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CMRAE Decision Showed Disrespect for Academic Review

CMRAE Decision Showed Disrespect for Academic Review

The Tech received the following cover letter and motion to be presented to the faculty at the March 16, 1994 faculty meeting:

Dear Colleagues:

Many of you have read Professor Heather N. Lechtman's documentation of the circumstances surrounding the decision to close the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology, a center unique in the Western Hemisphere. The textual evidence in Professor Lechtman's document indicates that disregard for the standards and integrity of peer review characterized the process.

Professor Lechtman is a senior member of the faculty, a MacArthur Award winner, a scholar of international stature, and plays a unique role in bridging science, engineering, and archaeology. In a letter to Provost Mark S. Wrighton from a member of the Review Committee, it is said that "there is no other research unit in the world that is conducting archaeological science as is the Center at MIT." In addition, Professor Lechtman has been a leader at MIT in trying to create an environment where gender does not block academic opportunity.

Given the discussions of the faculty on the disregard for due process in the closing of the Department of Applied Biological Sciences together with the Report of the Committee on the Reorganization and Closing of Academic Units (the "Widnall Committee"), it is particularly disturbing to learn of a similar disregard for academic standards of review.

The faculty as a whole needs to affirm that academic policies cannot be made through illegitimate procedures. The standards of peer review that many of us have worked hard to defend in the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and other forums, need to be adhered to by our own administration.

The administration's responsibility for fiscal integrity is clear. At the same time we are responsible for the content and integrity of scholarship and teaching.

We appreciate President Charles M. Vest's decision to appoint a committee to examine some of the above issues and to give him guidance. However, in matters fundamental to the integrity of instruction, scholarship, and peer review, the faculty has the responsibility to hold its own discussion and implement appropriate courses of action.

Difficult decisions have to be made during periods of budget restraint. It is precisely under these conditions that the highest regard needs to be given to standards of review and evaluation of scholarship and teaching.

In this spirit, the following resolution is submitted by 35 senior members of the Faculty for consideration by the Faculty at its March 16 meeting.

Motion to be presented to the faculty at the March 16, 1994 faculty meeting:

Whereas, serious questions have been brought before the Institute community concerning the integrity of the academic review and assessment of the CMRAE.

Therefore, be it resolved that the decision to close CMRAE should be set aside until such time as a faculty committee appointed by the Chair of the Faculty and the Faculty Policy Committee report to the faculty on the integrity of the review process.

Johnathan A. King

Professor of Biology

Herman Feshbach

Institute Professor, Emeritus

and four other professors