LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
An apology to the MIT community
Dear members of the MIT community:
I am writing to apologize for the terrible mistake I have made in 2007 while being a student. No question, I should have done it five years ago, but it’s better late than never. As a quick background, in December 2007, I sent an email to a group of LGBT students where I insulted them and threatened physical harm if they kept contacting me via emails. In February 2008, MIT’s Committee on Discipline expelled me from MIT, pending one more infraction on my part. Since I have complied with all the terms, the expulsion never became effective and I graduated in 2009. In April 2008, part of this story became public.
First, let me offer deep apology to every student who received the email and to everyone at MIT and the greater community who felt offended or threatened. I realize there is little I can do to remedy what you have experienced. I only hope you will take a few minutes to read this and recognize that at no point in time have I meant any violence or hatred and that my mistake stemmed from ignorance alone, and not malice (which, of course, does not make it any better).
Everyone who ever met me knows that I am not a violent or rude person. In fact, every single one of my classmates whom I was able to reach during the winter break of 2007, about 30 people in total, wrote just that in their statements for the Committee on Discipline hearing. The reason I sent the offensive and threatening email was not a violent nature, but my utter cultural ignorance at the time. Before coming to the U.S., I had never knowingly seen a homosexual person in my life. I grew up in a small town in southern Russia where homosexuality is not only unwelcome but is openly abhorred, and for a man to be called or linked to homosexuals is the gravest offense possible. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia only in 1993 and was a felony for almost 70 years before then. And even these days, discussions about making it criminally punishable again are widely held in Russia, as of May 2013. So, when I received several invitations to LGBT events (which I didn’t even realize were general distribution, thinking they were targeted at me personally), I felt dumbfounded and offended. My email was a very ill-conceived attempt to stop the invitations for good.
To be clear, I am not trying to justify what I’ve done or to make it look acceptable. It is not acceptable, no matter the reasons, to send out physical threats. It was my and only my responsibility, having come to a new country, to make sure I knew its rules and traditions. At the very least, I should have paused and thought before blasting out a group email to people I’ve never met. I should not have let my upbringing be a reason for my fellow students to feel unsafe. It is my fault and nobody else’s. I have made a mistake and am paying for it.
I immediately made every effort to apologize in person to the members of the LGBT club. Not all of them agreed to meet me, which is hardly a surprise. To those of them whom I didn’t get a chance to speak with, and to all my classmates and other members of the community whom I made feel unsafe or offended, I apologize.
Second, I’d like to thank the people who helped me get out of the mess I’ve created. Members of the Students Affairs Office at Sloan School, Office of Student Citizenship and Committee on Discipline have handled this case with utmost professionalism and fairness. All of my classmates who I’ve spoken to, gave me a lifeline, first of all by still talking to me and then by writing letters of support to Committee on Discipline. In particular, several members of the Sloan LGBT club who not only agreed to meet me but also supported me in dealings with the Committee on Discipline and later when this story became public. You guys have truly saved me, and everything I have accomplished since 2008 wouldn’t have been possible without your support and trust.
Today, I am completely different from the narrow-minded confused person who sent the stupid and hateful email in 2007. I tried not to waste the second chance you gave me five years ago. I keep educating myself on cultural issues and the civil rights movement in the U.S., and I have contributed my part to protecting the foundation which makes this movement possible. After becoming eligible in 2010,1 enlisted in the military and became a U.S. citizen. I am privileged to be a part of the force that fights for freedom and the American way of life, and just like thousands of others, I risked my life during dozens of combat missions over two deployments away from family. I learned firsthand how rare and invaluable is our fundamental principle that everyone deserves to be heard and respected, and how much it is worth protecting.
Artem Krasnoslobodtsev MBA ’09