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Vest Names CMRAE Panel

By Jeremy Hylton

Professor of Economics Peter A. Diamond PhD '63 will head a five-member ad hoc faculty committee appointed by President Charles M. Vest to determine if the decision to close the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology was properly made.

Provost Mark S. Wrighton decided to close the center in June, prompting the center's director, Professor Heather N. Lechtman, to write a 28-page pamphlet criticizing the decision-making process.

In his charge to the committee, Vest said that he appointed the committee because "discussion about this particular case has begun to strain collegiality" and because similar decisions to close laboratories and centers will be made in the future.

The committee will talk about the progress of its review at the March faculty meeting, according the Vest's charge.

The members of the committee are: Diamond, Institute Professor and Professor of Physics Jerome I. Friedman, Assistant Professor of Physics Jacqueline N. Hewitt PhD '86, Professor of History Pauline R. Maier, and Professor Earll M. Murman, head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Vest consulted with Faculty Chair Robert L. Jaffe, professor of physics, before appointing the committee.

Wrighton's committee biased, Lechtman says

When Wrighton reviewed the CMRAE's budget early last year, he appointed a committee to review the excellence of the center's research. That committee's findings led Wrighton to conclude "that future excellence would hinge on being more than subcritical in size and that a graduate program was essential to realizing excellence," he said.

But there was no support for a graduate program from the academic deans who were involved in the center, Wrighton said, and as a result he decided to close the center.

Lechtman charges that the advisory committee chairman Peter C. Perdue, associate professor of history, was biased against the CMRAE and tried to manipulate the advisory committee's final report.

"It is my hope that by examining and commenting upon the process followed in arriving at the CMRAE decision, this committee will provide guidance for future budgetary decisions which affect research centers and laboratories," Vest wrote.

Vest asked the committee to interview Lechtman, Wrighton, and the deans of the schools of Architecture and Planning, Engineering, Humanities and Social Sciences, Science. In addition, Vest requested the committee talk with the dean of the Graduate School as well as the Vice President and Dean for Research. Vest also invited the committee to interview members of the provost's advisory committee on CMRAE.

Vest raises six questions

In his charge, Vest asked the committee to consider six questions during its review:

Was the membership of the committee to advise the provost on the matter of CMRAE appropriate for the task? Was the procedure of appointing it and selecting members appropriate?

Was the charge to the committee appropriate? If not, are there general ways in which future charges of this sort should differ?

Did the committee obtain appropriate and sufficient input from the community of individuals involved in the work of the CMRAE?

Did the committee report and other communications between the committee members and the provost sufficiently convey their views and findings and appropriately reflect any diversity of views within the committee?

Did the provost consult with appropriate individuals or groups before arriving at his decision and confirming it with the president?

What major or minor changes would you recommend in future decision making processes of this sort?