MIT wrongly claims to support undergraduate education
I am writing to express my concern with MIT's tenure policy and academic attitude. When I was accepted by MIT, a press release was sent to my local paper by MIT saying that I had been accepted to "one of the great learning institutions in the world." This should have been rephrased "one of the great research institutions in the world." It is obvious that this is where MIT places its priority. This is a sad truth which should cause embarrassment to every member of the faculty and administration.
Although Associate Professor Jeremy M. Wolfe PhD '81's tenure denial motivated this letter ["Whitaker denies Wolfe tenure," May 11], it is not just this decision I am criticizing. Most undergraduates are well aware that we are given second priority to research. We have come to accept this fact. I was not the least bit surprised to learn about Wolfe's case. I was disgusted to have been reminded so blatantly just how unimportant education is in the eyes of the Institute.
Provost John M. Deutch '61 said he was "pleased that the office of the provost intervened in this matter [Wolfe's tenure case] in a way which demonstrates the value we place at MIT on undergraduate education." I believe the outcome of this case has shown quite clearly the value MIT places on undergraduate education.
Vice President Kenneth A. Smith '58, the head of the Whitaker council which denied Wolfe tenure, said himself that there is a tendency to give research more weight in tenure decisions, but that "there is not any intent to ignore teaching." It should be just the opposite! If MIT feels research is more important than education, it should start a company and use something other than tuition to pay the people it decides to employ.
Our tuition was recently raised to $15,600. In a statement in The Tech it was explained that the $1100 tuition increase was necessary because it is important to provide competitive salaries to maintain the high quality teaching staff here at MIT. So, we raise tuition to pay teachers who are hired on the basis of their research? It does not seem fair that our tuition is being raised at outrageous rates to employ professors given tenure on the basis of the quality of their research. What are we, the students paying tuition, getting out of this?
MIT has earned the reputation of being one of the best colleges in the United States. What signal are we sending the world with such tenure policies? If even our best colleges do not treat education as top priority, it comes as no surprise that the American education system is corroding. Doesn't MIT have a responsibility to act as a leader in changing this situation? Instead we encourage it.
As a student, I strongly recommend that Wolfe's tenure case be reconsidered. MIT cannot afford to lose such a great instructor. On a larger scale, MIT's tenure process, "which has not undergone any major revision since its beginnings in 1940" should be reviewed and restructured so that education is given not an equal priority, but a greater priority than research.
I have been lucky to have had several excellent teachers in my three years at MIT. However, it has been my experience, as well as that of most of my classmates, that many of the professors here do not have a high level of competence in the classroom. Any college owes its existence to its students. It is time that the students here be given the attention and educational priority we deserve.
Gerald E. Sasser III '91->