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Profs Discuss Faculty Diversity

By Curt Fischer
STAFF REPORTER

Tracking programs for possible future minority faculty candidates need to be centralized and expanded, several professors recommended at Wednesday’s meeting of the faculty. These recommendations were part of a larger discussion that emerged from Provost L. Rafael Reif’s January creation of two committees charged with analyzing and improving minority faculty hiring at MIT.

The suggestion to escalate the identification and tracking of future potential faculty candidates among undergraduate and graduate minority students as early as possible was oft-repeated in the faculty’s discussion with the chairs of the two committees.

The faculty resolved in 2004 to double the number of minority faculty, and the new committee chairs are aiming to accomplish this goal. “A factor of two is a strong indication of success,” said Professor Wesley L. Harris, chair of the Committee on the Retention of Minority Faculty.

Paula T. Hammond, chair of the Minority Faculty Recruitment Committee, agreed. “There are 25 or 30 minority faculty now — fifty would be great,” she said.

Coordinating the minority faculty hiring efforts of all of the Institute’s departments is another focus of the committees. Harris, Course 16 (Aeronautics and Astronautics) department head, said he would like to see in all of MIT what he sees now in his own department — “a full-court press” on junior faculty members they wanted to retain. Harris also said his committee will interview current minorities on the faculty and develop systems for tracking their progress.

Both committees have been charged to report on the minority faculty hiring environment at MIT by May 1, and to propose an action plan for 2007 implementation by October 1.

Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 said that it might be necessary to do something “odd and uncomfortable” to foster minority faculty at MIT. He described his experience as part of Boston area law firms’ “total embrace committee” in a past minority recruitment drive, when he wined and dined candidate senior partners for the law firms, and was well aware of his role as “just a face” at the recruiting events.

Clay suggested that one impediment to recruiting minorities may not be obstacles internal to MIT, but the lack of broader lifestyle and collegial opportunities in Boston.

After the minority faculty hiring discussion, President Susan Hockfield recounted to the faculty her experiences from a January trip to Asia, and reported increased opportunities for MIT to engage itself internationally, especially in China. She also said that William B. Bonvillian, new director of MIT’s Washington, DC office, planned to expand the MIT/Washington DC Summer Intern Program.

The faculty also unanimously approved Professor Douglas A. Lauffenburger’s motion that the Biological Engineering Division assume Course number 20.