MIT's schools should give more weight to teaching
(Editor's Note: The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Dean of Science Gene M. Brown.)
A research institution that also serves as an institution of higher learning must be careful to keep in mind its dual mission: to make new discoveries, as well as communicate that knowledge to others. Therefore, in selecting faculty, the institution must take into consideration both the research and the teaching credentials of candidates.
We on the Undergraduate Association Student Committee on Educational Policy are concerned with the relative lack of weight given the latter criterion in tenure decisions at MIT. It seems that a candidate's teaching experience is evaluated based on whether the candidate has taught, rather than the quality of the candidate's teaching.
We believe that a professor's teaching ability should be at least as important as her/his research. It seems highly unlikely that MIT would deny tenure to an award-winning researcher for spending too much time in the laboratory, yet MIT has denied tenure to an outstanding educator -- Associate Professor Jeremy M. Wolfe PhD '81 -- due to his degree of commitment to students.
The mere accumulation of knowledge is not the sole purpose of MIT. Knowledge gained is useless if it cannot be shared; hence, the teacher is a vital element of the research institution. If more emphasis is not placed on the ability to teach, MIT risks becoming an ivory tower: a community of intellectuals isolated from, and resented by, the larger global community.
We are aware that each school chooses its own promotion policies; hence, we urge you to please make teaching ability an important factor in all promotion decisions, a factor which should be at least as important as research.
Kevin Burke '93->
Student Committee on->