President Charles M. Vest opened the February faculty meeting on a positive note, asserting, "For the first time we can have optimism about federal research programs.
"The administration has presented the strongest-ever increase in scientific research, and we have good reason to believe in bipartisan receptivity to the budget," he said.
The sparsely attended meeting in Rm 10-250 last Wednesday also heard reports from the Committee on Discipline, the re-organization of the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education (ODSUE), and an update on alcohol policy and the system of sanctions that have been put in place.
Dr. Vest referred briefly to the erosion of federal funding over the past six years, then went on to summarize the current and projected status of federal funding for scientific research, including basic research.
"The change in tone is very dramatic this year," he said, adding that the rhetoric related to scientific funding is supportive of innovation and research. It also supports an "interconnected" view of science, which recognizes that advances in one field often rest on discoveries in many. In contrast, a specialty-driven view, which influenced some of the funding priorities in the recent past, imperiled funds for basic research.
Dr. Vest noted some specific proposed increases in federal funding for basic research, including the National Science Foundation (10 percent), the Department of Defense (6 percent for basic research), the National Institutes of Health (8 percent), and the Department of Energy (9 percent).
However, he pointed out that the proposed funding increases did not undo the "damage we are seeing from the changes in federal reimbursement policies regarding research and graduate education," and he commended the efforts of Provost Joel Moses on behalf of graduate education here.
Dean for Student Life Margaret Bates reviewed the changes in alcohol policy and the sanctions announced on February 3 (MIT Tech Talk, February 4). She said this represented an effort to "codify sanctions that in effect had been in place."
Professor Phillip Sharp of biology, who co-chairs the Working Group on Binge Drinking with Dr. Mark Goldstein of the Medical Department, said the committee had been meeting regularly and hoped to begin developing a continuing educational plan next month.
Both Dean Bates and Professor Sharp addressed the question of whether students would think twice before calling police for alcohol-related medical help now that the officers also are charged with issuing citations.
Noting that a call for help would be considered a mitigating circumstance when sanctions are considered, Dean Bates said, "We are extremely concerned about students getting helpï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½when needed." While echoing her concern, Professor Sharp added that the committee wasn't certain the issue had been "totally resolved."
Both were asked what role students had played in the process.
"As much as humanly possible," said Dean Bates.
Professor Sharp said four of the 10 members of the group are students and that he had observed "a great deal of soul-searching by students."
COMMITTEE ON DISCIPLINE
Professor Stephen Graves, chair of the Committee on Discipline, noted that 1996-97 was a typical year, with hearings on seven cases, all involving allegations of altered exams or cheating. "The good news," he said, "isï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½that there is not much news."
In one case, a student's degree was withheld for a year. Other sanctions included suspension and probation.
Only three cases were reported in 1995-96 when a new system of Student Conflict Resolution and Disciplinary procedures was introduced. Six hearings were conducted in 1994-95.
Also at the meeting, Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind Williams outlined the reorganization of ODSUE (see story on page 1).
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 25, 1998.