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Deutch says he will not be next president


By Reuven M. Lerner

and Niraj S. Desai

Provost John M. Deutch '61 announced yesterday that he will not be MIT's next president and that he will step down as provost on June 30.

Deutch told the Academic Council that he believes the next president should have the opportunity to name a new provost. After five years as the Institute's chief academic officer, Deutch said he plans to return to teaching and research in physical chemistry and on public policy issues.

Yesterday's announcement apparently came as a surprise to members of the Council, which is composed of MIT's top officials, and to others in the administration and faculty.

Deutch's name had figured prominently among potential candidates to succeed President Paul E. Gray '54, who is scheduled to become chairman of the MIT Corporation on July 1.

It is not clear whether Deutch withdrew his name from consideration for the presidency or whether he had been told by the presidential search committees that he would not be selected. Deutch could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Corporation is expected to announce the new president at its March meeting.

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A controversial tenure

While many remembered Deutch as a hard-working, successful administrator, others faulted him for making poor policy decisions and for his ties to the military and the corporate world. As Institute's second-in-command, Deutch has been in charge of overseeing faculty research, quality of faculty, and the undergraduate curriculum.

President Paul E. Gray '54 recently hailed Deutch as "clearly the most effective academic administrator I have ever encountered." Gray appointed Deutch to replace Francis E. Low, who resigned as provost in 1985.

Other faculty also praised Deutch for his work. Dean for Undergraduate Education Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65 lauded Deutch for "having established the post of Dean for Undergraduate Education" after the need for one was "first recognized back in 1973." She also said that Deutch was responsible for "an Institute-wide reflection on the undergraduate experience."

The head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering, Professor Mujid S. Kazimi SM '73, said that Deutch "has carried a lot of weight" in the last few years. MIT is "losing an old hand," he said.

Professor Eugene B. Skolnikoff '49, a member of the faculty presidential search committee, called Deutch "an old friend of mine for many years," and described him as "an intelligent, imaginative person."

Vice President for Financial Operations James J. Culliton described Deutch's tenure as "excellent," and said that he had been a "strong source of guidance."

Not all people were happy with Deutch's work, however. Rich Cowan '87, a former student activist who now works with the Coalition for Universities and the Public Interest, said that while people had long felt MIT moving "toward more corporate and military ties," they had thought that "there was no way to change any of that." He said that people now realize that by speaking about the priorities of the Institute together, "we actually have some power in what happens at MIT."

Cowan said that Deutch leaned "toward favoring military money," perhaps because this "would make it easier for him to become president." He noted that in the end, perhaps, the reverse had actually come true. Military involvement had probably hurt Deutch's chances for the presidency, Cowan suggested, saying that "Deutch indicated that he clearly was interested [in the presidency] just three months ago."

Professor Arthur C. Smith also had mixed feelings about Deutch, saying that while Deutch "has done some good things," there had also been "incidents and events that caused difficulty." He acknowledged that Deutch had been part of the controversial 1988 decision to disband the Department of Applied Biological Sciences, but refused to accuse Deutch alone, saying, "I would not place on his door" all of the blame.

Smith gave Deutch credit for having "reacted very positively to a lot of requests from student groups." He also was impressed with Deutch's record "on issues having to do with minorities and women."

Vice President and Treasurer Glenn P. Strehle '58 credited Deutch with being involved in "a number of very successful activities, including the faculty housing programs" and "the finances of the Institute." He added that Deutch "has made a very important and significant contribution to the Institute," and that "the programs he developed will continue and will have [a lasting impact].".

Undergraduate Association President Paul Antico '91 was "kind of shocked" to hear the news, and said that he had not heard anything before yesterday. Acknowledging that Deutch's announcement might affect such current issues as freshman housing and Independent Activities Period, Antico cautioned students not to forget that "the issues are still there." He added that while Deutch and he "did not necessarily agree on everything," the two of them "were able to deal with each other very well."

Steven D. Penn G, a member of the Alternative News Collective, believed Deutch's departure may reduce the influence of the military at MIT, charging that most of the Provost's "major projects had worked against the objective of peace." Like Cowan, Penn thought Deutch's defense ties had hurt his chances for the MIT presidency. "People felt uncomfortable with his incredible love of the military," Penn said.

Presidential search impact

Richard M. Cyert, president of Carnegie Mellon University, expressed surprise at the announcement, saying that "I thought he would be president of MIT." Cyert speculated that "if he can't be the president of MIT, then he doesn't want to be president anyplace." Deutch has been rumored to be under consideration for CMU's presidency.

Kazimi felt that Deutch's resignation "was probably precipitated by feelings about where the presidential search was leading." It had been widely rumored that Deutch was not well-liked by all of the faculty.

Penn said that he was "excited" about Deutch's announcement, adding that "I think it is fantastic that he is no longer in the running." Penn was not completely satisfied, however. He said that Deutch's statement "doesn't lead me to believe that they have excluded cold warriors" from the presidential search.

Antico said that the presidential search committees still "have a lot of good candidates" to choose from.

(Editor's note: Linda D'Angelo, Andrea Lamberti, and Prabhat Mehta contributed to this story.)