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Faculty Votes to Review Grievance Policy

By Eva Moy
Editor in chief

At last Wednesday's April faculty meeting, the faculty passed a motion to reassess MIT's grievance procedures.

Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy Judith J. Thomson proposed a motion that the Faculty Policy Committee reassess the Institute's grievance procedures for faculty members and then report back to the faculty about whether they need revision.

The motion passed, 24-6.

The meeting also included the presentation of the Killian Award to Professor of Music John H. Harbison, and the Harold E. Edgerton Award to Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Martha L. Gray PhD '86, who also teaches in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

In addition, the annual report on harassment and the reports of the Committee on Undergraduate Policy and the Committee on Nominations were presented.

Thomson's successful motion calls for the FPC to examine its grievance procedures for faculty members.

"I am not inviting the faculty to declare that our grievance procedures should be revised," Thomson said before the vote. "I merely invite you to agree that there may be enough reason to believe that they may need revision."

Motion stems from March debate

The motion resulted from discussion at the March faculty meeting concerning the appointment of an ad hoc committee to investigate the closing of the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology. 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 pamphlet criticizing the decision.

At the March meeting the faculty passed a motion asking the administration to set aside its decision to close CMRAE until an ad hoc faculty committee could review the process by which the center was closed.

However, since then some faculty have questioned individuals' ability to deal with the pressure of having to serve on the ad hoc committee and "about their capacity to act fairly and impartially" in such decisions, Thomson said. She added that it was unfortunate that people had to be discussed on the floor of the faculty meeting after agreeing to spend time to serve on the committee.

In an article in the March/April Faculty Newsletter, Thomson said that faculty members cannot be heard by a standing faculty committee except in cases of tenure. She continued that ad hoc procedures are "ill-equipped for developing an institutional memory and principles for dealing with complaints," there is no official closure of a case in this system, and there can easily be a suspicion of unfairness.

Associate Provost for Institute Life Samuel J. Keyser disagreed, saying that ad hoc committees would work better than standing committees because the parties involved could request certain people to serve on the committee. "Putting together those committees is a chore," Keyser said, but "both parties feel that they can buy into [the final decision]. I don't think an elected faculty committee will take care of that."

Professor of Physics Robert L. Jaffe, chair of the faculty, said that the FPC should address the general question of grievance procedures instead of the question of faculty-administration disputes.

Two awards announced

Harbison was named the 1994-95 Killian Award Lecturer, which recognizes professional achievement and "the diversity of styles and undertakings of an outstanding faculty that embraces so many domains," according to the citation.

"Many of us have been oblivious to the developments in the arts programs at MIT, and especially to the strength of our music section. But even 24 years ago, it was able to attract the talents of a then-promising young composer," according to the citation. "Over that time, John Harbison has slowly become a national figure, now recognized as one of the two or three most important composers in America today."

"At the time of the committee's first meeting, however, there were members who had never heard of him or his work. I doubt that this is possible today!" said Professor of Media Arts and Sciences Stephen A. Benton '63, chair of the committee.

Gray received the Edgerton Award, which honors junior faculty members for excellence in teaching, research, and service to the MIT community.

"Martha Gray has made significant contributions to the understanding of how the growth and metabolism of living musculo-skeletal tissue is influenced by physical, chemical, and mechanical factors," according to the Edgerton Award citation.

"Martha Gray is a fabulous, dedicated, talented, and insightful teacher in both her HST and her EECS subjects," the citation continued. In addition, she is an adviser for both graduate and undergraduate students and serves on several Institute committees.

"My reaction to it was basically one of disbelief. I had no idea that I was nominated for it," Gray said. "My feeling is that I am flattered and still surprised!"