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Hobbs to Head Dean Search Committee


Sharon N. Young Pong -- The Tech
Professor Linn W. Hobbs

By Christopher L. Falling
Staff Reporter

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Linn W. Hobbs, chair of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, will chair a committee to advise Provost Mark S. Wrighton on the appointment of a new dean for undergraduate education and student affairs.

The current dean, Arthur C. Smith, will conclude five years of service in that post at the end of this academic year.

"Every effort was made to appoint a committee that was as a whole broadly representative of many communities at MIT," Hobbs said. "A particular effort was made to include individuals with a demonstrated concern for undergraduate education, undergraduate teaching, and student issues with which the undergraduate Dean's Office is concerned."

The 14 committee members comprise eight members of the faculty, one administrator, and five students chosen by the administration.

Undergraduate Association President Vijay P. Sankaran '95, calling the selection process "overly secretive," said that the student members "should have been selected with the input of their peers." The result is that "the students selected cannot by considered representative of the student body," he said.

Combined UESA in question

"The first order of business for the advisory committee will be to understand in detail the responsibilities and organization of the office now overseen by Dean Smith," Hobbs said. While the exact timetable for the committee has not yet been set, it is Wrighton's expectation that a new dean or deans will be in place by September 1995, Hobbs said.

The committee will look both within the MIT community and in the outside academic community for possible replacements for Smith, Wrighton said.

Smith became acting dean of student affairs in July 1990, following the resignation of Shirley M. McBay. He became dean of the combined offices of undergraduate education and student affairs after the 1992 death of Margaret L. A. MacVicar '65, the Institute's first dean for undergraduate education.

Whether the offices remain combined under one dean or "should be divided or apportioned in some other way remains an open question," Hobbs said. The advisory committee will address that issue, he said.

"The final formula could well depend on the individual or individuals identified for these responsibilities," Hobbs said.

Other faculty members on the committee are: Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Harold Abelson PhD '73, Professor of Biology Gene M. Brown, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Sallie W. Chisholm, Professor of Political Science Kenneth A. Oye, Associate Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Harriet Ritvo, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering James H. Williams Jr '67.

UAP displeased with selection

Sankaran said he was displeased because the student members were not selected by the UA Nominations Committee, which is the normal procedure used when appointing students to Institute committees, such as the Committee on Discipline.

"I think that the selected students are qualified, but I think the process was very poorly done," Sankaran said. "The most important thing is that the committee represents the students well."

The student members were chosen "after consultation with deans and staff of the UESA, departmental undergraduate officers and administrators, faculty committees, and faculty" but no students, Hobbs said.

The student members are: Jonathan A. Allen '96, Keith V. Bevans '95, Arley Kim '95, Philip W. Tracadas '95, and Susan L. Ipri G.

Director of Special Services Stephen D. Immerman represents the administration on the committee.

"An attempt was made to balance the interest of the various MIT communities in the final selection, so it is our hope that the committee fairly represents the MIT population," Hobbs said

However, Sankaran said he felt the committee selection process was very secretively done. Most students did not know there was an opportunity for them to serve on the search committee, he said.

"We are beginning to perceive a disconcerting trend in the appointment of Institute committees," Sankaran wrote in a letter to The Tech ["NomComm Should Be Used to Select Student Representatives," page 4]. "It appears that appointees are being selected by personal preference rather than by a democratic or quasi-democratic process."