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Deutch favors industry over students

"In my mind, all of those comments are based on misinformation, and they're largely nonsense." -- MIT Provost John M. Deutch '61

John Deutch, interviewed by The Tech on Feb. 16 ["An interview with MIT Provost John M. Deutch"], simply could not understand why anyone would ever question or react negatively to his reign as provost. When questioned, he instinctively blamed the students.

Referring to the Freshman Housing Committee report, Deutch scoffed, "I've noted -- I haven't been surprised, but I've noted -- the almost universal reluctance of the undergraduate student body to consider any change whatsoever."

When questioned by the national media about the expos'e of his Pentagon and industry connections, Deutch's most explicit rebuttals were "[the students] are misinformed. . . . It's not a big deal" [The Scientist, Oct. 16, 1989] or "the students' allegations [are] foolish" [Chronicle for Higher Education, July 26, 1989].

While explaining his actions, Deutch avoided any notion that he bears responsibility for the many authoritarian decisions he has made over the past five years.

Is it any wonder why John Deutch has acquired a reputation for ignoring students? And was this behavior any different from the way he has treated the faculty?

The provost presented as his greatest accomplishment the re-examination of undergraduate education, including the "establishment of the Dean for Undergraduate Education . . . and the series of discussions and committees to review undergraduate education . . ." The reforms to which Deutch referred included educational reform, the proposal to gut pass/fail, the restructuring of Independent Activities Period, and the FHC report. None of these "reforms" have required representation or approval of the student body; all of them have been strongly opposed by the students in forums and petitions.

Deutch sidestepped the problems of the anti-democratic nature of these "discussions and committees" by characterizing student opposition as irrational reflex. Does he attribute this "reluctance to consider change" to our mental inferiority, to our emotional instability, or to our inability to accept that the administration obviously acts in our best interest?

These initiatives were viewed by Deutch as "a very necessary and productive rebalancing of the attention of MIT." What exactly does Deutch see as productive? The HASS reform has made the fulfilling of the new, narrower Humanities Distribution requirement unnecessarily difficult. The attempt to focus the humanities education has emphasized certain generalized courses, which have then become crowded and lost depth. The Foreign Languages and Literatures section, which was severely restricted by the new distribution rules, lost students and faculty due to the reform [The Thistle, May 1989 and The Faculty Newsletter, March 1989].

The provost's stated views on educational reform are general and his end goals unclear. But his ideas are much more explicit in the reports of two committees: the Department of Defense-University Forum and the MIT Commission for Industrial Productivity. These reports advocate changes in university education to make it more responsive to the needs of the DOD and industry. Both reports characterize the university as a factory which manufactures a product (trained students) for a client (industry and/or the DOD) [The Thistle, May 1989]. In Made in America, the MIT Commission on Industrial Productivity refers to MIT's "product [students]," and states, "we could do more to cultivate closer relationships with our `clients,' who hire our students, and our `suppliers,' the secondary schools that provide them" [p. 165]. These reports reflect the worst impulses of the military-industrial complex to mold education to the needs of the economically powerful.

Deutch off-handedly dismissed the investigation into his corporate and military connections, but these reports, authored by members of the Science Action Coordinating Committee and the Alternative News Collective, are well-referenced and based on public documents, research articles, and personal interviews. Even when news reports appeared in The Boston Globe, National Public Radio, The Chronicle for Higher Education, The Baltimore Sun, The Scientist, and Science, Deutch continued to reject them. But neither he nor anyone else has substantively challenged our information.

In the Tech interview, Deutch tried to justify his views on mycotoxin (a biological weapon) and Star Wars research. According to Deutch, the mycotoxin research was valid campus research because it was non-classified, was sponsored by faculty, and had potential medical as well as weapons applications.

Deutch implied that he has not actively encouraged mycotoxin research at MIT. However, he has served as chairman of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Biological Defense and Chemical Warfare, which proposed that the DOD increase funding on biological warfare research.

In order to promote SDI and other weapons related research on campus, the DOD-University Forum initiated changes in the DOD classification guidelines. The forum argued that the modest loss in security would be balanced out by the increased public credibility of this research if it was performed on university campuses.

The elimination of the Department of Applied Biological Sciences was described by Deutch as a matter "I wish I had accomplished differently." There was no acknowledgment of mistake or failure. His single regret was that now the faculty will be more cautious before accepting the restructuring of other departments or programs.

Deutch painted the ABS crisis as a "genie" with a mind of its own that escaped and was too large for the administration to "put . . . back in the bottle." However, the controversy was the result of the decision by Deutch, President Paul E. Gray '54, and Dean of Science Gene M. Brown to dissolve ABS before consulting anyone and before constructing any proposal about how the faculty, students, and staff of that department were to salvage their education, their research and their careers. Deutch did not even hold himself accountable for his decision.

Deutch currently receives in excess of $205,150 annually from the corporations he directs, and he has served on several DOD policy boards. Deutch's directorship lends academic credibility to these industries. As an industrial director and a Pentagon advisor, Deutch learns how to reform MIT's "product" (students) to meet the needs of MIT's "clients" (industry and government). His actions as provost have not served the needs of students, or society in general. John Deutch's priorities carried him to the position of provost, and they would have elevated him to the presidency had the MIT community not soundly rejected these ideas.

Steven Penn G->