President Charles M. Vest is expected to join NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund director-counsel Elaine R. Jones in decrying activities that limit affirmative action in higher education tomorrow at MIT's 23rd annual celebration of the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Ms. Jones, the LDF's first female director-counsel, and Dr. Vest will both speak at the Celebratory Breakfast at 8am at La Sala de Puerto Rico in the Stratton Student Center. More than 300 invited guests are expected to attend the breakfast, hosted by Dr. Vest. Ms. Jones is the keynote speaker.
As part of the program, the theme of which is "'The Strength to Love': Facing the Crisis of the Underclass," three Leadership Awards will be presented. "The Strength to Love" is the title of a collection of Rev. King's sermons.
Leadership Award recipients are the MIT Committee on Campus Race Relations, retired MIT medical social worker Myra Rodrigues, and University of Maryland physics and astronomy Professor Sylvester J. Gates Jr., an MIT alumnus.
Both speakers were expected to refer to Hoppwood vs. Board of Education, a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that prohibits the consideration of race or ethnicity to achieve a diverse student body. Other recent anti-affirmative action moves include decisions to limit or end programs in the state university systems of California and Colorado, and the California referendum that forbids taking race or gender into account in making admissions decisions.
Dr. Vest is expected to note that affirmative action programs have helped universities make significant--though not sufficient--progress in becoming more diverse, a condition that is necessary if society is to benefit from the full talents of its population. He will urge the MIT community to renew its commitment to diversity to honor the ideals of Dr. King, not simply because it will lead to better education and a sounder society, but because it is the right thing to do.
As part of the celebration, electrical engineering graduate student Cedric L. Logan of Hayneville, AL, and Eto S. Otitgbe of Albany, NY, a sophomore in mechanical engineering, will offer reflections on the meaning of the life and accomplishments of the slain civil rights leader. The master of ceremonies will be senior Greg A. Shell of New Bedford, MA, a senior in political science.
Guests will be welcomed in English and in Spanish by Kira M. Huseby of Oak Park, IL, a junior in mathematics, and Kimberley L. Miller of Guaynabo, PR, a senior in mechanical engineering. Ms. Huseby is attorney general of the Black Students Union.
Provost Joel Moses will introduce the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professors at the breakfast. They are Dr. Richard Joseph, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta; Dr. Steven Lee, a computer scientist/mathematician at Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee; Dr. Oliver McGee III, an aerospace engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Dr. William W. Quivers Jr., chairman of the Department of Physics at Wellesley College, who received the PhD in physics from MIT in 1982. Two other visiting professors--Dr. Walter Rodriguez, professor of Design at Tufts University, and Ernest J. Cortes Jr., director of the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation in Austin--are not expected to attend.
John H. Cartwright, Boston University's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Social Ethics and a founding director of the BU's King Center from 1968-70, will also address the breakfast.
The invocation will be delivered by Rev. Constance Parvey, MIT's Lutheran chaplain.
In addition to the speakers, two musicians will perform at the breakfast, pianist George W. Russell Jr. and featured choir singer Wannetta Johnson of the New Covenant Christian Center in Mattapan.
The celebration will also include a day-long youth conference on Saturday entitled "Building Bridges for Youth into the Future." Richard O'Bryant, co-director of the Boston youth program Building Bridges, will coordinate the conference, which is expected to attract 300 youths from ages 9 to 19, mostly from Cambridge and Boston. The Community Fellows Program in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning will assist in running the conference.
The celebration concludes with the fifth annual musical tribute to Dr. King at MIT, "Journey into a Dream," featuring jazz vocalist Semenya McCord (see story on this page) at 8pm in Kresge Auditorium. Admission is free and the public is invited.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 5, 1997.