EECS Reorganization Plan

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 2:00pm

EDITOR'S NOTE: To read MIT Provost Martin Schmidt's letter with an update on the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, including more about the EECS reorganization plan, please visit the MIT News website.

OVERVIEW

This document describes the reorganization plan for the EECS Department, as part of the founding of the Schwarzman College of Computing (SCC). It was developed based on the reports and discussion forums of the Provost’s Computing Task Force working groups, a strawman plan that was circulated with the EECS faculty, and feedback on the strawman from the EECS faculty and the Engineering Council. The focus of this document is solely EECS, which is the largest existing unit at MIT that is slated to initially be part of the College. A planning document for the overall College remains to be written, following a similar process of developing and circulating a strawman plan based on the Task Force reports and forums, with subsequent discussion and feedback.

INTRODUCTION

The Organizational Structure Working Group of the Computing Task Force has suggested that the EECS Department be restructured into three overlapping academic units. This plan considers in more detail how to achieve this restructuring.

The Deans of SoE and SCC are committed to making EECS even stronger, not only at MIT but nationally and globally. We see the creation of this substructure as providing a stronger base for enhancing existing programs, creating exciting opportunities, and increasing connections to other parts of MIT. We envision a highly collaborative approach. The new EECS structure is expected to be in place near the start of the Fall Semester. The structure will be re-evaluated periodically, via feedback from faculty, students and other stakeholders to the Deans of SoE and SCC.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

There are some key considerations to keep in mind regarding any restructuring of EECS:

  1. It is hard to imagine a School of Engineering without EE, or a College of Computing without CS,

  2. there don’t seem to be clear academic boundaries for splitting the EECS Department into separate department; notably, Course 6 benefits from being a single overall academic program,

  3. the current size and scope of the EECS Department can be problematic for department-level decision-making which conventionally relies heavily on discussion and broad support,

  4. computing fields such as CS and EE are evolving rapidly, perhaps most visibly in AI but also other areas such as Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and Social Networks; the academic structure should facilitate MIT’s leadership of such change.

STRUCTURE, TERMINOLOGY, ROLES

The three overlapping units suggested by the Task Force are: Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Computer Science (CS), and Artificial Intelligence and Decision-Making (AI+D). AI+D brings together CS-heritage AI and ML with EE-heritage information and decision systems, exploiting their significant synergies. Based on subsequent discussions, the first unit will be named Electrical Engineering (EE) rather than ECE.

Each unit will be termed a Faculty rather than a Department, Division, or other name that suggests more traditional academic structures. In contrast with departments, the Faculties are expected to have relatively porous boundaries, such as substantial overlapping faculty members and shared educational, recruiting, and service responsibilities. The three Faculties will be components of the EECS Department, and the Department will be joint between SoE and SCC.

Each Faculty will have a Head. The role of the Head is both to lead their Faculty and also to be a co-leader of the EECS Department as a whole, under the direction of the EECS Head.

The EECS Head and the Faculty Heads each report jointly to the SoE and SCC Deans, the Faculty Heads further report to the EECS Head for day-to-day matters (analogous to the current structure of the EECS Associate Heads reporting to the Head and Dean, but with considerably more autonomy and responsibility for the Faculty Heads than current Associate Department Heads as covered further below). It is quite possible that experience with this leadership structure would lead to changes over the first few years. Moreover, in the future, depending on the need as determined by the Deans, some Faculties may also have an Associate Head. More detail on how rights and responsibilities are expected to be divided between the Faculty Heads and the Department Head are discussed in the second section of this document.

There will be an SCC Deputy Dean of Academics (DDA) who has responsibility for overseeing the academic aspects of the College, and for the substantial collaboration and coordination with the Schools (the Deputy Dean title has been used elsewhere at MIT such as Sloan). The EECS Head will co-report to the DDA for day-to-day matters regarding the College of Computing, as the DDA is envisioned to have primary oversight of academic units and programs in SCC overall. Given the needs for SCC to coordinate with all the Schools, this structure is not the same as in SoE. The reporting structure is summarized in the attached diagram, which also indicates other potential components of the College.

