Search committee will have no students
By Karen Kaplan
Despite intense lobbying by the Graduate Student Council and the Undergraduate Association to have Provost Mark S. Wrighton appoint at least one student to the advisory committee that will assist him in the search for a new dean of engineering, all eight committee members selected on Nov. 20 were professors.
In order to gain student input, the advisory committee has scheduled a series of forums in each of the engineering departments. In addition, students and other members of the MIT community have been invited to submit written statements "about the School [of Engineering] in general, the position of dean or specific individuals" the committee should consider. They may also contact the committee's chair, Professor Steven R. Lerman, to meet with the committee.
GSC President Michael D. Grossberg G called the announcement "very depressing. [The administration] makes it very discouraging to try and get involved," he said.
Grossberg also found the decision "perplexing" because "there is so much discussion about MIT putting out students who are leaders and who understand how to work with other people . . . yet they refuse to give them the responsibility to make big decisions."
Wrighton said that "It wasn't a decision not to put students on [the committee]; it was a decision to gather the best people I could to muster to advise me on a very important decision."
Grossberg had presented Wrighton with a list of reasons outlining why he and the GSC felt having students on the advisory committee was important. Among them were the "educational aspect" for students to see how the administration works, and the idea that since students are active in research, "their input is appropriate."
Hans C. Godfrey '92, chairman of the UA Committee on Governance, expressed his "disappointment" with Wrighton's decision. "We feel that students have a lot to offer," he said, and could not understand "how Wrighton could say students have no perspective." "I don't understand where the provost is coming from," he continued.
Wrighton argued that "students do provide an important perspective," but that they would have ample opportunities to express their opinions either at the forums or directly to committee members. He stressed that he "takes seriously the views of students."
The UA sponsored a campaign to have students represented on the advisory committee. "We worked very systematically and went through all the appropriate channels," UA President Manish Bapna '91 said. "The need for student representation was well heard throughout the administration."
Despite the absence of students on the advisory committee, Bapna said he remained optimistic about providing student input to this committee and about having students serve on other advisory committees.
Wrighton said that this committee did not set a precedent in any way for future advisory committees. He noted that Dean of Architecture and Planning Jean P. de Monchaux was appointed based on the recommendation of a committee which did include students. "Some have had students, and some have not," he said.
The UA governance committee has begun postering to solicit student opinions about important qualities for the dean of engineering and what his or her priorities should be. The UA committee then plans to present "huge packets" of student opinions "to every member of the advisory committee and to Wrighton," Godfrey said. "We need as much student input as possible."
Wrighton said that he will get an interim report from the advisory committee next week, but that there was no absolute deadline for any appointments. The current dean of engineering, Gerald L. Wilson '61, has indicated that he will step down on Jan. 15, but Wrighton indicated that "this doesn't mean a regular appointment to the deanship has to be made Jan. 16."