The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 38.0°F | A Few Clouds

Wrighton Fills Four Vacant Dean Posts

By Joey Marquez
News Editor
____Provost Mark S. Wrighton appointed four new deans to fill positions left vacant by resignations last year. The processes used to select these deans brought strong reactions from the Undergraduate Association.

The four who won new appointments were Joel Moses PhD '67, Dugald C. Jackson Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, who became dean of the School of Engineering; Arthur C. Smith, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, who became dean for student affairs; Robert J. Birgeneau, former head of the Department of Physics, who became dean of the School of Science; and Philip S. Khoury, professor of history, who became dean of the School of Humanities.

Moses heads engineering

Last January, Professor Moses succeeded Gerald L. Wilson '61, who had been dean of engineering since 1981. Moses, who headed the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from 1981-1989, is best known for the development of MACSYMA, the largest computer system of symbolic algebraic manipulation.

"A number of outstanding people at MIT could do the job. However, I think at this time that Joel has the combination of talent and experiences which is most appropriate," Wrighton said when the appointments were made.

"[Moses] has the commitment to continue projects started under Wilson as well as start new things for the school," Wrighton said. "I am looking forward to working with him to maintain MIT's engineering school as the best in the country, and maybe even make some improvements."

The search for a new dean of Engineering was marked by pressure from the Undergraduate Association and the Graduate Student Council to include a student on the advisory committee that made a recommendation to Wrighton.

"Students were given some input into the committee, but its short-term nature made student participation ineffective," former UA President Manish Bapna '91 said.

Smith appointed dean of student affairs

Smith, who had been acting dean for student affairs since July 1, 1990, was officially appointed to a two-year term as dean effective July 1, 1991.

Wrighton said, "Professor Smith has had a major impact on the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs. The role he has played as a faculty member, as an advocate for the students, and as an administrator has been exceptional. I felt it was appropriate to formalize his role as a leader at the Institute."

Smith felt eager to begin his term as dean. "There a lot of issues I'd like to address while dean," he said. "I'm really glad to see the Undergraduate Association and a number of fraternities adopting their own alcohol policies. One of the major sources of negative incidents on campus is the irresponsible use of alcohol."

Smith's appointment came as a shock to members of the Undergraduate Association. Hans C. Godfrey '93, chairman of the UA Governance Committee, said, "I was given a direct impression [from Wrighton] that there would be much student input [on the selection of a new dean]. It surprises me that [Wrighton] would make a move like this without notifying [the UA]. There's a great lack of communication here."

Godfrey continued, "I have had several meetings with Wrighton concerning dean appointments, and I was always very concerned that there would be student input [for the dean of student affairs] if not for the other deans. The UA considered this sacred," Godfrey added. "The academic deans don't have a direct effect on students' social lives, but the dean for student affairs does.

"I am, however, pleased that the new dean is [Smith]. I wanted him to be dean," he said.

"It's not the case that every appointment will require a lengthy search process," Wrighton added. He said he thought "the element of student input has been received in the level of enthusiasm I've heard for Professor Smith."

Smith agreed that different situations require different selection processes. "If we were talking about a really long-term appointment, then I'd say there would have to be a search committee. However, my appointment is essentially a short-term arrangement.

"I'm very much in favor of search committees and student participation on them. On the other hand, it seems foolish to have a committee which would have this result as something of a foregone conclusion," Smith continued.

Birgeneau is third appointment

Professor Birgeneau, whose term as science dean began last July 1, replaced Gene M. Brown, who had held the post since July 1985. Brown, a former head of the biology department, left the position because he wanted to return to research and teaching.

Birgeneau's selection marked the first time students contributed to the choice of a dean. Two students -- Richard R. Kerwell G and Julian P. Sachs '91 -- were on the advisory committee that selected Birgeneau. The committee spent six months discussing possible candidates for the position before presenting Wrighton with its final recommendation.

"The whole process was extremely democratic," Sachs said. He added that he thought having students on the committee was not necessary because he thought the faculty on the committee were careful to think about issues that would affect students.

Godfrey was the leader in the push for increased student input in the selection of deans last year. He said he is "extremely happy" that students were involved in Birgeneau's appointment.

Godfrey said that it is vital that students have a part in the choice of deans. He said that even though there are many more faculty than students on advisory committees, it is wonderful that students can now present their views.

Professor Khoury, who had been acting dean since 1990, was appointed dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences last summer. He had been associate dean of the school since 1987.

Khoury is perhaps best known among undergraduates for the lectures on the Middle East he gave during the gulf war. Khoury's research focuses on the political and social history of the Middle East.

Many of the issues and trends that Khoury will face during his tenure as dean surfaced while he was acting dean. For example, many Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences-Distribution (HASS-D) classes were oversubscribed last spring term, resulting in lotteries and student complaints. Problems with both overcrowding and undersubscription continued last fall, when several HASS-Ds were cancelled due to lack of interest.

While acting dean, Khoury presided over a large increase in the number of students taking HASS minors on their degrees. Nearly 200 members of the Class of 1992 chose to study a minor, up from 55 in the Class of 1989.