Opinion guest column

Mens et Manus … et Voluntas

Appreciating the voluntary spirit that drives the Institute

Students coming to MIT are in for a mind-boggling exposure to volunteerism and hands on learning. Alumni have an obligation to volunteer, and thankfully, at MIT, many do so with zeal. However, volunteerism hardly stops there. It permeates every academic department, laboratory, research center, studio, and administrative program at the Institute. Furthermore, it fosters student idealism.

Faculty members who are compensated for their services in teaching, research, student advising, and faculty governance committees often go well beyond the call of duty in these essential domains as well as countless others. Administrative officers responsible for programs and projects follow suit. MIT support staff often exceed performance standards because of their own pride of workmanship and their own desire to contribute to the quality of life on campus.

If volunteerism were absent in higher education, going to college would be a barren experience, devoid of its richness and quality. If students had to pay for all of it, educational opportunities would be severely restricted.

If one tried to make a list of volunteerism at work at MIT, it would soon be longer than his or her arm. A force of thousands of staff are involved on a daily basis.

MIT is widely recognized as a meritocracy populated by bright, over-achieving students and faculty. It is also a high speed engine of invention and innovation, fueled by necessity, curiosity, ambition, and dedication. These qualities all rest on a three-pronged philosophy of education — mind, hand, and the unfettered exercise of free will. The latin word is voluntus.

William Barton Rogers wrote the charter of MIT to include three basic functions ­­— teaching, research, and public service. He branded his educational philosophy mens et manus, mind and hand. If he could have foreseen that the Institute would evolve philosophically to the extent it has, as a trinity of ways and means, he might well have expressed the core of his educational philosophy as Mens et Manus et Voluntas.

Vincent A. Fulmer is a member of the class of 1963. He is also the former Secretary of the MIT Corporation.