Coeducation at MIT in the 1950s-60s

Sponsored by WISE Ventures, Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity & Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education


Thursday, May 3, 2018
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
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102-103 Physics/Astrophysics, Kistler Conference Room, 452 Lomita Mall
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MIT was founded in 1861 and admitted its first woman as a "special student" in 1871, the first of a minuscule number of women to be admitted through the following century. In the 1950s, women made up 1 to 3% of the MIT student body, less than half that of 1897. In 1955, President Killian convened a committee to study the status of women students at MIT and make recommendations for the future. Over a year later, the committee chair wrote to the President recommending that MIT cease admitting women. The President and Provost rejected the recommendation and instead made a commitment to increasing the number of women students and improving their quality of life. This talk is the story of the infamous committee "report" and the sea change in policy that followed it and eventually led to women constituting nearly half the undergraduate MIT population. The talk concludes with observations on lessons from history which still resonate.

Robert M. Gray (MIT '64) is the Alcatel-Lucent Technologies Professor of Communications and Networking, Emeritus, at Stanford University. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and the Institute for Mathematical Statistics. He is the recipient of a U.S. Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (2002), the Claude E. Shannon Award (2008), the Jack S. Kilby Signal Processing Medal (2008). the IEEE Signal Processing Society Education Award (2013), and a Stanford University President's Award for Excellence Through Diversity “for many years of leadership and advocacy for equity and diversity in engineering” (2013). He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering.

WISE Ventures, a joint initiative of the Vice Provost for Faculty Development & Diversity and the Vice Provost for Graduate Education at Stanford, sponsors this WISE Research Roundtable, one in a series of discussions with research scientists whose work illuminates paths to advance equity in scientific and technical fields.

Lunch will be provided. (Those coming from off campus may want to consult information about visitor parking.)

Admission Info

Open to all interested. Advance registration required due to limited seating and lunch: Please register here.

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