Organizational Structure and Faculty Appointments working groups hold joint forum

Proposals on how to best how to best foster connections between the college and other departments and build diversity presented

9022 coc3   sophia fang
The College of Computing Working Group answers questions about faculty appointment and organizational structure options at a community forum Wednesday.

The Organizational Structure and Faculty Appointments working groups of the College of Computing presented their goals and progress at a joint forum Wednesday afternoon. The committees explained their progress on designing the structure of and hiring process for the college, respectively. They presented proposals on how to best foster connections between the college and other departments, encourage collective projects, and build diversity.

The Organizational Structure working group was represented by co-chairs Asu Ozdaglar PhD ’03, EECS department head, and Nelson Repenning PhD ’96, Sloan School of Management associate dean. The Faculty Appointments working group was represented by co-chair Eran Ben-Joseph, DUSP department head, and member Isaac Chuang ’90, EECS professor.

First, the Organizational Structure working group shared their design targets: “enable and support world-leading research in education in computer science,” “support interdisciplinary research between computing and other academic disciplines,” “promote integration of computing into curricula across the Institute,” and “incorporate social science as a critical component of computing research,” according to Ozdaglar.

Ozdaglar envisioned that the college would “strengthen computing all across MIT” and would “form bidirectional bridges between computing [and] other academic disciplines.”

The Organizational Structure working group has examined the structure of existing groups in MIT, such as EECS; Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Institute for Data, Systems, and Society; as well as structures of groups in other schools, such as Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford, said Ozdaglar.

Two of the major questions the working group is tackling, Ozdaglar explained, are what role EE will play in the new college, and how non-College of Computing faculty will connect to the college. Ozdaglar said that EE faculty “want to play a central role in the college but also maintain connections to the school of engineering.”  

Repenning framed the current structure of EECS as following a “department/labs matrix,” which allows research to be conducted quickly, but hiring and teaching to move more slowly. Repenning said that this has worked well in spurring research, but has resulted in lagging hiring. Additionally, the division between EE and CS in the department has not been reflective of its broad spectrum of research.

Repenning said that faculty were looking for “legitimacy that comes with affiliation” with the college; for example, they hoped that a College of Computing associated grant would be more likely to get funding. He also said that faculty were looking for research support. However, he said that “obvious solutions to these concerns” seemed “countercultural” as departments generally did not “sanction” work in other departments, and it would be difficult to compel CS faculty to collaborate with other departments.

Ben-Joseph said that decisions about the hiring process would be highly dependent on the organizational structure of the college.

Ben-Joseph proposed that faculty appointed in both the college and another department should be called “multidisciplinary faculty” or “multicommunity faculty” instead of “bridge faculty,” since the bridge metaphor marginalizes such faculty. Chuang compared these to current “joint” and “dual” faculty appointments.

Chuang proposed hiring in clusters across many departments rather than individuals, in order “to find a set of people who work collectively across boundaries.” Departments or a multidisciplinary committee would suggest searches and then faculty would be tenured in the normal departmental process.

Chuang also presented several possible models for hiring. He focused on the hybrid model for faculty appointments, in which a hire would only be made if both the college and a department were in support. Furthermore, the faculty slots would stay within the college and not be counted as part of the overall faculty count of the department.

On faculty diversity, Ozdaglar remarked that the working groups are “trying to increase the number of underrepresented groups represented in the college.” One proposal is to have an equity, diversity, and inclusion committee composed of diverse faculty, students, and staff.