Letter to the MIT Community: Embracing freedom of expression in

The next letter was despatched to the MIT neighborhood yesterday by President Sally Kornbluth.

Expensive members of the MIT neighborhood,

In January 2022, a faculty-led working group started to develop a press release of precept round freedom of expression in addition to a set of supporting suggestions. The college accredited a last model of the assertion by vote in December – and yesterday’s college assembly declared the method formally full.

For the perseverance, thoughtfulness and care this work demanded, I supply enthusiastic due to the Advert Hoc Working Group on Free Expression and their companions, the college officers, and the college as an entire.

At present, I’d wish to underscore the worth of the assertion and allow you to know what’s subsequent.

You’ll find the MIT Statement on Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom here. As I’ve acknowledged publicly earlier than, I’m a agency advocate for freedom of expression. I strongly endorse the ultimate assertion, which is assured, nuanced and alive to the topic’s inherent complexity and tensions.

No assertion can predict, stop or robotically resolve each future friction or battle round free expression. Although we are able to and ought to be guided by the assertion’s knowledge, in actual conditions, we’ll all nonetheless want to make use of our judgment. However I hope MIT’s new assertion evokes us to keep in mind that the correct to freely specific our personal positions is so valuable that it calls for our safety – which additionally requires that we defend it for these whose views we reject.

Important to the shared mission of our neighborhood

Why is free expression so important to the mission of an instructional neighborhood like ours? The world counts on MIT for pathbreaking mental inquiry and problem-solving – and we simply can’t dwell as much as that commonplace except we not solely allow however encourage open, sincere disagreement, debate and dissent. What’s extra, as an academic establishment, it’s our duty to develop broad-minded, rigorous thinkers who can hear concepts or data from all corners. That course of requires, from every of us, a willingness to come across opinions we don’t like.

Out of respect for our personal proper to free expression, nonetheless, I hope all of us can discover methods to precise our views with out negating the correct of others to precise theirs. And to be clear: the correct to free expression doesn’t license bullying or harassment.

I additionally need to emphasize {that a} tradition of respectful speech can dwell alongside a robust endorsement of free expression. If we’re going to dwell collectively, work collectively and be taught from one another, we have to attempt for mutually respectful and open dialogue throughout a large spectrum of viewpoints. We have to not solely tolerate these variations however have fun the wealthy variety of opinions and backgrounds that typify a thriving artistic neighborhood. As MIT’s values statement reminds us, “decency, kindness, respect, and compassion for one another as human beings are indicators of power.” So I hope we are able to work with one another in that spirit, as members of 1 neighborhood pursuing a great shared mission.

What to anticipate from right here

Along with its draft assertion on freedom of expression and educational freedom, the working group produced a thoughtful report. Arguing that “adjustments in an establishment’s instructional tradition maintain extra promise than statements on paper,” it gives a variety of “strategies aimed toward addressing a number of the misunderstandings which have arisen over the aim and place of free expression on our campus.” The report additionally notes that – from labs and lecture halls to cafeterias, class discussions and convention rooms – free expression has totally different impacts in several settings, and it stresses that folks throughout MIT are very “fascinated about speaking about how you can have tough conversations in a civil and productive method.”

In different phrases, for this assertion to actually take root in and advance the pursuits of our neighborhood, we are able to’t simply submit it and hope for the very best.

I’ve subsequently requested Provost Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor Melissa Nobles and School Chair Lily Tsai to steer us in:

  • Reviewing our present insurance policies on educational freedom and free expression (in Policies and Procedures and the Mind and Hand Book) based on our commonplace processes and figuring out what adjustments if any could also be essential to carry them according to the ultimate assertion.
  • Creating a variety of various alternatives to interact and encourage all of us, throughout our neighborhood, to find out about, follow and mannequin the abilities to confidently, constructively, respectfully specific ourselves – and pay attention to one another – throughout variations.
  • Charging a group, with broad neighborhood illustration, to assessment and mirror on the suggestions within the working group’s report and supply a roadmap of greatest subsequent steps.

With the assertion now formally last and this additional substantive work underway, I’m hopeful that, collectively, we are able to use this second as a springboard to creating an much more excellent MIT.


Sally Kornbluth


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