The case of James Sherley's employment at MIT is still one of the most common searches leading to my web site, and there continue to be developments. To catch up, check out my first entry on this topic. (For you bloggers trying to get listed higher on Google, it actually *helps* to make a little spelling error deep in the entry...)
According to a news feature in Science Magazine last month, the biological engineering professor was asked to leave his position on June 30, 2007. Of note is that Frank Douglas resigned because MIT's handling of Sherley's case for tenure creates a hostile environment for African-Americans on campus. Douglas was the director of MIT's Center for Biomedical Innovation. He held faculty appointments in the science, engineering, and management schools.
It sounds to me like MIT has a problem with race. Philip Phillips, another Black scientist, formerly at MIT and now at the University of Illinois, predicts that Douglas will be treated as was Sherley—“as just another irrational person.” This got me thinking: I wonder how many irrational White, South Asian or Hispanic people there are who were denied tenure at MIT. Or is irrational a word only reserved for Black professors. I wonder also, how irrational individuals received appointments at the premier science institution in the world, if they were irrational.
I admit that some of Sherley's actions and his use of hyperbole (on this issue and others) can easily confuse what is the real issue at hand, but it is hard to lay the blame entirely on one man. Is MIT just offering lip service to issues of race? Do they have anything more than official statements to try and improve this situation? Is the environment there really hostile to African-Americans? What will James Sherley do next?