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Do not take part in the Baker "kiss of death" teaching award

Last week I received a letter urging me to submit a nomination for the Baker Teaching Award. It said, "There are so many aspects of MIT life where significant contributions are made and not recognized, and this is one aspect of MIT life where YOU can make a difference. Exceptional teaching deserves something, but in order to recognize this, we need you to nominate a professor whom you feel has shown exceptional teaching ability and caring for undergraduates."

I remember receiving this letter my freshman year as well. It sounded like such a wonderful opportunity to show my appreciation for good teaching (a somewhat rare commodity at MIT), that I decided to nominate my favorite teacher, let us call him, "Professor X."

I hoped that he would be the one to be selected to receive the delightful $1000 honorarium and bronze medal for his efforts. Imagine my elation when Professor X won the award! I can really make a difference, I thought.

Soon afterwards, however, Professor X was suddenly denied tenure from MIT. It turned out that I had not nominated him for a teaching award, but instead the reputed "kiss of death."

I tried to make myself feel better for what I had done. I told myself that Professor X would much rather have a thousand dollars, a medal, and the knowledge that his students appreciated him than continue teaching at MIT.

I had my doubts, though. In any case, it became obvious that the stigma of caring for one's students seemed to be a dangerous one.

I'm no longer the naive freshman I once was. And I'm past the disillusioned sophomore stage. I accept the fact that I'm stuck at this place. I just can't wait to get out.

But I digress. . . . The point is that I am somewhat smarter now and I have learned from my mistakes. I know now what the Baker teaching award can do. Now it is time to use what I have learned:

Please accept my nomination for "Professor Y." I really think he deserves the Baker teaching award. He isn't much of a teacher and doesn't care much about his students, but that isn't really what this award is all about, is it? I know what I think Professor Y deserves and I am ready to make a difference in this aspect of MIT life.

Please accept also this request to be a member of the Baker Foundation. I am eager to have an impact on the quality of teaching at MIT.

To all those who thought that this award is a scam as I once did, I urge you to reconsider its usefulness. Retrieve your Baker award nomination form from the trash and take this rare chance to make a difference.

Exercise your power to "recognize" your "favorite" professor. If you actually manage to have someone denied tenure, don't feel guilty. Remember, he or she will receive a thousand bucks severance pay and a handsome bronze medal.

Joseph M. Pierre '91->