help the Portuguese generate new knowledge-based industries and raise the education level of its workforce.

Margery Resnick, associate professor of foreign languages and literature, presented data from the previous two years of work by the Committee on Discipline. In 2005-06, the committee heard 23 cases that resulted in sanctions ranging from letters of apology and restitution through suspension and expulsion. Several cases were resolved through mediation. During the last academic year, panels heard several cases in lieu of the full committee when warranted and an academic integrity handbook was created and distributed to MIT community.

In other business, MIT President Susan Hockfield said that more than 1,000 people watched Sen. Edward Kennedy deliver the Compton Lecture on April 13. The lecture series will be expanded to include two to four lectures in the coming year as well as smaller format events for students to interact with speakers. Hockfield said she welcomes suggestions for future speakers.

In two votes on motions entertained at the March meeting, the faculty voted to disband the Committee on Faculty-Administration, folding its duties into the Faculty Policy Committee, and to accept minor wording changes to the rules and regulations of the faculty.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 25, 2007 (download PDF).

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