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Possible retirement incentives outlined at faculty meeting

MIT faculty members heard about planning for a new program of incentives for voluntary retirement, the status of several initiatives recommended by the Task Force on the Undergraduate Commons and strategic planning in the Graduate Students Office at their regular Oct. 17 meeting.

Associate Provost Lorna Gibson outlined proposals being considered for a faculty renewal program that would provide incentives for faculty to retire. Emphasizing the commitment and enthusiasm MIT faculty express about their work, Gibson focused on both financial and non-financial issues in faculty retirement planning.

Gibson outlined nonfinancial incentives that generally offer sustained connections to MIT, including postretirement office space, parking, administrative and IT support, resources to attend conferences, and an appropriate title, other than emeritus, to reflect the retirees' ongoing professional activity and personal dignity. She also reviewed financial incentives for retirement at such peer institutions as Stanford, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania.

Gibson invited faculty to discuss all aspects of the renewal program, to be launched in spring 2008.

Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel Hastings and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Dennis Freeman described progress in implementing recommendations of the task force that were released in October 2006. Hastings cited the opening of iHouse, the residence for students interested in international development, and the launch of goglobal, a central web site for students to learn about global opportunities at MIT, as meeting task force goals.

Hastings also noted that the number of faculty now engaged in freshman advising had risen from 66 to 88 in a year; that resources for advisors had been improved; and that a committee to implement a strategy for updating classrooms and making policy recommendations on scheduling had been formed.

Freeman described new cross-disciplinary courses and new project-based subjects launched for first-year students. Both received favorable reviews from students, with women students reporting growth in confidence and self-advocacy skills, especially, he said.

Freeman also noted that the first-year project-based courses, while useful, are enormously costly and would be difficult to launch Institute-wide.

To read the Task Force recommendations, please visit

Dean for Graduate Students Steven Lerman said current challenges facing his office included whether the numbers of MIT graduate students (more than 6,000 this year) are sustainable and how fellowships and other financial resources could be expanded. Lerman also noted the new graduate student residences and highlighted the success of MIT's Summer Research Program in recruiting underrepresented minority undergraduates to come to MIT.

President Susan Hockfield convened the meeting and concluded its scheduled portion by reviewing activities of the last month, noting the success of the Alumni Leadership Conference and Family Weekend. She also described the recently announced $100 million gift from David Koch (S.B. 1962, S.M. 1963) to establish the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and the 10-year, $65 million research partnership with Novartis that will create the Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing.

The faculty also heard a resolution, presented by Thomas Meloy Professor of Rhetoric and of the History of Science Kenneth Manning and Ford Professor of Engineering Patrick Winston, that the MIT administration refrain from characterizing "the behavior and motives of members of the MIT community whose actions are the subject (real or potential) of pending criminal investigation."

Faculty members discussed the resolution, and the topic will be visited again at a future faculty meeting.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 24, 2007 (download PDF).

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