Hockfield, Officials Discuss State of MIT

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President Susan Hockfield speaks at the State of the Institute forum in Kresge Auditorium on the morning of Oct. 2, 2007.
Martin Segado—The Tech

President Susan Hockfield, along with top MIT officials, presented optimistic remarks to a crowd of about 300 at Tuesday’s State of the Institute forum in Kresge Auditorium, ending a three year hiatus for the event. Also speaking at the forum were Provost L. Rafael Reif, Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75, and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Theresa M. Stone.

“The state of the Institute is very, very strong,” Hockfield said in her opening remarks. While the MIT Energy Initiative, diversity, and task force recommendations were among the more familiar topics discussed at the forum, the Campaign for Students, global initiatives, and preserving tradition also received considerable coverage.

MIT received over 14,000 undergraduate applications last year, Hockfield said. Of the 12.3 percent admitted, 69 percent of students accepted the offer to become a member of the largest freshman class ever at MIT. Hockfield praised the Institute’s strong draw from young people and outlined efforts to ensure that MIT remains a magnet for talent, including focusing on recruitment of female, international, and minority students.

“We are committed to admitting the best students,” regardless of financial background, Clay said.

Clay talked about the Campaign for Students, a fundraising campaign to begin in 2008, which will address specific deficiencies in the financial aid process and augment the Institute’s ability to provide need-blind admissions. The campaign will also provide fellowship support for graduate students in their first year.

Clay also called for more attention toward the role that graduate school alumni play in MIT’s future, as most of the living alumni have graduated from MIT with graduate degrees. Hockfield mentioned the appointment of 11 new members to the MIT senior leadership team, including Stephen R. Lerman ’72, dean for graduate students, and several new deans in engineering and science.

New face of MIT

In the northwest section of campus, the new Ashdown (NW35) building is scheduled to open in 10 months, Clay said. The building will add more than 500 beds to that area of campus, bringing the total graduate student population living in the northwest section to over 1,800, or one third of the entire graduate population. That area of campus will become the virtual center of graduate student life, Clay said.

Stone presented a list of ongoing building projects and renovations for the coming years, including the Green Center for Physics, Whitaker College (E25), the Media Lab, the School of Architecture and Planning, Sloan School and parking, and the Cancer Research Facility.

Other changes to the MIT campus include the newly renovated MIT Museum and the newly lighted dome.

Tradition, collaboration

On Oct. 1, Clay sent an e-mail to all students outlining MIT’s position on Institute traditions in light of recent events involving hacking and integrity. Student leaders met with administrators recently to discuss the Faculty Club incident of October 2006, in which three students found in the Faculty Club were charged with felonies. The charges were later dropped. “Traditions have served us well in the past,” said Clay during his speech. He added that he will work at preserving tradition and helping students understand their obligations to the law.

As part of MIT’s global initiatives, the administration wants to double the number of students who take advantage of international opportunities, including study abroad programs, Clay said. Among other global initiatives, Hockfield pointed to a major milestone for the OpenCourseWare project, which will celebrate placing all 1,800 courses online and accessible for free by the end of the year. OCW averages 1 million visits monthly and is mirrored in more than 70 countries around the world, according to the OCW Web site.

The Institute “sits in the middle of a super-cluster” of over 150 life-science companies, and 70 engineering related companies, Hockfield said. She announced a building for integrative campus research which will provide a place to work for 12 cancer biologists and 12 engineers. Hockfield also cited projects across institutions, such as the Boston Area Autism Consortium, which currently hosts 60 faculty members from 11 institutions.

Reif’s summary of the goals for the Office of the Provost for the coming year included a focus on minority and gender issues, as well as assessment and implementation of the requirements of the race initiative. Reif said he will be working closely with the associate provosts to start a healing process. He also said his office plans to work closely with school deans to increase the strengths and address weaknesses of diversity on MIT’s campus.

The MIT Energy Initiative, formally launched last year after a one-year information-gathering phase, now has a faculty council from all five schools and has received over $50 million from various sources to support research and development on campus. Proposals are currently being accepted from faculty and students for energy related projects, and about 15 percent of faculty have submitted white papers, Hockfield said. In addition, the Institute will be supporting over 100 energy fellows over the next five years. Reif mentioned multiple research thrusts in the area of energy, in addition to capital academic projects to “engage in activities that make us stronger.”

The forum ended with a question and answer session; one question was asked before the forum broke for lunch, where individual questions were to be answered by the administrators.

The last State of the Institute forum, presented during the tenure of former President Charles M. Vest, was held in 2004. Because of a power outage, the forum could not be held in the main Kresge Auditorium and was instead held in the lobby of Kresge.