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Science school promotions reflect teaching capabilities

(Editor's Note: The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Kevin C. Burke '93.)

Thank you for your letter ["MIT's schools should give more weight to teaching," Nov. 27]. It always pleases me when students express interest in the operation of the Institute.

I agree with your belief that we must select faculty who have the potential to be outstanding educators as well as outstanding researchers. When a new appointment is made in the School of Science, competence and interest in teaching is an important part of the consideration. Similarly, when the promotions are considered a candidate's record as an educator weighs heavily in making the decision.

After I read your letter and in thinking about my answer, I decided to review again the most recent Course Evaluation Guide (fall 1990), which is the best information available about the views of the students concerning the quality of education at the Institute.

I am enclosing a summary of the "overall rating" of the lecturers in those undergraduate subjects in the School of Science with enrollments of 50 or more students. I am impressed with these ratings and I am particularly proud of the performances of the young faculty members.

An examination of the ratings of instructors in the undergraduate subjects with enrollments of fewer than 50 students reveals that the ratings appear to be even better. A quick look at the ratings for the spring of 1989 also indicates student satisfaction with teaching.

I conclude that this data indicates that the students believe that we must be doing a reasonably good job in selecting faculty members who are outstanding teachers.

It has often been said by some people that winning the Baker Award is "the kiss of death" for a young faculty member as far as tenure is concerned. Chairman Paul E. Gray '54 recently reviewed the facts for the past 20 years and discovered that in that period (from 1970 to 1990) 23 individuals received the Baker Award in recognition of outstanding undergraduate teaching. Four of the recipients were not eligible for tenure (they were instructors or lecturers) and four have not yet been considered for tenure.

The records show that during this 20-year period, about one-third of those individuals appointed to assistant professor positions at MIT were eventually awarded tenure. Since approximately half of the Baker Award recipients achieved tenure, one can hardly make the case that winning the Baker Award is "the kiss of death" for such a faculty member. In fact, the record shows that these individuals were significantly more likely to be awarded tenure than the average non-tenured faculty member at the Institute.

In closing, I want to assure you that a person's credentials in education are considered seriously in making new faculty appointments and in considering promotion cases in the School of Science.

Gene M. Brown->

Dean of Science->