Faculty Ask To Set Aside CMRAE Closure DecisionBy Jeremy Hylton
The faculty passed a motion asking the administration to set aside its decision to close the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology until a faculty committee could review the process by which the center was closed. The motion passed by a wide margin at the Wednesday faculty meeting.
Another motion, asking that the membership of the review committee be re-examined by the Faculty Policy Committee, failed in a 55-62 vote.
The two motions were originally introduced as a single motion by Stephan L. Chorover, professor of brain and cognitive sciences. Chorover's motion was signed by 38 members of the faculty.
The motion which passed reads: "Be it resolved that: the decision to close the CMRAE should be set aside until such time as the faculty review committee appointed by the Chair of the Faculty and the President report to the faculty on the integrity of the review process."
The motion was passed immediately after President Charles M. Vest announced that he and Provost Mark S. Wrighton would follow the motion to set aside the decision to close CMRAE if the motion passed.
"As members of the faculty, we will support the motion. If this is the advice given us, we intend to follow it," Vest said.
After debate of the two motions, Professor of Philosophy Judith J. Thompson introduced a motion asking the Faculty Policy Committee to examine how grievances against faculty members are handled.
"I think that [the controversy surrounding CMRAE] arose because the Institute has no good or at least reasonably good grievance procedure," Thompson said.
During the debate on Chorover's motions, Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences Susan E. Carey also suggested that a faculty grievance policy would have provided a forum for Lechtman to air her charges.
Provost Mark S. Wrighton had decided to close the CMRAE, run by Professor of Archaeology Heather N. Lechtman, earlier this year. Lechtman felt that the review process leading up to the decision was flawed and wrote a 28-page pamphlet criticizing the decision.
After faculty members questioned the validity of the CMRAE review process at the February faculty meeting, Vest appointed a five-member committee to review the process by which the decision was made.
The review committee is headed by Professor of Economics Peter A. Diamond PhD '63.
Committee membership debated
At the February faculty meeting, Institute Professor Emeritus Hermann Feshbach and Chorover asked that the review committee be appointed by the chair of the faculty, Professor Robert L. Jaffe, and not by the president.
The defeated motion stemmed from Feshbach and Chorover's concern about the appointment of the committee. It read: "The constitution of [the faculty review committee] be re-examined by the Faculty Policy Committee in light of the objections raised at this faculty meeting."
At the Wednesday meeting, Feshbach said that the controversy surrounding CMRAE had attracted attention from people outside MIT. Because of this attention, he said, "Not only must the process be impeccable, but it must be perceived as impeccable."
Feshbach proposed three criteria to guide a review of the review committee's membership. The review committee should be composed of no one:
* with close personal ties to the principals,
* with involvement in the original decision, and
* who's appointment or continued employment could be affected by the principals.
Feshbach said he did not question the objectivity or integrity of any of the members of the Vest-appointed committee, but he felt that the committee appeared to be compromised. "This is a seriously flawed committee. ... It contains one member with a serious conflict of interest," Feshbach said.
Low questions division
Institute Professor Emeritus Francis E. Low argued against the motions. "It seems to draw a sharp line between the faculty and administration, which I think is harmful and not good for the governance of MIT," Low said.
"I fully agree that there should be an investigation," Low continued, but "I think that the administration is capable of looking at itself and investigating the process."
Professor Paul E. Penfield Jr. ScD '60, head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, had chaired the committee which reviewed the decision to move Course IX into the School of Science. He noted that it had been lauded as effective, and had also been appointed by Vest.
Vest explained that he appointed the five members of the faculty review committee in close consultation with Jaffe, chair of the faculty. Vest said he had "the utmost confidence in this group of people."
In addition to Diamond, the members of the Vest-appointed committee are: Institute Professor 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.
The FPC also discussed the charge Vest issued to the committee. "There was widespread agreement that the committee that president Vest put together reflects the kind of committee that the Faculty Policy Committee would create if it were put to this task," Jaffe said.
Other faculty support motion
Professor of Biology Jonathan A. King drew an analogy between the review of CMRAE and academic and professional review committees. "If in the course of consideration of a proposal ... the chair forwards a report that does not reflect the consensus of the committee," King said, "then the review is set aside."
Lechtman charges that the initial report of the CMRAE review committee's report was forwarded to Wrighton even though some members of the committee did not agree with the report's findings.
King said that national standards of scholarship and research are very high, and that the administration should be held to similar standards.
A short time later, Peter C. Perdue, associate professor of history and chair of the CMRAE review committee, rose to respond to King and to Lechtman's charges.
Perdue said he had not discussed any of the charges made about the review because he felt it violated the confidentiality of the review.
Perdue said he was astonished by Lechtman's pamphlet, which quotes members of the CMRAE review committee. "I regard that as a serious violation of the duties of an MIT community member," Perdue said.
"I think [the pamphlet] seriously misrepresents the review process. I really am quite surprised that so many people have taken it at face value without trying to verify [the charges made]," Perdue continued.
Professor Arthur C. Smith, dean for undergraduate education and student affairs, argued against Feshbach's criteria, because he said the prohibition against junior faculty unfairly excluded them.
Several other professors disagreed with Smith. Professor of Physics Vera Kistiakowsky said that it was unfair that an untenured professor was asked to serve on a committee that would review the decision of the provost.
"It's one thing to be phoned by the chair of the faculty," who could measure a junior faculty member's willingness to serve on a review committee without creating a feeling of obligation, Kistiakowsky said. "It is another thing to be called up by the president of the university and be asked to serve," she said.
Assistant Professor Kristina E. Hill, who began teaching at MIT this semester, said she was concerned that the decision to close Lechtman's center would perpetuate the appearance of MIT as "traditionally a very male-dominated institution."
Professor Emeritis Jerry Lightman, who worked at Rutgers University recently, said that several women faculty members there had asked him "what was going on here and what was the trouble involving [Lechtman]."
"The burgeoning trouble has not been confined to these walls. Public perception is focused on this," Lightman said.