Black student recommendations and MIT’s response
In December 2015, student leaders from Black Student Union (BSU) and Black Graduate Student Association presented to MIT’s senior administration with recommendations for making MIT a more inclusive and welcoming campus for all its members. To address the students’ recommendations, President Reif appointed Vice President Kirk Kolenbrander to lead the Academic Council working group, the coordinating and planning body for the administration consisting of faculty, students and other senior administrators. A second group, the Staff Alignment Group, consists mainly of administrative staff whose focus is on student diversity and inclusion, is tasked to support the AC working group efforts. The groups help to ensure communication across the diversity and inclusion functions of the university and advise senior administration when needed.
A summary of these and other recommendations, and a progress report, can be found in the Recommendations Scorecard.
The Institute Community and Equity Office (ICEO) seeks to advance a more respectful and caring community in various ways including engaging with the MIT community through meaningful dialogue on various topics related to social justice, diversity and inclusion. Notable events include a community dialogue responding to national tragedies in July, 2016 and a review of the status of student recommendations in December 2017. ICEO has also partnered with other campus units including MIT Police, Libraries and the Disabilities Employee Resource Group to discuss ways in creating a more inclusive MIT.
In early fall 2017, ICEO hosted two faculty dinners with a total of more than 130 faculty members attending. The events’ purpose was to share perspectives and gather ideas from faculty on what it means to be an inclusive community and how to strengthen ours.
In academic year 2017–2018, ICEO and other offices hosted numerous distinguished speakers which allowed MIT community to engage with diversity, equity and inclusion in different ways. Lee Mun Wah, a master diversity trainer and storyteller, used storytelling and dialogue to create a sense of community. Former NFL player Wade Davis gave a passionate call for making equity work personal. Political activist and renowned philosopher Dr. Cornel West spoke to a large audience advocating for self-reflection to keep academic institutions vital and fair. Professor Anita Hill, one of the MLK Visiting Scholars for 2017-2018 and a prominent lawyer and civil-rights advocate, moderated a series of videorecorded talks at MIT to increase awareness about the broad capacity of Title IX and to promote equity in STEM. These events each had attendance ranging from more than 60 to more than 300 people.
The Multicultural Awards Banquet, hosted and organized by the Office of Multicultural Programs and other offices including ICEO, celebrated its sixth year in May 2018. The annual awards ceremony recognizes the work of individuals, student organizations and faculty members who contribute to the diversity and inclusion at MIT. Similarly, the Title IX Office and MIT Violence Prevention and Response held their second annual Change Maker Awards in April 2018, which recognize community members who make outstanding contributions to combatting sexual misconduct at MIT.
The Office of Multicultural Programs and LBGTQ@MIT spearheaded a very successful first year Diversity Orientation in August 2016 including facilitated small-group conversations. Some 1100 incoming first year students participated and were surveyed at the end of orientation. Data showed that 78% have a greater understanding of multicultural, diversity and inclusion resources offered at MIT.
Universal unconscious bias education was one of the top recommendations of the ICEO report and was advocated to Academic Council by black students in December 2015. MIT President Reif supported this goal with a call to Academic Council members to attend a workshop. In April 2015, more than 20 Academic Council members participated in Breaking the Bias Habit, a 2.5-hour workshop delivered by Prof. Molly Carnes and Dr. Jennifer Sheridan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In November 2016, more than 250 people attended a presentation given by Prof. Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard University, co-author of Blindspot, and co-founder of Project Implicit.
During the 2015–16 academic year, at least 8 unconscious bias workshops were held at MIT, and several hundred people, mostly staff, participated. Getting faculty buy-in has proven more difficult. In November 2016, Provost Martin Schmidt convened a faculty committee to evaluate training options and to recommend a program that would be offered to faculty with the encouragement of the academic deans. The group provided no recommendation. During the same period, several staff units decided to implement a workshop based on the Google Bias Busters model. Three people from MIT participated in a Bias Busters train-the-trainer workshop at Google Pittsburgh.
In President’s Reif November 2017 letter to the community calling attention to the issue of sexual misconduct at MIT, he noted that every member of the MIT community is expected to complete the sexual misconduct on-line training by the end of the academic year 2018. MIT has partnered with EverFi to offer Haven for Faculty and Staff, an online, research-based educational program that includes examples and scenarios that faculty and staff may face around sexual assault, domestic violence, and sexual harassment.
Policies and Complaint Handling Procedures
In 2017, MIT clarified and strengthened its policies on relationships and responsibilities in the community, including its harassment policy. It announced a new policy on consensual sexual or romantic relationships including a prohibition on such relationships between employees and undergraduate students. It initiated a new Bias Response protocol for addressing incidents of bias and discrimination.
