Like any major company, every year MIT produces a detailed annual report summarizing the past year’s work, accomplishments, and aspirations, with a detailed section from every department, lab, center, school, or other unit — or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
Called the Report to the President since 1983, and previously the Report of the President, MIT’s annual reports have recently run over one thousand pages, and provide a narrative from nearly every administrator of something at MIT, and are a source for statistics and numbers about MIT that are comparable from year-to-year.
Printed annual reports have not been issued since the 2005 report, according to Kimberly D. Mancino of the Reference Publications Office, because the office is still waiting for critical reports to come in — such as the section of the reports penned by MIT’s presidents.
“Report of the President”
“Getting them in years late is the same as not getting them in,” said Richard L. Schmalensee ’65, professor of management and former dean of the Sloan School of Management.
The “Report of the President” section is missing for the years 2004–2012: one year of President Charles M. Vest, one year of overlap, and seven years of President Susan J. Hockfield.
(The 2004-2005 academic year overlapped both presidents, and in lieu of a report from either Vest and Hockfield, the 2005 report contained a summary attributed to the MIT News Office.)
In the “Report of the President” section, the MIT president discusses his or her priorities for the Institute, and what is being done to achieve the Institute’s goals at a strategic level. The section typically offers a small history lesson and some narrative associated with the management of the Institute. It helps to explain what the President did and why, as well as how.
The publications office makes electronic versions of the individual reports available at http://web.mit.edu/annualreports/ while waiting for all the reports to arrive.
Mancino said that the 2011 report was running about six months late, and that the piecemeal electronic version should have been available in May. Most of 2011 has been submitted, but it has not been completely finalized, she said.
In addition to missing the sections authored by President Hockfield from 2006 onwards, the report also lacks the report of the MIT Corporation from 2009 onwards. Both categories of report are the responsibility of Kirk D. Kolenbrander, who both served as chief of staff to President Hockfield and is vice president for Institute affairs and secretary of the Corporation.
“We are workin’ on it,” Kolenbrander said. But asked if he could account for the delay, he said “Nope.”
“I don’t think it’s the hugest thing in the world,” Schmalensee said. “I just think it’s good practice” to get the report in.
But he said that he did not write an annual report when he was dean. (An annual report from the Sloan School is present for his last year as dean, 2007; it was not signed by him, though some earlier years were.)
Some MIT offices use their annual reports to contextualize their relationship with the public and explain their activities. For instance, the Office of the General Counsel, MIT’s lawyers, included the following paragraph in several of their annual reports:
“We often find that news reporting and public commentary about MIT litigation is incomplete and misinformed, sometimes wildly so. Nonetheless, we almost never respond to news inquiries and we usually don’t correct misstatements because we are governed by facts and law, which we advocate in court, not in newspaper headlines. Also, much of our litigation and pre-litigation activity involves inherently confidential information. Our success in this part of our work is measured in part by how little publicity it generates.”
President Hockfield did not respond to requests for comment, and the MIT News Office declined to comment on MIT’s annual reports.