MIT students allege defense conflict

June 2, 1989
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- A group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology students said Friday a two-year study found conflicts of interest involving MIT Provost John M. Deutch's service on Pentagon advisory boards and with defense contractors.

Deutch, said to be a top candidate to succeed retiring MIT President Paul Gray, dismissed the charges, saying his critics 'may have a different view about the role of a faculty member in the United States than I do.'

Also discounting the charges were an MIT spokesman and the chairman of a presidential search committee.

The critics, a group called the Science Action Coordinating Committee, said they found 'several conflicts of interest' in which Deutch used his position as a Defense Department policymaker to channel research money to MIT, group spokesman Steven Penn said.

The critics did not claim to have found evidence of wrongdoing or illegality, but contend Deutch's activities have 'really changed the atmosphere at MIT.... It makes it more militaristic,' Penn said.

'I do serve on federal advisory committees,' Deutch said in a telephone interview with UPI. 'I think it's perfectly consistent with what MIT professors are supposed to do. They may have a different view about the role of a faculty member in the United States than I do.'

The group is not calling for Deutch to resign as MIT provost, but calls on the 10-member MIT Corp. to exclude him from consideration as the school's new president.

Professor Robert M. Solow, chairman of a presidential search faculty advisory committee, said the critics charges would play no role in the selection process. 'My feeling is the committee won't pay much attention to it,' he said. 'It's a way-out fringe thing. My sense is that this group is nowhere near the center of gravity.'

The Science Action Coordinating Committee consists of about a dozen past and present MIT students advocating 'socially responsible science' at the school, said Penn, who is a graduate student majoring in physics.

The critics alleged Deutch has helped the Pentagon develop a system through which it would have priority access to research materials and personnel at MIT and other leading U.S. colleges.

In addition, the group is asking the school to investigate Deutch's service on the boards of several major defense contractors and what conflicts of interest it may pose, Penn said.

'MIT and the Defense Department worked together to develop radar in the 1940s and have always had a deep relationship, but we have a different idea about the nature of the relationship than they (the critics) have,' said MIT spokesman Ken Campbell.

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