Provost's office faces changesBy Earl C. Yen
The Office of the Provost has undergone structural changes as of July 1, according to Provost John M. Deutch '61.
O+ Samuel J. Keyser, former head of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, will fill the newly-created post of Associate Provost for Educational Policy and Programs.
O+ Keyser will supervise the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs (ODSA), which was formerly under Vice President Constantine B. Simonides. Dean for Graduate Education Frank E. Perkins '55 will report to the new associate provost as well.
O+ Keyser will also supervise the recently-created Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education (ODUE). Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65 has been appointed Dean for Undergraduate Education. MacVicar is a professor of Physical Sciences and is also the founder and director of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP).
The responsibility of the ODUE is "to give attention to the quality of the undergraduate educational program -- its content, balance and how well it serves the mission of the institution as a whole," MacVicar said. Her office is charged with "setting the stage for integrating discussions about undergraduate life."
"MacVicar is reappraising what undergraduates learn," Deutch said. "She will strengthen and reform undergraduate education."
MacVicar said there was "a growing sense among the faculty that a focus of administrative attention to undergraduate education should be established."
A major purpose of the ODUE is "to discuss whether we are providing the best kind of foundation for our students," she said. "Our graduates will have opportunities to lead and guide the community. The technology/science student will be catapulted into these positions and opportunities.
"Issues such as the training TA's receive, the availability of tutoring and rewards for young faculty members will be brought to my attention," MacVicar said.
The suggestion of creating a Dean for Undergraduate Education has been around for a long time, according to Simonides. The faculty voted in 1971 to recommend that the administration establish a "central person to have an overview of undergraduate education," Simonides said.
Keyser emphasized that the Dean for Student Affairs, the Dean for Undergraduate Education and the Dean for Graduate Education will work closely together in "focusing on all aspects of the living environment at MIT."
"If you have a structure designed to support particular lines of communication, then things go better," Keyser said.
Undergraduate Association President Bryan R. Moser '87 said that he saw no disadvantages with the new organization of academic offices.
"It's just common sense," Moser said. "The whole idea was to streamline the offices. Anything that centralizes tasks more is helpful."
The changes put the provost in a position to jointly view affairs "in and out of the classroom," Deutch said.
Deutch cited examples of educational issues to be discussed in coming years by Keyser, MacVicar and the faculty. They include the emphasis given to the Humanities program, the structure of the Humanities Distribution requirement and the science core requirements.
Keyser said that in reappraising undergraduate education, the faculty must ask itself a number of fundamental questions about the goals of an MIT education. Keyser asked: "What is it that our students ought to know when they graduate? The undergraduate education -- is it too intense or too narrow?"
Deutch said that he suggested the rearrangement of the academic offices to President Paul E. Gray '54 when he accepted the position of provost. Gray agreed to the idea. At the same time, the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) was conducting a year-long study on the structure of MIT's academic offices.
Deutch said that it was a "happy circumstance" that both he and the CEP had similar ideas about reorganizing the offices. Simonides agreed that the change in the organization was partly a result of favorable timing.
"A good idea must have the right timing, and right timing is when there is a consensus of the faculty," Simonides explained. "It takes time for a building up of consensus and agreement."
The changes were "primarily the thought of the new provost [Deutch], but he talked to everybody," he said.
Deutch said he felt that Keyser and MacVicar are "an outstanding combination and are working with faculty to make a major, positive change."
"The choice of Keyser had an element of genius in it," Simonides said. Keyser is "deeply involved in the academic programs."
Keyser is also the housemaster of Senior House. "I think it's very good to be a housemaster," Keyser explained. "It's absolutely crucial to have an understanding of student life after 5 o'clock. At night, the character of MIT changes. The Institute is a city for the students. You have to understand the environment."
The choice of MacVicar as Dean for Undergraduate Education was "another 100 percent strike," Simonides added. Her position as a professor of physical sciences and as the founder and director of UROP "combine the research interests of the faculty with the students."
"Formally, I will still be the director of UROP," MacVicar said, "but I'll step back from the operational development. If I had to give up UROP completely, that would have been a big sacrifice."
MacVicar will also chair the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, which is one of the two committees created upon the disbanding of CEP.