Ad Hoc Faculty Committee chairs provide updates at faculty meeting Feb. 19
Rick Danheiser holds discussion on MIT’s shared governance
The Ad Hoc Faculty Committee to Review MIT Gift Processes and the Ad Hoc Faculty Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements presented updates at the faculty meeting Feb. 19. Professor Rick Danheiser, chair of faculty, also discussed MIT’s shared governance between the faculty, the MIT Corporation, and administration.
Professor Peter Fisher, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review MIT Gift Processes, said the committee completed its interim report Feb. 12. The report will be posted on the committee website.
Professor Tavneet Suri, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements, said the committee will integrate feedback, test cases to run through the proposed guidelines, and deliver a report by late May.
The Ad Hoc Committee to Review MIT Gift Processes is currently looking into peer institutions’ policies, Fisher said. The next steps will be to deep dive into four to five specific areas between Feb. 13 and June 1.
Fisher discussed three aspects of MIT finances: how funds are used, how funds are obtained, and how the community views these two aspects.
Endowments increased from $0.5 billion to $7.4 billion between 1981 to 2019 in exponential growth, Fisher said. The weight of donations has increased from nine percent to 14% while the weight of investment income has increased from nine percent to 31% since 1981.
Fisher does not “believe such growth is sustainable” with respect to MIT’s increased “reliance on gifts.” There is a “real need” for an official policy on gifts, Fisher said.
Danheiser mentioned reevaluating and rebalancing the influence of faculty and the Corporation to make decisions.
Tom Kochan, professor of management, expressed concern that faculty voices are not being heard in the Corporation. Roger Levy, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, stated that the narrow channel of communication between faculty and the Corporation is not advantageous to either.
Robert Jaffe, professor of physics, presented a proposal for establishing three working groups, focused on faculty involvement in decisions made by the Academic Council, faculty involvement in decisions made by the Corporation, and the relationship between faculty, staff, and administration. Jaffe said he was interested in further input before moving forward.
Aram Harrow PhD ’05, professor of physics, commented that faculty governance often moves too slowly to affect rapid administrative decisions. Diana Henderson, professor of literature, said that faculty committees slow processes down so that decisions can be made more inclusively.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements began work in October. According to Suri, the committee hosted office hours and 15 campus conversations between mid-November and mid-December, including five with faculty with one from each school, four with staff, two with students, three with alumni, and one open to anyone. The committee includes professors from various departments and schools.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Guidelines to Review MIT Gift Processes includes representatives from all schools, UA President Mahi Elango ’20, GSC President Peter Su G, and the administration.
Both committees were created in October in response to MIT’s engagements with Jeffery Epstein.
Áron Ricardo Perez-Lopez and Edwin Song contributed reporting.