The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 60.0°F | Overcast

Clinton Wim May Bring Variety of Changes to MIT

By Katherine Shim
News Editor

Bill Clinton's victory on Tuesday may affect MIT in ways as diverse as research emphasis and financial aid policy. A few MIT professors have also been named as potential members of the Clinton administration.

MIT President Charles M. Vest said, "MIT is the leader in many areas that I suspect will be important to the Clinton administration's technological goals. I also am hopeful that a unified administration and Congress will build stronger programs for student aid. I hope they will support returning to a strong system of merit and peer review in awarding academic research and facility grants, thereby stopping the trend toward Congressional earmarking. All of these actions would be beneficial for MIT, but it is likely that the budget will continue to make the path of universities difficult."

MIT research to benefit

MIT administrators agree that Clinton's campaign emphasis on research as essential for a strengthened economy indicates that research at MIT will benefit from a Clinton administration.

Vest said, "I anticipate that the Clinton administration will be strongly supportive of research and research universities as essential drivers of a vibrant economy. There likely will be more emphasis on applied research directed toward civilian goals such as industrial productivity, the environment, and infrastructure."

J. David Litster PhD '65, associate provost and vice president for research, said, "I think that the Clinton administration recognizes the importance of research for the country as much as the Bush administration did. There may be less of an emphasis on defense, but on the whole my guess would be that MIT would benefit."

Some administrators say that MIT research related to the environment or the infrastructure may benefit under a Clinton administration, while defense-related research may suffer.

But Litster said, "My feeling is that research at Lincoln Laboratories would not be affected, since many labs there do research on projects that are applicable to many areas."

Earll M. Murman, professor and head of the department of aeronautics and astronautics, agreed. "There will be a continuation of research despite any downsizing of the Pentagon's budget. Only 25 percent of the department's research is sponsored by the Department of Defense. I think the Clinton-Gore administration will have a clear vision as far as space technology, and Gore is actually quite interested in the space program, especially for its use in environmental monitoring. I look forward to a period of prosperity under them," he said.

Litster added that funding for research in the environment is suffering because funding agencies geared toward environmental research are currently not in place.

"Existing funding agencies have not set up specific funding for the research into the environment. The funding agencies that exist now may say that this type of research is important, but they claim that it is not under their jurisdiction. With the Clinton administration, I hope this will change," he said.

But the field of biotechnology is expected to benefit. Director of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research Gerald R. Fink said the Clinton-Gore administration "can only have a healthy effect on funding. What we need is a good plan for the health of the nation. Health care has been such an issue in the campaign and one key part of that is basic research. ... Clinton seems to emphasize the importance of research for health care and the economy. What is needed that didn't exist before is a coherent plan, which I think Clinton will provide."

Some faculty may serve

Several members of the MIT faculty have been suggested as possible contenders for spots on the Clinton Cabinet. The Wall Street Journal yesterday included the name of Paul Krugman as a possible appointee to the Council of Economic Advisors. Also, one MIT administrator speculated that Dean of the Sloan School of Management Lester C. Thurow or former Provost John M. Deutch '61 may be considered for posts.

Temin said, "There are rumors everywhere. By a healthy guess, one or two people may go to Washington. At the moment this is possible, but it is too early to say anything conclusive yet."

Overlap appeal unaffected

In September, MIT was found to have violated antitrust laws by discussing financial aid awards with members of the Ivy Overlap Group. The Institute filed a formal appeal on the case in the Philadelphia Third Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month.

The Ivy League colleges and MIT have for more than 30 years agreed to use the same criteria in measuring applicant's financial need. In the case of students with overlapping offers of admission from more that one university, the colleges agreed to discuss differences in their judgements of the student's need.

Most MIT administrators believe Clinton's presidency will have no effect on the case. "At one level it will have no effect since the issue is in the courts, which is not touched by the Executive Branch," said Stanley G. Hudson, associate director and executive director of financial aid. "If Clinton directed his new Attorney General to go before the judge to demand that the whole thing be obviated, it may not have an effect. ... It's likely that the Justice Department will continue what it's doing," he continued.

Overlap appeal unaffected

But the Higher Education Act of 1965, re-authorized this July, contains an amendment that permits colleges to agree on their financial aid awards. The amendment allows colleges to "discuss and voluntarily adopt defined principles of professional judgment for determining student financial need for aid." The bill does not permit discussion of and agreement on individual cases, however.

Administrators at MIT hope that the scope of this amendment will be expanded when it comes up for review in two years under the Clinton administration.

Constantine B. Simonides '57, vice president and secretary of the MIT Corporation said, "When the amendment expires in two years, it would be good if the law became stronger. I don't know who will be in the Cabinet, but whoever is there may push for a stronger law."

"What we're hoping is that with a Clinton administration, we will be allowed more flexibility," Hudson said.