It is expected that initially the EECS Head and DDA roles would likely be filled by the same person, who would be an EECS faculty member. This organization would reduce the number of layers of administration in the College and facilitate coordination of the three EECS Faculties with other academic units and programs of the College. In the event that these two roles are filled by the same person, the SoE and SCC Deans will carefully monitor that the needs of both roles are being well served, making changes if they prove necessary.

The Course 6 office will remain at the Department level, supporting all the graduate and undergraduate programs, rather than having individual programs or offices per Faculty. The EE Faculty will have responsibility for the 6-1 curriculum, the CS Faculty for the 6-3 curriculum, and 6-2 will be a shared responsibility between EE and CS. The AI+D Faculty will have responsibility for AI and decision-making classes in Course 6 and for developing a more coordinated and coherent curriculum in the area, including a minor and potential additional Course 6 major. The blended majors 6-7, 6-14 and 6-9 will be supported by the Course 6 office, with shared responsibility among the Faculties unless determined otherwise. It is expected that there will be an Education Chief (EC) for each Faculty. Curriculum and teaching responsibilities are considered further in the next section.

ORGANIZATIONAL OVERVIEW

While it remains to be defined, the Organizational Structure Task Force Working Group report envisions the Common Ground as coordinating and facilitating teaching of computing-related classes. It would consist of faculty from a range of academic units at MIT in support of interdisciplinary computing classes and cross-unit or co-teaching of computing classes. It is expected that there would be substantial coordination between Course 6 and the Common Ground. The numbering of any Common Ground class would, as normally at MIT, be subject to approval by the academic unit(s) responsible for the Course(s) that the class was to be listed under. It is possible that there would further be a Course number associated with the College or the Common Ground.

Each current EECS faculty member will be part of one or more of the Faculty of EE, CS or AI+D, with corresponding teaching and service responsibilities to each of those Faculties, so, generally a faculty member will not be part of all three. Those faculty who have a joint or dual appointment with another department or academic unit (including IDSS or IMES but not research labs or centers) will be in up to two of the Faculties if their teaching and service responsibility to EECS is at least half-time. Those with less than half-time commitment to EECS will be limited to one of the Faculties, and it is envisioned that quarter-time will be the minimum commitment level to a Faculty. This limitation does not apply to Professors Post-Tenure or Emeritus.

An EECS faculty member who is part of two Faculties could split their teaching and service equally between them or could select a Faculty with the majority of their responsibilities. It will be necessary to teach at least one semester out of four in a secondary Faculty (this could be a class that is also in the scope of the primary Faculty but must meet needs as determined by the secondary one; note that the Faculties are expected to coordinate closely on teaching and on ensuring that needs of all three are being met as discussed further below).

Current EECS faculty members will indicate their preferences for Faculties, including potential teaching in those Faculties. This will be reviewed by the current EECS Head and Associate Heads, the Deans of SoE and SCC, and the Provost in forming the initial Faculties. The review will consider how the makeup of the Faculties meets educational program needs. It is anticipated preferences will be gathered before the end of August.

An EECS faculty member could change the Faculties they belong to or their effort levels, based on their interests and the teaching and service needs of the Faculties, although it is expected that untenured faculty would generally not do so. To the extent necessary, a process would be developed for such changes which is lighter weight than that for changing departments. Such a process would likely take place annually. For faculty from other Departments or Schools who might move partly or fully to the new Faculties, it would be necessary for those Faculties, the current Department or other academic unit, and relevant Deans to approve, as with any such move of faculty between academic units at MIT.

Untenured EECS faculty members hired prior to September 1, 2019, will have the option of following either the existing process through SoE via the EECS personnel committee or the new promotion process outlined below, through the tenure decision. It is further expected that until June 2020 promotions for all EECS faculty would be handled through the existing process.

