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Still hungry for tenure, but not food

James Sherley, the beleaguered MIT professor who linkurl:went on hunger strike;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/40635/ to protest the institution's decision to deny him tenure, started eating again on Friday (Feb 16), even though MIT has not granted him tenure. Sherley, who is African-American, claims he was denied tenure because of his ethnicity. In a statement posted on the MIT Web site, Sherley announced he was ending his 12-day fast "in celebration of the attention that has

By | February 19, 2007

James Sherley, the beleaguered MIT professor who linkurl:went on hunger strike;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/40635/ to protest the institution's decision to deny him tenure, started eating again on Friday (Feb 16), even though MIT has not granted him tenure. Sherley, who is African-American, claims he was denied tenure because of his ethnicity. In a statement posted on the MIT Web site, Sherley announced he was ending his 12-day fast "in celebration of the attention that has been brought to bear on issues of equity, diversity, and justice at MIT and in higher education." linkurl:Earlier in the week;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/52850/, he spoke to The Scientist about his hunger strike, during which he said he lost 14 pounds, but none of his resolve. It seems that, too, has melted away, because Sherley ended his fast without any word from MIT about his tenure, although the university has acknowledged the value of Sherley's efforts. "Professor Sherley's protest has focused attention on the effects that race may play in the hiring, advancement and experience of under-represented minority faculty, and on ensuring that our grievance processes are comprehensive, fair and timely," according to an MIT statement. "MIT is fully committed to addressing these issues and will continue to work toward resolution of our differences with Professor Sherley."

Comments

Avatar of: M. Salaam

M. Salaam

Posts: 1

August 1, 2007

In response to the previous post......... It was obvious that Sherley stopped his hunger strike because he realized that he was receiving no real (positive) attention and the cause was not worth DYING for.\n\nI completely sympathize with Sherley and the larger situation at hand. There is a lack of concern for diversity in academia. Often in the world of academia, people are only interested in outcomes, such as publications, grants, awards, and increasing endowment. All of these which, like the author said previously, create a society where everything is about self and not fostering an environment where creative ideas can be shared and "tuned" through the harmony of diversity.\n\nAcademic institutions forget that their purpose is for the STUDENTS and not for themselves. The students deserve an education supplemented by diverse ideas and thoughts. Diversity is not just about sprinkling color to the palette; it is about of incorporating new ideas of thought to aid the learning process that have been fortified by varying cultural and ethnic experiences. Environments lacking diversity not only impede this learning process by creating stagnant minds and limits the ability to completely address situations.
Avatar of: Peter Brenton

Peter Brenton

Posts: 1

August 28, 2007

[Note that this is my opinion, not MIT's]\n\nThe fact is, Dr. Shirley made it harder for MIT to recruit minority professors. He has made the Institute seem like it is a bastion of racism when, in fact, at least in my department, we work hard every time we recruit to make sure the underrepresented minority and female communities are specifically asked to apply (both at the student and tenure track faculty level). \n\nSelection of the final candidate for an Assistant Professor position is and should be 100% merit based. I don't have a solution, but I know that in my department's field the problem is not that minority candidates are being considered and rejected due to their race, but rather that there are no qualified minority candidates applying for the assistant professor slots!\n\nAs a department administrator at MIT who wants diversity in the faculty (and is told many times that this is MIT's goal too!), I'm open to ideas beyond the usual tactics like posting the job in minority/women oriented publications, calling and emailing the respected professors in the field asking "especially" for such candidates, and generally putting the message out; we want to hire and will continue to try to hire a truly diverse faculty, but until the outstanding students are in the "supply chain" we will continue to find no applicants from these groups, and with Dr. Shirley's statements I bet some who would consider applying will change their mind.\n\nThe fact is, putting aside for the moment the value of diversity in itself, when we have a diverse faculty we are more attractive to students of all kinds. We compete with the other top engineering schools for the best and brightest, and this factor is very important. Don't think the MIT administration does not know that.\n\nIncidentially, I'm told that only 30 percent of tenure track assistant professors hired at MIT receive tenure. I don't know anything about the actual case of Dr. Shirley, but I've seen some very good professors fail to accomplish what the Institute expects in order to be given tenure in the time alloted.

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