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Gingrichm Vest Discuss Proposed Funding Cuts

By Daniel C. Stevenson
Editor in Chief

President Charles M. Vest met last Friday with Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to discuss the place of university research in the changing world.

Vest said he wrote a few weeks ago to Gingrich, who was elected speaker following the Republican congressional landslide in November, "expressing a desire to talk with him about America's innovation system."

Vest wanted to discuss "how research is done and how it ultimately gets translated into the commercial sector," he said. "My worry was the fact that neither industrial research laboratories nor universities are very active in mid-range research" with five- to 10-year time horizons, Vest said.

Gingrich met with Vest for over an hour on Friday. Their discussion did not focus on "partisan politics or current details of university funding," but on "the large changes [Gingrich] foresees in the world and what the United States needs to do to have a strong society and a strong science and technology base," Vest said.

"I think he clearly holds the Institute in high regard and recognized it as one of the leading institutions in the world," Vest said.

Gingrich was "quite intense and thoughtful and referred continually to books he had read, people he had talked to," Vest said. Gingrich "seemed very interested in ideas" and listened a great deal, Vest said.

At their meeting, Vest gave Gingrich two gifts. "When I visit people I often take along a little memento," Vest said. Vest gave Gingrich a copy of Being Digital, the new book by Director of the Media Laboratory Nicholas M. Negroponte '66. Gingrich "is known to be a very voracious reader and has talked a lot about information technology," Vest said.

He also gave the speaker a computer chip from the microsystems technology laboratory. The microelectric mechanical device had 70 tiny electric motors built into it.

Gingrich used the chip as a prop the next day after a speech to the National Restaurant Association. According to an article in The Boston Globe, Gingrich held the chip aloft when answering a question about whether he considered tax investment credits more important than cutting capital gains taxes.

Gingrich praised the technological breakthroughs by MIT researchers, but cited the cost of building a factory to make the chips at $1 billion, the Globe reported. He said that technological breakthroughs are a "very, very important factor" in favor of a cut in the capital gains tax, according to the article.