MIT Endorsement of the CSWA Pasadena Recommendations

The MIT Physics Department endorses the intent of the Pasadena Recommendations and will take steps to implement them, subject to several restrictions. Below we provide discussion of several of the Recommendations that have raised concerns. These concerns, and our partial implementation, are meant to satisfy the spirit of the Pasadena Recommendations within the framework of our university faculty governance, policies and procedures. Specific comments refer to sections of the Recommendations available at Pasadena Recommendations (PDF).

We fully endorse the Guiding Principles of the Recommendations. Several individual recommendations are only partially implemented, as follows:

Section A. Tenure-Track Hiring

Recommendation A.1:Ensure that all search committees for tenure-track positions contain two or more members whose specific task is to advocate for consideration of candidates from groups that are underrepresented in astronomy.

Our search committees generally consist of three or four people; one member is assigned to be an affirmative action advocate. Assigning two committee members to serve as advocates seems unnecessary. Outside of the search committee, the Department Head and a Dean’s Committee both serve as affirmative action advocates and reviewers.

Recommendation A.4: Develop policies encouraging flexible means of accommodating dual-career couples.

We support the principle but are concerned about a lack of clarity. “Develop policies” might be interpreted by some to mean “Develop spousal hiring policies”. We do not make faculty appointments to anyone who fails to meet our appointment standard. We do assist partners and spouses with searches and occasionally do offer them MIT research track or faculty appointments.

Section B. Career Advancement and Recognition

Recommendation B.4: Decisions on advancement should result from an open process, based on specific criteria that are spelled out in advance.

“Open process” can be interpreted a number of ways, including breaching of the confidentiality of letters, which is unacceptable.  The phrase “specific criteria” is also worrisome because we would never agree to a quantitative accounting of contributions to research, teaching, or service. Our process is fully described on the web and is explained when job offers are made during faculty recruitment.