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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Former MIT trustee withdraws support over Sherley case

bernard loyd.jpgMIT graduate and former trustee Bernard Loyd (left) has withdrawn from activities supporting the university because of how it has handled the tenure case of James L. Sherley, he said in a letter to the university yesterday.

"I write with a heavy heart," his letter says. "I will not support an MIT that, through disregard for fair process in the recent Sherley case, through repeated rebuffs of well-meaning attempts to engage on issues of black talent and scholarship, and through an apparent unwillingness to speak forcefully on issues of race suggests that it lacks genuine commitment to merit and diversity."

Sherley, an African-American stem cell scientist and professor in the bioengineering department, went on a 12-day hunger strike in February to protest a tenure decision process that he said was racist. His faculty appointment ended June 30 and his laboratory was closed and his staff was laid off.

MIT, which has previously said its tenure decision is final, released a statement this afternoon:

"We value Dr. Loyd's many significant contributions as an active MIT alumnus. He has raised important issues regarding diversity at MIT and we are working hard to accelerate our progress in recruiting and retaining underrepresented minority faculty."

Last month, Frank L. Douglas, executive director of the MIT Center for Biomedical Innovation, said he would leave the university because of MIT's refusal to reconsider its decision not to grant Sherley tenure.

Loyd earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in aeronautics and astronautics and was the chairman of the Black Graduate Student Association at MIT. The 1983 alumnus raised funds for MIT and served on visiting committees for those two departments after his five-year term as a member of the MIT Corporation, the university's name for its board of trustees. He also identified and recruited minority students for MIT in the Chicago area.

He is the president of Urban Juncture Inc., a Chicago company that develops commercial real estate and other businesses that contribute to revitalizing cities, according to its web site.

"It has been an honor to serve the Institute," his letter said, describing the visiting committees that gathered professionals to drive progress at MIT. "However, in my view, the notion of meritocracy and its implications for an openness to and, indeed, sponsorship of diverse students, staff, and faculty must be central to the Institute."

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 03:53 PM
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