While I cannot speak for the entire Computer Science Department, we cannot thank you and others enough for the outpouring of support that you and countless alumni have showed to both Ben Hescott and to Tufts Computer Science Department. We are very grateful and it means a tremendous lot to us. I am in awe and I’m sure Ben will be eternally grateful for all the support. For those who do not know, Ben was denied tenure. During the last several weeks, it became crystal clear that Tufts Computer Science has a very strong and dedicated student and alumni network especially those who have graduated within the last six to seven years.
It is no surprise that I have received a lot of questions from concerned and distraught students and alumni. Examples, word for word:
- “So, I’m curious, will other professors be following Ben in leaving Tufts?”
- “So I’ve a rather blunt question for you: how fucked is this department?”
- “you’re usually the first person to tweet about something. Any reason you haven’t here? Not that I’m saying you should or anything, just wondering if you know something that the rest of us don’t.”
1. Very important: do not direct your anger or thoughts to Kathleen Fisher, the Chair of the Tufts Computer Science Department, to the Department of Computer Science, or to the School of Engineering. They have been very supportive of Ben and to us, and they played no part in this decision.
2. I would be delighted to take all of Ben's undergraduate advisees. I have started writing to some of Ben's advisees.
3. Regarding the questions "So...", I was frank and listed the immediate ramifications which should come at no surprise to anyone, namely:
- Angry students and undergrads; also will affect enrollment.
- Donations from alumni especially from Computer Science will be negatively impacted.
- Loss of service to the University as Ben did quite a lot for the University.
4. I cannot control the thoughts or actions of others. What I can assure you: I am not leaving in 2017-2018 as (1) I want to see the Class of 2018 graduate and (2) we're not morale worse than it is now. We have four new faculty members starting in fall 2017 and we have some cool stuff going on in robotics, cyber security and policy, and machine learning.
5. The reason why I haven't said anything public in the past few weeks: if there is nothing good to say, don't say anything at all.
Losing Ben is no different than losing a close family member or friend. Ben set the bar so high for everyone in the Department and at Tufts. I can never thank Ben enough for that, and I am very grateful to have learned so much from him over the years. Those teaching awards that I received this year and last year can be attributed to Ben and to a few others. Not a single day goes by where I do not ask myself: “what if I had Ben Hescott or Norman Ramsey as a professor at Tufts?” That I will never know but I’m sure my life would have been even better. Don’t worry, Ben is taken care of and he will do very well at Northeastern –they are very lucky to have him.
Kathleen Fisher and I know how important alumni relationships are. There is a good reason why we have been throwing get-togethers at Meadhall for the last several years: to continue building the relationship with our own alumni. But we need to do more now. The last several weeks have really woke up many (students, faculty, and alumni) on how powerful our alums can be and why is it important it is for us to continue developing those relationship after graduation. Why do you think I bring back alums to give guest lectures and talks?
There will never be another Ben Hescott and no one can ever replace Ben Hescott at Tufts. A fantastic colleague wrote: “I understand the impulse to vote with your wallet. But I’m not sure that’s what Ben would want. He sent the faculty a very nice letter yesterday, and he treasures his time here. I think he would not want students and alumni to sever their connections in his name.” This is not the end. We all need to step up more now, in some way or another. I’m sure Ben would be delighted to see that in his name.
P.S., You may be wondering why I did not post this on Facebook. First, I am not on Facebook. Second, Facebook is not an open platform: link to a Facebook post or gallery and you will be asked to log in or create a Facebook account. Third, Facebook posts are not indexed, searchable via search engines other than Facebook.
P.P.S., You may be wondering why I am posting this publicly. The reason: it is absolutely necessary to communicate to our students that we were not the ones responsible for this decision.