MIT Releases Preliminary Report on Efforts to Increase Black and Other Minority Faculty

Just weeks after MIT terminated the employment of James L. Sherley and padlocked his laboratory, the university released a report on underrepresented faculty at the institution. Sherley, an associate professor of biological engineering, was denied tenure. However, he claimed that the decision was tainted by racism and so he waged an unsuccessful two-year campaign to reverse the decision. His efforts included a 12-day hunger strike this past winter.

The new MIT study, entitled Preliminary Report: Initiative for Investigation of Race Matters and Underrepresented Minority Faculty at MIT, outlines the plans for an extensive study of faculty recruitment and hiring procedures at the university. But the study also includes what it calls “early recommendations for immediate implementation.” Among those recommendations is an immediate review of the specific recruiting efforts that are used to attract minority faculty. This review includes all current searches being conducted by academic departments at MIT. The report also calls for the creation of a template for departments to follow in order to ensure that minority candidates will be sought out during the search process. The study also recommends that the university establish a database of minority graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who might be recruited for faculty positions in the future.

The report was issued in the summer when there were few faculty or students on campus. Furthermore, news of the report was buried in the archives of the press section of the MIT Web site. There was no mention of the Sherley incident or the tenure process in the report.