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Harris discusses model black student-professional

He is formerly a professor in the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and director of the MIT Office of Minority Education. He was instrumental in the startup of such programs as Second Summer to encourage and support black students at MIT.

The speech is entitled: "What Constitutes the Model Black MIT Student-Professional.")

Gentlepersons, I am especially pleased to share this occasion with you. For you see, although I cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, I am not one of you -- that is -- an MIT alumni. When Mr. Cohen asked me to give some comments during your banquet, I immediately agreed because I believed he had your support and that he had his hands on your wallet. I now see that I remain a poor student of economics and an even poorer person.

Before saying nothing about the theme of this year's conference or about anything else, I will attempt to hold your attention by recalling one aspect of an event which occurred on this campus on Tuesday night, May 14, 1985. On that evening at about 10:30 pm in the MIT Faculty Club, the only statement of significance to be uttered by a black person at MIT was made. This SOS was made by my friend Dr. John B. Turner. Because you are black MIT alumni, this profound statement by John must be heard by you and be allowed to penetrate your consciousness. Get a copy before you leave this conference.

Legend and folklore have it that there exists a great university in this city of Cambridge. It is thought to be quite old, rich and distinguished. Legend and folklore also say that the greatest president of this university died some years ago and went straight to Hell. Yes, straight to Hell! Of course, this made Satan quite pleased. Satan had captured the ringleader of nonsense in the Western world. So old Satan decided to appoint this distinguished leader President of the University of Hell. After walking around, making observations ... and developing a management plan, the ringleader agreed to accept the job. The ringleader said, "This is easy. What's the catch?" Old Satan agreed that there was a catch and with great excitement informed the ringleader that the University of Hell had two schools of medicine.

Now, I am really ready to take your money, waste your time and interrupt your "Miami Vice." The question this evening is: What is the model black MIT student-professional? Only within this august audience does one have a chance of posing such a question. I assure you that one has absolutely no chance of answering or resolving that question. However, because I am an engineer from Princeton and ambiguity, dichotomy and conflict resolution are commonplace, I will proceed.

First, I will attempt to restate the problem. Let's reason this thing out. The only thing I need to do to resolve this problem is to integrate over this audience iwth the proper Green's function and Heaviside step function as my kernels and wrap the resulting infinite series around r[el-.5l][cp5]n[cp9][el.5l] in hyperspace. Now you know why white folks don't understand us! We are complicately complex.

Let's return to our search for the model black MIT student-professional. Is this student female or male or neither? Is this student from New York, NY, or Nevada, MO? Is this student an engineering major, a science major or a humanities major? Is this student a member of Tau Beta Pi or is this student one who keeps the CAP busy for long hours? Is this student one-dimensional, multi-dimensional or null-dimensional? Is the model dynamic or [el1p]

static? Each of these questions have a bearing on the challenge. If we were only bright enough to think of all the other possible questions.

Now you must realize that Mr. Cohen has assured me that if I only give a partial answer this year, then he would invite me back next year so that I could repeat this disaster and also get paid for it!

To continue, I share with you my somewhat ancient views of what constitutes the model black MIT student-professional. I stated the salient features of the model in the spring of 1976 at the NSBE conference at Ohio State University and on several occasions on this campus. Recently the essential concept of my model has been used to give life to another model. I quote the following from Evelyn Fox Keller, professor of mathematics and humanities at Northeastern University:

"The very triumphs of modern science impel us to recall other, often forgotten dimensions of the promise of science -- the search for understanding per se, for knowledge as a means of connection, of being in touch with the world around us. These, too, are strains of the scientific aspiration, persisting throughout history in the practice of many scientists, even while absent from the prevailing ideology.

"As it happens, one of the best present-day examples is provided by a woman. Barbara McClintock, winner of the 1983 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology, offers a vision of science that is predicated not on domination but on respect -- above all on `a feeling for the organism.' ... To the question: What is wrong with dominating nature? McClintock's example provides an answer that goes beyond the familiar social and political arguments -- an answer that must be heeded by all scientists on purely scientific grounds: It impedes our search for knowledge."

Let's use Keller's proposal to get a bit closer to resolving our issue. Suppose we delete/add a few nouns and pronouns in Keller's proposal. Say, Barbara McClintock is replaced by Arthur Lewis and that Medicine or Physiology is replaced by Economics. Then the question is: "What do we have?" The answer: BLACK ECONOMICS! I dare you to think BLACK SCIENCE!

Keller's proposal indicates the [el1p]

importance of posing our questions in such a way that a wide spectrum of issues are presented. In the delineation of the salient feature of the model black MIT student-professional, we are compelled to ask what gender, social/economic background, course or major, performance level, dimensionality, time-profile and more.

Since each of you black MIT alumni falls outside of the null-set based ont he above list of parameters (gender, dimensionality, etc.), you are each a model. Now I must assign each of you an ordinal number or risk observing orgastic opulence more mordacious than Jaws. I'll take names later!

In closing, we might reflect on the need to understand the importance of being able to define a model or the model black MIT student-professional. It is important for at least two reasons. First, such an understanding would allow us to identify the greatest change agent outside of the Pacific world. Second, such an understanding would initiate an integration of racial, emotional and intellectual properties -- true pluralism.

Thank you.

[gd]