February 6, 2019
Dear members of the MIT community,
Yesterday, our Bias Response Team (BRT) was alerted to a drawing of what appeared to be a swastika with the message “Buddhist Swastik History is Knowledge” written underneath it. It had been drawn on a column poster in Lobby 7 that is part of an art installation students organized in recognition of Black History Month. We do not know who is responsible for this act, nor can we say with any certainty what their intent might have been.
While the symbol has positive origins in the Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain faith traditions, in a modern Western context, other versions of this symbol have been used to convey a message of hate, racism, and anti-Semitism. The individuals who alerted us to the drawing and then removed it were shaken. The image would be distressing anywhere on our campus. But the fact that it was drawn on a Black History Month display designed to encourage community discussion about issues affecting the black community and celebrate black student activism at MIT makes it that much worse.
We don’t know the motivation of whoever is responsible for the drawing. At best, the act demonstrated a lack of understanding about the pain it would cause to members of our community. At worst, it may have been intended deliberately to cause that pain.
Regardless of the intent, this incident prompts us, on behalf of President Reif and MIT’s senior leadership, to passionately reaffirm the core values our community stands for: empathy, compassion, inclusiveness, and respect for all. MIT’s embrace of diversity of backgrounds and ideas is fundamental to our strength as a community. Racism, hate, divisiveness, and bullying have no place at MIT.
We hope that we can take this moment to come together to reflect and to support one another, to learn and to grow. At the end of this message, you will find more information about where you can turn if you want to talk one-on-one or in a larger group. We hope you will consider taking advantage of these resources if you need to.
Interim Institute Community and Equity Officer
Vice President and Dean for Student Life
- Student Mental Health and Counseling works with students to identify, understand, and solve problems, and to help transform that understanding into positive action.
- Student Support Services (S3) is a friendly and easily accessible hub of support for undergraduates.
- The Office of Graduate Education offers advice and counsel on personal and academic matters.
- The Office of Minority Education offers academic and personal advising for undergraduates.
- Chaplains in the Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life are available for confidential counseling, support, and guidance.
- SPXCE Intercultural Center, a collaboration of the Office of Multicultural Programs and LBGTQ@MIT, is a place where students can feel at home and be supported in their wholeness.
- The Institute Community and Equity Office’s mission is to advance a respectful and caring community that embraces diversity and empowers everyone to learn and do their best at MIT.
- DSL Deans’ Office Hours take place on Fridays from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm in 4-110, with snacks, a therapy dog, and deans who are ready to talk about student concerns.
- Title IX and Bias Response offers resources and reporting options for bias incidents related to race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or other identities.
- To reach the Dean on Call, call MIT Police (617-253-1212) then ask to speak to the Dean on Call. (Available Monday through Friday, 5 pm–9 am, and on Saturdays, Sundays, and all MIT-observed holidays.)
- MyLifeServices is a 24-hour network of support for MIT faculty, staff, postdocs, and families.