Letters to the Editor

Why the Need For Public Humiliation?

The Institute’s abrupt and highly publicized dismissal of Marilee Jones, MIT’s dean of admissions, was a disgrace. Yes, apparently 28 years ago Dean Jones made a serious mistake when she misrepresented her educational credentials. But look at her record of accomplishment while at MIT. She has won numerous awards and been recognized as a national leader in the undergraduate admissions process. Several years ago I had the pleasure of working closely with her in helping to evaluate applications to the freshman class. She was dedicated, tireless, professional, and compassionate. As far as I know, no one has ever criticized her as being unqualified. In fact, her many accolades testify to the reverse. The MIT process of harsh and sudden termination has zeroed out everything Marilee has done in a 28-year MIT career. And it has resulted in frenetic media coverage in local, national, and international news. For most “crimes,” the statute of limitations is far less than 28 years. Was Jones’ “crime” equivalent to a felony having no statute of limitations? Was it impossible for the MIT administration to negotiate a quiet private resignation of Dean Jones? Why the need for public humiliation? Where is the compassion that I have always attributed to the MIT family? Despite 46 years here (as student and faculty member), today I feel estranged from a community that could treat one of its own with such cruelty.

Engineering Systems Division

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

MIT Should Be Held Accountable

I was astounded, just as many members of the Community were, to learn Thursday morning of Dean Marilee Jones’ resignation. Yet however shocking it was to find out that she had lied about her academic background, I am left aghast at how a scandal like this could happen at MIT. Jones was wrong in lying and in hiding the truth for so long, but I find it very hard to believe that the administration was ignorant of this fact for so many years. Why did it take an anonymous phone call to the Dean of Undergraduate Education for this information to be known? Was Jones’ background not investigated when she applied to be Dean of Admissions ten years ago? If somebody knew about this, why were they silent for so long? Why did it take four days for us to learn about Jones’ resignation?

This scandal is an embarrassment for MIT. The administration owes an answer to me and all of my fellow undergraduates, who were admitted by the Jones Admissions Office. Dean Hastings spoke of the Institute’s integrity in his press release. If indeed someone in the Administration knew of Jones’ misrepresentation prior to this incident and did nothing until now, then the Institute’s integrity is already severely compromised. President Hockfield has remained silent on many important issues affecting the undergraduate community, not the least of which is this recent scandal. I call upon her, the Provost, and the Chancellor to step forward and answer some questions. We need accountability. We need to know the truth. We need their leadership.

Condemn the Lie, Affirm the Work

The article about Marilee Jones’ resignation (April 27, 2007) was degrading to all admitted MIT students over the past 10 years. Each of us was admitted under socially responsible admissions policies that she helped to create. Dean Hasting’s comment that a future Dean of Admissions would be “somebody who brings in the best and the brightest to MIT” was particularly offensive. He should have said, “continues to bring in the best and the brightest.” Although I am sure he meant no harm, his comment and the article in general give the impression that Jones’ work, or even the students she admitted, might be as flawed as her resume. This is a regrettable blow to the many students who already secretly doubt themselves, having found that they are no longer the “best and brightest” here. While it is important to condemn Jones’ inexcusable lie, we also need to affirm the positive impact her work has had on the MIT, helping to create one of the most intelligent, diverse, interesting, passionate, and collaborative student communities in the world.

Abortion Argument Not One-Sided

In objecting to a recent editorial cartoon regarding the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision upholding a Congressional ban on so-called “partial birth abortion,” Micah Green G writes in to ask whether anyone can possibly conceive a medically and ethically justifiable rationale for this practice. It seems to me that roughly 45 percent of Supreme Court justices can. Or, as they say in the toothpaste world, four out of nine justices prefer that a doctor, and not a congressman, determine what medical procedure is the safest and most appropriate in the estimated 0.2 percent of abortions that are carried out late in pregnancy.

Institute Owes Apology Regarding Sudan Action

MIT has a problem: the Sudanese government is conducting a genocide, and MIT is helping to fund it. MIT has another problem, too: it has ignored an overwhelming divestment mandate from the MIT community. Both the Undergraduate Association and the Graduate Student Council have voted in support of “targeted divestment” from companies who directly fund and work with the Sudanese government. Five hundred members of the MIT community have signed a similar petition.

Adding insult to injury, it seems the MIT Corporation and administration have set out to ensure that the MIT community is too ill-informed to bring pressure to bear on the school. According to Tech reporting, they’ve declined to tell us how heavily we’re invested in Sudan. They’ve stonewalled students trying to ascertain what’s happening in the divestment decision-making process.

And last week, they stopped a student from handing out a fact sheet about the firm that handles MIT’s investments. (In a twist that reveals the administration’s illogical and self-serving response to the need for information, the student was told he could have pursued an “unadvertised option” to request special permission to hand out flyers.)

These assaults on information are inexcusable, particularly at an institution built on principles of scientific investigation and reporting. The Institute owes the divestment organizers an apology — and a forum, and answers. We must have information about the extent of our investments in Sudan and the principles on which our investments are made. The student organizers who are leading us on the divestment issue must be allowed to disseminate information — no easy task in a university with no mechanism for discussing institutional issues — and not subjected to heavy-handed restrictions on speech in our community spaces.

We must also have action. The daily reports from Darfur make divestment urgent and obvious. Most universities that are peers of MIT have already divested in response to student demands. We are shamefully, appallingly, not taking a simple step to intervene in genocide.

Emmaia Gelman G

Lillian C. Lew-Hailer G

Ted E. Schwartzberg G

Anne Schwieger G