A new tenure and promotion process will be developed where a candidate’s primary Faculty handles preparing the promotion case and making the promotion recommendation to the Deans. This process will include consideration of input from any secondary Faculty or other academic unit, but there will not be a separate tenure evaluation by a secondary unit. The promotion recommendation will go to the SoE Dean and Council for those faculty who are primarily on the EE Faculty and to the SCC Dean and Council for those who are primarily on the CS Faculty. For those who are primarily on the AI+D Faculty or equally on two Faculties, the promotion recommendation will go to the Dean and Council designated for that faculty member at the time of hiring or as subsequently agreed by the faculty member and relevant Heads and Deans.

An SCC Council remains to be developed. However, since its membership would be relevant to future tenure and promotion for faculty who are primarily on the CS Faculty and some on the AI+D Faculty, possible membership is considered briefly here. The SCC Council will likely include the SCC Dean and Deputy Dean of Academics, the EECS and Faculty Heads, the leaders of other academic units with faculty positions in SCC such as the IDSS Director, and a member from each School Council (where the latter are selected based on their connections with computing and the academic units in SCC). There will also likely be an extended Council that includes others such as lab directors but is not for consideration of tenure and promotion cases.

There will be close collaboration between the SoE and SCC Deans regarding the overall resources and faculty positions in the three Faculties, coordinated by the EECS Head as discussed further below. Faculty slots will be allocated by the Deans to either specific Faculties or to the EECS department as a whole, or as shared slots. Shared slots can be between Faculties within EECS or between a Faculty and a School or Department as part of an interdisciplinary cluster (formerly known as bridge positions). The interdisciplinary clusters are to be discussed in more detail in the College planning document. The clusters are not themselves academic units, but rather are means for coordinating hiring between academic units in the College and the Schools. Clusters would be selected through a process that is yet to be developed, drawing on suggestions from the Working Group reports, where the Academic Deans (School Deans and SCC Dean) together with the Provost approve new clusters. Slots for hiring in an approved cluster, and offer approvals, would be determined jointly by the SCC Dean and the corresponding School Dean.

When an EECS faculty slot that was filled on or after July 1, 2019, becomes open, it will return to the Dean that provided the slot (or the fraction if not a full slot). The return of current EECS faculty slots to SoE and SCC when they become vacant will be governed by an MOU between the two Deans and the Provost.

EECS faculty members will be able to continue using existing titles including Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Professor of Computer Science, Professor of Electrical Engineering, or Professor of Computer Science and Engineering. Faculty might also supplement or replace these by titles associated with the Faculty or Faculties to which they belong.

FUNCTIONS OF DEPARTMENT AND FACULTIES; ROLES OF EECS HEAD AND FACULTY HEAD

  • A coordinated TBA request for faculty searches for EECS will be presented jointly to the two Deans, reflecting the input of the Faculty Heads under the leadership of the EECS Head. The Deans will provide ranges for each search (where searches may be for individual Faculties or joint between Faculties) and an overall total maximum. The EECS Head will coordinate overall balancing of these ranges with the total. The Faculty Heads will run the searches and determine the recommended candidates to give offers to, jointly for joint hires. It is expected that there will be a search committee for each Faculty plus an EECS-wide committee consisting of representatives from the Faculty specific committees that coordinates overlapping candidates and as well as those that might otherwise be missed. Assistant professor offers and startups will be prepared and made by the Faculty Head with other offers and startups likely made by the EECS Head given the higher degree of negotiation frequent for such hires. The Deans will approve all offers and startup packages.

  • Promotions will be prepared by the Head of the primary Faculty that the candidate is a member of, with cases going to one of the School/College councils as discussed above. The EECS-wide promotion committee (PC) will remain, at least to handle cases of existing faculty per above. The EECS-PC will likely be supplemented or replaced by Faculty PCs over time but could also make sense long term given many candidates with multi-Faculty affiliation. Decisions regarding the structure of the Faculty promotion processes will be made at the recommendation of the EECS and Faculty Heads with approval by the Deans.

