Graduation speaker stresses honesty
By Marie E. V. Coppola
and Deborah A. Levinson
National Science Foundation Director Walter E. Massey described "science and engineering research [as] the uncompromising pursuit of truth" at MIT's 125th Commencement exercises on June 3, at which 1773 people received degrees under sunny skies.
In a series of apparent references to the controversy surrounding a paper co-authored
by Nobel laureate and former Whitehead Institute Director David Baltimore '61, Massey said that "the whole edifice of science and engineering research is built upon honesty."
"Few things are more damaging to the research enterprise than falsehoods -- be they the result of error, self-deception, sloppiness and haste, or, in the worst case, dishonesty," Massey said.
[The texts of Massey's speech and President Charles M. Vest's charge to the graduates appear on page 2.]
Massey's remarks came after
a recent National Institutes of Health investigation into possible falsification of data by former MIT researcher Thereza Imanishi-Kari, whose work was supervised and signed off by Baltimore.
Scientists "uphold the highest standards of integrity," Massey urged. He added, "Scientists
and engineers are the only people who can redress misconduct. Universities, as the primary locus of basic research, have a special responsibility in this regard. In cases of alleged wrongdoing, they have a duty to analyze the facts fairly, determine accountability, protect the rights of all involved, and see that any falsehood is corrected."
Massey concluded his speech by saying "each of you will become standard-bearer for one of the greatest institutions of higher learning in the world. I know you will carry out this responsibility to MIT wisely, and with integrity, in whatever career you choose."
Charles M. Vest, in his first commencement address as president of MIT, emphasized community service, calling the recent years "an era . . . characterized by far too much emphasis on the self . . . often manifested as overt greed," and urging, "It is time for a change."
Vest cited the work of Vannevar Bush '16 as an example of how a scientist may serve the public interest. Bush "mobiliz[ed] American science and engineering during World War II [and helped] formulate the policies that guided engineering education, the federal government's support of basic research, and the utilization of technical knowledge for America's defense and industry."
Vest also stated, "We must reduce the terrible escalation in the bifurcations in our society . . . bifurcations between rich and poor . . . between those who contribute to society and those who are rendered impotent to do so . . . between those who have good health care and those who do not."
Vest and Provost Mark S. Wrighton presented 1964 degrees -- 976 bachelor of science degrees and 988 advanced degrees. The degree recipients included 503 women. The advanced degrees consisted of 216 doctorates, 747 master's degrees, and 25 engineer degrees.
Class of 1991 President Dawn L. Mitzner presented Vest with the class gift, to create the MIT Teaching Fund, a loan forgiveness program to encourage MIT graduates to become public school teachers. In her remarks, Mitzner called the Class of 1991 "the well-rounded class."
Unlike previous years, there were no protests at this year's Commencement. Bob DiIorio of the MIT News Office, who was stationed next to Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin specifically to report on protests, said that he "didn't hear a peep."