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MIT Reaffirms Policy On Affirmative Action

By Christina Chu
Associate TechnologY Director

Last week, the Institute released its current affirmative action plan summary, which reaffirmed its commitment to affirmative action.

The Institute held to its January 1994 statement expressing its commitment to equal opportunity and to increasing the diversity of both students and employees at MIT. The 12-page summary was released as a supplement in Tech Talk.

President Charles M. Vest does not anticipate any policy changes but is on the lookout for strategies for bringing the numbers of women and minorities at MIT closer into line with those in the community at large.

"Our goal of diversity requires that we all act affirmatively to seek out bright people from a wide range of backgrounds," Vest said. "Affirmative action, as I think about it, is not a matter of rules and regulations: it is about openness and inclusiveness."

Women, minorities underutilized

One of MIT's greatest challenges will involve "reducing the underutilization of women and minorities at MIT," Vest said in his 1994 commitment to MIT's affirmative action policy,which appeared in the summary.

Currently, about 83 percent of MIT's tenured faculty are white males, according to the summary. While males also make up 73 percent of MIT's research staff.

The summary specified MIT's commitment to affirmative action policies on a number of groups, including women, underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, and Vietnam war veterans. It also reiterated MIT's policies regarding harassment and issues related to sex discrimination.

The summary outlined a program for recruiting women and minorities through participation in community action programs and employment and training job fairs. It also stressed the importance of monitoring progress in the search process.

The summary said that MIT needs to look at improving its record on full-time administrative and sponsored-research staff appointments.

MIT unchanged by outside debate

While debate continues elsewhere on the relevance of affirmative action policies, MIT remains steadfast in its commitment to its policy. "We remain committed to building a diverse academic community," Vest said.

The University of California system in particular has been a center of controversy over continuation of its affirmative action policy.

In spite of some heated opposition, a referendum that proposes ending racial and gender preference has garnered enough support to appear on the state ballot in November.

Vest believes that the University of California may be forced to change its policies as a result of a politically charged environment.

"The chancellors of their campuses have opposed these changes. Our trustees, on the other hand, have been supportive of MIT's position," he said.