Transition Letter from the ICEO Ed Bertschinger

June 5, 2018

Dear Colleagues,

The Institute Community and Equity Office is coming upon its fifth anniversary this summer! The position was created to provide a focal point for MIT’s efforts to promote equity and inclusion in our diverse community of students, faculty, staff, and postdocs. Our goal is to help make a better MIT, so that together we can make a better world. This means evolving the cultures of MIT to be more inclusive, respectful, and caring.

Achieving this goal requires engaging many people across MIT, providing the community with feedback through periodic assessments, and holding ourselves accountable. To succeed, these efforts must not be top-down and must be distributed widely across the many distinct communities and cultures that make up MIT.

This brief update summarizes the state of our change efforts along the three dimensions of Engagement, Assessment, and Accountability. It ends with thanks and a note about changes ahead.

Engagement

Organizational culture evolves when a vision inspires people to change their expectations about the community. Measuring this can be as rough as counting events and people or as nuanced as finding the conversations you thought you couldn’t have. Either way, community engagement has grown. In three years, the number of events dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion tabulated by the ICEO has more than doubled to an average of 3 per week (including summer!). Hundreds of community members routinely participate in events and discussions on topics of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and they carry these conversations back to their offices and dorms. Ask any department head and you’ll hear that these topics arise in their workplace. We’ve come a long way in five years! You can read about the most recent year of growing engagement as well as some highlights of community engagement over the last five years.

Assessment

How do we measure community, equity, diversity, and inclusion? Too often, organizations focus exclusively on demographic diversity: what percentage of a given group (faculty, graduate students, etc.) are women or are Asian or African American? We have that data on the Diversity Dashboard and we also have much more. Look at the Graduate Education Statistics and other data about our community. You can learn a lot about a community from its composition and the progress of students from admissions to degrees. Still, that is only half the story.

Is MIT inclusive of everyone? Do we foster supportive environments where people can thrive? To measure this, the ICEO and the Office of Institutional Research have teamed up to produce a new Climate Dashboard. That’s workplace climate for inclusion, not global temperaturebut we think that you’ll find it equally fascinating! The dashboard uses data from the 2016 and 2017 Quality of Life Surveys taken by more than 11,000 people at MIT. It will soon be expanded to include data from the 2012 and 2013 surveys. Read about how the dashboard was constructed and what it shows, as well as future plans to supplement quantitative survey data with stories from community members helping us to understand what it all means. We’re especially interested in hearing from people whose experience can help shed light on some of the patterns seen in the climate dashboard as well as giving voice to experiences that aren’t represented in the dashboard. If you’re interested in participating or advising us in this project, please contact edbert@mit.edu.

Accountability

People care. We have data. What now?

At MIT we love to issue recommendations for just about anything, including how to improve the community. Since 2010, at least 9 reports or recommendations projects have been written totaling 177 recommendations. Before writing more recommendations, let’s review where they stand—it’s time to dust off the shelves!

The ICEO has created a Recommendations Scorecard allowing anyone to see progress on our goals toward an equitable, inclusive and thriving diverse community. As of this writing, my estimate of the completion fraction is 39%. That’s progress, but it is uneven: completion fractions range from 57% for the Black Students’ Union recommendations to 22% for the LBGTQ+ recommendations. There’s more work ahead!

Changing the ICEO

Change is inevitable—for individuals as well as institutions. This summer, MIT will be getting a new ICEO as I step down to return to a regular faculty role in Physics with an affiliation to Women’s and Gender Studies, following a one year sabbatical.

None of our accomplishments would have been possible without the outstanding work and dedication of ICEO staff members Beatriz Cantada (Program Director) and Shauna Bush-Fenty (administrative assistant). I’m grateful to them for their support, and to our IT guru Suzana Lisanti and MLK website expert Nelly Rosario. Several dozen other partners have contributed in major ways to the work of diversity, equity and inclusion at MIT. Thank you!

Serving as the inaugural ICEO has been an amazing opportunity to grow in service to the MIT community. I wish the new ICEO the same joy and learning that I experienced. As a regular faculty member I look forward to continuing to do all that I can to advance a respectful and caring community that embraces diversity and empowers everyone to learn and do their best at MIT.

With love for the community,
Ed Bertschinger

Notable Quote

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. ® Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead.