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Faculty Discuss Changes to BEH

By Flora Amwayi


Dean of the School of Engineering Thomas L. Magnanti announced that the Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health (BEH) is changing its name to the Division of Biological Engineering (BE) at the faculty meeting last week. The Academic Council formally approved the name change Feb. 12.

Professor Howard Brenner of the chemical engineering department said there was insufficient discussion of the change. “We are concerned about the impact the biological engineering division is going to have on chemical engineering,” Brenner said, adding that the BE division may evolve into a department and this will compete with Course X, which also offers bioengineering as part of its curriculum.

Scientific access also discussed

Another issue discussed at the faculty meeting was the new committee on access to and disclosure of scientific information, sponsored by Provost Robert A. Brown. “We set up the committee in December,” said Stephen C. Graves, professor of management and chair of the faculty. “The committee will deal with policies on open research and free access to information,” he added, noting that the committee’s work was “primarily [to] re-examine current policies and examine whether there is need for change.

“The essence of the current policy has been that we do not do classified research” and “once we have students at MIT, we cannot single them out for restriction from research,” Graves said in justifying the formation of the committee.

The committee’s charge is “to look at current policy in light of current state of affairs,” Graves explained. The committee will also look at the implication of faculty participating in classified research and review the policy with respect to use of classified material on campus.

Since more and more industry research goes on on campus, “There is potential for certain restrictions,” Graves commented.

The committee plans to gather information, document history and assess the current and possible future scenarios and it is to report to the faculty and the Academic Council in May.

The need for change in policy was emphasized by Brenner, who has had several proposals to do work involving classified research. “Last spring, I got a proposal to sign a sub-contract on aerosols in conjunction with the Army, and it would involve work on bioterrorism,” Brenner explained. But since the Army would have control over the whole program, MIT was not willing to sign it since “MIT does not want to be told by anybody who they can or cannot employ to do research according to the existing policies,” Brenner added. He said he hoped that in view of Sept. 11, MIT will change its policies to view classified research differently.

Clay discusses crowding problems

Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 addressed the issue of crowding, reminding the faculty of the e-mail message he sent out addressing the issue since approximately 400 students are affected. In the e-mail, he had indicated ways they could deal with crowding, with the most feasible ones being reducing the number of admitted freshmen and taking about 150 from graduate housing for undergraduates without necessarily interfering with the graduate community. Two committees were appointed to deal with the crowding issue and prevent the scenario from happening again. Clay said the problem would be gone in three to five years.

“There is open skepticism on whether this strategy will work,” he added. He addressed this by saying that the hope on fulfilling the strategy was based on maintaining the size of the admitted class and confirmed that the plan for next year is to restrict new students to 1,000.