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Colbert Named Acting Grad Dean; Provost Considers List


Gabor Csanyi
Acting Dean of the Graduate School Isaac M. Colbert

ByOrli Bahcall
Staff Reporter

Associate Dean of the Graduate School Isaac M. Colbert assumed the post of acting dean on Sept. 1, and will likely hold the post for the remainder of the term.

President Charles M. Vest and Provost Joel Moses PhD '57 have yet to act on the August recommendations of a search committee to choose a replacement for Frank E. Perkins '55, who announced last December he would step down.

Along with recommending a choice for dean, the committee's job was to look at the function of the Graduate School in serving the needs of graduate students, said Professor Steven R. Tannenbaum '58 chair of the committee.

Because of time constraints, the committee conducted only an internal search, Tannenbaum said. The group began by assembling a list of names, soliciting suggestions from department heads and deans.

In August, the group submitted a final list of candidates to the provost from which the president and provost will select a candidate, Tannenbaum said.

The list was submitted with a report that included conclusions and insights into problems with graduate education at MIT, Tannenbaum said. The report also considered opportunities and challenges for the future dean, he said.

Colbert makes hurried transition

"I anticipated the office to be filled by the start of fall term," Colbert said. Instead, a week before Perkins left, Colbert was asked by Vest to assume the post of acting dean, Colbert said.

Colbert said that the transition period is going smoothly. His long working relationship with Perkins as associate dean and his familiarity with the office helped him deal with a hurried transition, Colbert said.

"I am confident that we can look forward to a tough but good semester," Colbert said. "There is a lot on the agenda to deal with," he said.

Colbert said he would consider assuming the permanent position of dean of the graduate school.

Although Colbert has never been a member of the MIT faculty, he "does not see this as much of an issue" because he has "made contributions elsewhere." Colbert has served in various administrative positions at MIT for 18 years.

He was associate dean for the past seven years.

Grad students need an advocate

"We have worked with Colbert a long time and are familiar with him," said President of the Graduate Student Council Barbara J. Souter G. Colbert is "very competent and extremely qualified," but "we are frustrated that they haven't chosen a permanent dean to represent" graduate students, Souter said. "Having the office turn over often is very disruptive," she added.

"It is clear that the office needs a strong advocate for graduate student needs," said Roger G. Kermode G, former GSC president and a member of the search committee. Because MIT is so decentralized, a dean is needed "to give voice to issues that transcend all departments - issues such as housing, student-advisor relationships, and funding."

The dean should also "understand that graduate students face different problems than undergraduates" Kermode said.