The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 37.0°F | Overcast

Group studies bias case

By Andrea Lamberti

A committee convened to investigate the tenure process of Gretchen L. Kalonji '80, formerly an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, is "in the process of writing a final report," she said, on whether or not discrimination tainted her tenure process.

"I have filed a discrimination grievance, and there is a committee which has been holding extensive hearings since January," Kalonji said in a statement yesterday. "I hope they'll agree that I was treated unfairly."

The committee will present the report to Dean of the School of Engineering, Gerald L. Wilson '61, who will review the final draft. Wilson was not available for comment yesterday.

Kalonji filed the grievance in April 1989, about three months after she was informed of her tenure decision, and the committee was formed to evaluate the grievance in December 1989, according to a June 4 article in The Thistle.

The chair of the review committee, Paul L. Penfield Jr. '60, who is head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, had no comment. "I can't answer any questions," he said.

In The Thistle interview, Kalonji asserted that several irregularities existed in her tenure process. She claimed that the committee had considered her political activities during her evaluation, and The Thistle article called the structure of her career development committee, which monitored her progress, "atypical."

She also told The Thistle that "there is sufficient evidence to support her claim that she was discriminated against, both as a woman and a political activist."

Michael Altman, Kalonji's lawyer, said the preliminary report came out a few days ago, but he has not seen it.

If the committee concludes there was discrimination involved and gave Kalonji tenure, there would be no need for a lawsuit against MIT, he said. But if MIT rejects "any conclusion as to discrimination [after the final draft is out], Gretchen and I would be talking about considering a lawsuit," he added.

Kalonji was appointed to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT in 1982, by Walter S. Owen, professor emeritus of materials science and engineering, who was department head at the time.

She came up for tenure in 1987, but the department asked her to wait one year before reviewing her case. She was rejected for tenure in early 1989.

A professor in the department, Robert W. Balluffi '47, who sat on Kalonji's tenure review committee, said "I was in favor of granting her tenure."

There were five people on the tenure review committee, Balluffi said, but he would not say whether or not he was the only one in favor of granting tenure.

The tenure committee weighed candidates based on three criteria -- the quality of the candidate's research, quality of teaching, and the "quality of the candidate's activities and accomplishments in general," Balluffi said. "I think they were all weighed fairly," he added.

Kalonji recently accepted a tenured position in the materials science and engineering department at the University of Washington, according to her former secretary, Sandy Schaefer Ung.

An "unusual candidate"

for tenure

Institute Professor Mildred S. Dresselhaus, who taught Kalonji while she was an undergraduate and graduate student at MIT, said, "I think she's done important research, [and an] outstanding thesis, [and has] a good reputation on the outside for the work she's done."

Dresselhaus said, though, "I'm not really qualified to comment [on Kalonji not receiving tenure]. I was just surprised at the outcome, but that's all I can really say."

Balluffi felt that several factors affected the decision to not grant Kalonji tenure. "I would say that she was a very unusual candidate, and that there's a very wide range of ideals of standards among different members of the faculty of the department."

"There were sufficient numbers of people who felt certain . . . Gretchen Kalonji's characteristics were not consistent with their standards," Balluffi said.

Balluffi characterized Kalonji as "a very unusual person. She has very high intellectual gifts. She's extremely idealistic. She doesn't fit into the standard pattern of a standardized academic performer. She tends to be quite forthright and she's very direct in her dealings with people."

Balluffi felt that "many of these characteristics make life difficult for a person."

"She had . . . not only wider scientific interests, but she was also interested in the politics and sociology of MIT," Balluffi said. Kalonji was the affirmative action coordinator for her department, according to a letter supporting her from four faculty members to President Paul E. Gray '54.

Kalonji also proposed text of a resolution in March 1986 protesting the arrest of MIT students in conjunction with pro-divestment shanties on Kresge Oval. The faculty passed the resolution 59-35 on April 4, 1986.

Kalonji was "actively recruited to join [the department's] faculty eight years ago," according to the letter to Gray from Urban Studies and Planning Frank S. Jones, Professor of Political Science Willard R. Johnson, Jean E. Jackson, head of the anthropology and archaeology program, and Professor of Biology Jonathan A. King.

The letter also said that her "scientific productivity is clear from her record of extensive publication in leading journals in her field [and] continuous record of external funding. . . . In addition, she held [a National Science Foundation] Presidential Young Investigator Award from 1984 to 1989."