Student Governments engagement
The Graduate Student Council formed a Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee which launched its inaugural Department and Classroom Initiative focused on improving the graduate student experience. The initiative aims to establish student diversity representatives called conduits in all of MIT’s graduate academic departments and programs. In 2018, over 30 graduate students representing 25 academic departments have been identified as conduits.
In the spring of 2015, the Undergraduate Association created an Assistant Officer on Diversity and formed the Committee on Community and Diversity to promote and sustain a strong sense of community throughout the undergraduate student body where all voices are heard.
MIT & Slavery
In fall 2017, President Reif along with School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Dean Melissa Nobles set in motion an undergraduate archival research class on MIT and its history with slavery. Under the guidance of History Professor Craig Wilder and Nora Murphy, archivist in the MIT Libraries, the course was developed to gain a complete understanding of MIT’s own history and roots which includes the first president and founder, William Barton Rogers’ ownership of slaves. Research into MIT and slavery is a multi-year initiative. Opportunities to discuss research findings and engage in public discussion will be ongoing.
In September 2015, sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, MindHandHeart was created to promote and improve health and wellbeing and reduce stress and the risk of suicide. Members of the MIT community have participated in this initiative by submitting proposals on finding new and creative ways of increasing community support and raising mental health awareness to the MindHandHeart Innovation Fund. To date, the Innovation Fund has awarded more than $180,000 to 57 projects developed by students, faculty and staff. Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week, one of the funded projects that dedicates one week to connecting members of the MIT community with each other to combat isolation through small spontaneous acts of generosity, celebrated its 3rd annual week-long event in March 2018. In addition, the Department Support Project helps academic department heads advance a healthy, welcoming and thriving climate in their departments.
In response to BSU Recommendation 10, in 2016 the Provost and Vice President asked academic department heads to create departmental statement that express their firm commitment to wellbeing, diversity and inclusion. By the end of 2017, departments completed their statements, as had several non-academic units.
Although their motivation was very different, in November 2016, a group of 400 MIT faculty released a public statement “reaffirming our shared values,” including “We unconditionally reject every form of bigotry, discrimination, hateful rhetoric, and hateful action, whether directed towards one’s race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, citizenship, political views, socioeconomic status, veteran status, or immigration status.” More than 40% of the tenure-track faculty, and many other MIT community members, signed the statement.
In 2014 ICEO relaunched the MIT diversity website to include an events page and comprehensive listing of diversity representatives, offices and committees across MIT, as well as providing a central resource of information about equity and inclusion across MIT. The website is updated regularly with news and events. Additionally, ICEO distributes a newsletter three or four times per year to a mailing list of approximately 3500 MIT community members.
In 2015, the ICEO Report was published. This comprehensive study of MIT’s culture, community and values provided recommendations for advancing a respectful and caring community. ICEO also sponsored the 2016 Report on the Status of Undergraduate Women at MIT.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professors and Scholars Program was established in 1995. Since then, MIT has hosted more than 100 outstanding scholars spanning many academic disciplines. The goal of this program is to enhance and recognize the contributions of outstanding scholars of color. The program honors the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by increasing the presence of minority scholars at MIT.
Mens et Manus America, a partnership between the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and the Sloan School of Management, was established in 2017 to offer research-informed lectures and discussions to explore major, long-term social, political and economic challenges in the US, answering the question, What can MIT do to help address these challenges and bolster the health of our democracy? Some topics explored include immigration, fake news and gender bias.
In April 2017, members of the MIT community including students, postdocs, staff and faculty gathered to devote the day to engage with the political, economic, environmental and social challenges through learning, discussion, reflection and planning for action together with the broader local community. The day-long event called MIT Day of Action included lectures, town-hall sessions, film screenings and workshops. More than 1000 people participated. The second annual Day of Action was held in April 2018.
Leading for Change
MIT is part of Leading for Change, a consortium of higher education institutions in Massachusetts and New England committed to identifying student and employee diversity best practices through uniform and transparent use of data, institutional benchmarks and reflective practice. On March 29, 2018 MIT hosted the annual spring summit of the consortium. The event garnered roughly 150 attendees from over 25 institutions.
Data and Accountability Metrics
ICEO in partnership with MIT’s Institutional Research office presents data on many aspects of diversity and inclusion available at our website. These include a Diversity Dashboard providing demographic data and a Climate Dashboard summarizing the experience of many different groups based on periodic surveys. A Recommendations Scorecard summarizes progress toward the Black Student Recommendations plus many others provided by faculty, students, staff and alumni since 2010. As of June 1, 39% of the recommendations have been completed. Among individual reports, the completion rate varies from 22% for the LBGTQ+ recommendations to 57% for the BSU recommendations.
More accomplishments are summarized in the ICEO Annual Reports, available at the ICEO Blog.