  • The EECS Head will hold a regular EECS Leadership Group (EECS-LG) meeting with the Faculty Heads, UG/G officers and Faculty Education Chiefs to discuss Faculty and EECS academic coordination and initiatives. The EECS Head will work with the Faculty Heads and the EECS-LG to nominate for Institute awards and chairs, and decide departmental awards and chairs, with the Faculty Heads working on nominating faculty for external awards. The president’s report and other department publications will be coordinated by the EECS Head with input from EECS-LG.

  • The EECS HQ, Course 6 UG and G offices, and EECS space will report to the EECS Head.

  • There will be a Course 6 Education Curriculum Committee (ECC) with sub committees for each of the  majors, under the direction of the Head(s) of the Faculty responsible for that major. The subcommittees will have the flexibility to modify their major and classes, in coordination with each other and under the overall direction of the EECS Head. Also see the previous section regarding the Common Ground in the College.

  • Each class will be assigned to be the primary responsibility of a given Faculty, or the joint responsibility of two or all three Faculties (e.g., for introductory classes that are a requirement of multiple majors). The EC of each Faculty will be responsible for staffing these classes and TA allocations. The ECs will report to the Faculty Heads and the ECC chair, who reports to and receives resources from the EECS Head.

  • TA and lecturer resources will be allocated by the EECS Head at the recommendation of the Faculties. Lecturers will generally report to the EECS Head if they largely teach intro or other broadly needed courses, and to a Faculty Head if they largely teach courses specific to that Faculty.

  • EECS Faculty lunches will alternate weekly between individual Faculties and a combined lunch for the Department, with the combined lunch chaired by the EECS Head (with Faculty-specific lunch locations TBD). These lunches will focus on educational, faculty recruiting, and other EECS or Faculty-specific matters. There will separately be College faculty meetings for issues that pertain to the College more broadly.

  • Leaves (teaching release, sabbaticals, JFRL) will be approved by the Faculty Head, with professional leaves approved by the EECS Head and the Deans (and the Provost). The EECS Head prepares the retirement agreements for consistency across Faculties.

  • Mentoring will be a responsibility of the Faculty or Faculties to which a faculty member belongs, and faculty issues will be handled by the Head of that Faculty (or jointly with a secondary unit if the issue substantively involved another academic unit).

  • Student issues will be handled by the UG and G officers.

  • The UG and G officers will report to the EECS Head and the EECS Head will interact with the EECS student groups with the participation of the Faculty Education Chief(s) and Head(s) as relevant.

  • UG advising will be handled in a manner that distributes students in Course 6 across the three Faculties, as it is a shared program of the three, the individual majors are very different sizes, and at least currently there is no major corresponding to AI+D.

  • The EECS Head will coordinate the budget request to the Deans, with input from the Faculty Heads. There will be one overall EECS budget, with shared visibility among the Faculty Heads and the EECS Head, and with Faculty-level budget authority granted to each Faculty Head as determined by the Deans. The EECS Head will oversee EECS fellowships, visit day costs, and other such shared EECS expenses.

  • Performance reviews and ratings will be done by the Faculty Heads with input from the Education Chiefs on educational contributions and lab directors on research activities. The EECS Head and the Deans use these reviews and ratings to determine salary recommendations to the Provost

  • The EECS Head will oversee the departmental initiatives (e.g., SuperUROP).

  • Fundraising efforts will be coordinated at the School/College level with EECS as well as the individual Faculties.

  • It is expected that the EECS and Faculty Heads will likely serve on both the SoE and SCC Council at least during the time period that all EECS tenure cases are considered by the SoE Council.

  • At least initially, it will not be recommended to the Corporation that the visiting committee structure be changed so that there will remain a single EECS visiting committee.The Head of each Faculty will be selected by the SoE and SCC Deans based on recommendations from a faculty search committee. The DDA will be selected by the SCC Dean.