News

Annual diversity summit seeks to spread awareness of biases

Student involvement is crucial to improving MIT’s diversity and equality, says Edmund Bertschinger, the Institute Community and Equity Officer and former physics department head. The 2015 Institute Diversity Summit, titled “Advancing a Respectful and Caring Community,” featured a series of workshops advancing this message.

The annual diversity summit focuses on promoting demographic diversity, including diversity of race, gender, and ethnicity. It aims to gather ideas from community members about steps individuals and MIT as a whole can take to promote cultural understanding. This year’s summit occurred on Jan. 29 and Feb. 12, with three films about social injustices showcased in between. Like previous summits, it included keynote speeches and workshops.

Bertschinger released a report with the same title on Feb. 12 concerning both these demographic subcultures and subcultures specific to MIT or academia, such as those of undergraduates, faculty, and staff.

Bertschinger said that this year’s summit did not focus much on academic cultures, but they are something to emphasize in future years. He hopes that the “equity committees” recommended in his report will advance the summit’s ideals in every major reporting line at MIT and include representatives of all communities they may interact with, including students.

Beyond social justice, the Institute Community and Equity Office sees the diversity summit as promoting a more efficient Institute. Joshua Gonzalez, Simmons Hall’s area director, said that to study the world, as we aim to do at MIT, we have to understand it. By encouraging more perspectives, problems can be solved more effectively.

“Social scientists at MIT show that teams perform better when diverse, [and] the same has been seen in companies,” said Bertschinger. He noted that in the 1990s, there were very few female faculty at MIT, and there were significantly fewer women in engineering-focused departments. Those who were employed at MIT were underpaid and undervalued.

Now, MIT’s gender payment gap is far smaller, and in 2011 at MIT’s 150th anniversary celebration, a symposium celebrating MIT’s gender equality history featured a panel of women in STEM that, according to Bertschinger, featured a “who’s who of scientists and engineers.”

Bertschinger’s colleagues said that all of MIT stands to gain from paying attention to social justice and collectivism. Bertschinger considers the idea of meritocracy to be an ideal that “we’ll always be striving toward,” and cited a study by Sloan professor Emilio Castilla that showed that when an organization considers itself a meritocracy, it is less aware of its biases.

Castilla found that in such organizations, managers inadvertently make biased assumptions and “typically favor men over women.” Because they believe they are part of a meritocracy, these managers may forget to be cognizant of those biases.

According to Bertschinger, emphasis on diversity both of demographics and of MIT-specific cultures can promote true meritocracy. Quoting Claremont Graduate University professor Peter Drucker, he said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”: though plans can be made assuming that people will treat each other equally, their cultural differences will ensure that every decision is made with some kind of partiality.

According to Office Program Director Julian S. Green, this is why student involvement is so important: everyone has to pay attention to diversity for change to take place.

This year’s diversity summit was held both at the end of IAP and in the spring semester to encourage student participation, Green said. Still, workshops were attended primarily by staff; fewer faculty and students showed. Many staff members noted that this was typical.

A particularly productive workshop called “Reimagining Our Culture” encouraged attendees to write down concrete ideas for bettering MIT. The workshop was led by students, and many ideas focused on how to get students and faculty to care more about overcoming prejudices. Throughout the workshop, the same idea kept rising to the surface: for diversity to spread, people in every sphere have to work towards that goal.

In the past, diversity summits have sparked discussions on challenging topics, Bertschinger said. The 2012 summit led to a series of Tech guest opinion columns on affirmative action.

16 Comments
1
Freedom about 3 years ago

This is COMMUNISM, plain and simple.

It's not about equality. It's about grabbing power. For instance, Equity Officers gain the feeling of power. They feel like they're enacting political change, and they feel like they're being altruistic (though, really, they couldn't care less if this makes minorities are women better off-- if some numbers came out showing women are mistreated somewhere, they wouldn't feel particularly unhappy because it means "more work for them." When something bad happens to a parent's child, it feels so bad you can barely stand up in pain. Equity officers simply do NOT have this kind of empathy-- if they did, they wouldnt ignore uncomfortable, ugly "sexist truths, such as honest analysis of how women are treated in different countries or throughout history).

The "science behind diversity" is nothing less than a big lie. I have pity on the people who actually believe it: it gets you invited to parties and workshops, but it's a Faustian bargain. There is ZERO compelling research showing "racial/sexual diversity improves performance." In general, productivity is higher if you form groups based on MERIT and free market principles, not based on COMPLICATED things like skin color or sex. For example, virtually every single successful business start-up has been male-dominated, and it is illogical to point at the minority of women and call them the reason the start-up succeeded. Women are PEOPLE, who make their own CHOICES. They are not gears in a machine that have to perform up to par with men at a narrowly defined task. One hallmark of Communism is you stop viewing people as PEOPLE, and that's what the rhetoric of equity officers does.

I wish these frauds would stop the "equity" nonsense. It makes them feel like they're "accomplishing" something, but it would be better for them to leave this to people who actually CARE about women and minorities.

If you actually CARE about women and minorities you would adopt policies that actually HELP them. Communism simply DEGRADES them. It does not work.

2
Freedom about 3 years ago

(continued)

How do you help women?

a) Treat them as PEOPLE, who can make CHOICES about how to live their life

b) Learn MANNERS and use them when talking to DECENT women. Learn what makes a women DECENT.

c) Learn the ugly TRUTHS about the differences between men and women.

d) Don't give women FREE STUFF unless you're getting something of VALUE in return, since such prostitution encourages BAD BEHAVIOR-- Equity officers advocate PROSTITUTION, hidden behind fake "science," plain and simple.

e) Do not make equal opportunity rules. They dehumanize women, and deeply hurt the economy (making women unhappy in the long run). (Is it any surprise middle class wages stopped going up 40 years ago? The middle class is struggling even though capital has been appreciating and technology has been getting better and better.)

What's the problem with this? It requires everyone to actually WORK to become better people. That is why Equity Officers do not do these things (minus, at times, teaching better manners). Indeed, it is often hopeless to persuade these BUREAUCRATS of anything-- they'll get "uncomfortable" and stop talking to you, because ALL THEY CARE ABOUT IS POWER.

Humans are chimps with slightly larger brains, they are naturally power-hungry, even if they say the opposite. One should give VIRTUOUS, NOBLE people STEWARDSHIP and encourage GOOD BEHAVIOR among all classes of people. Communism is the opposite: it gives POWER-HUNGRY, MACHIEVELLIAN people (like campus bureaucrats, mass media journalists, limousine liberals, and so on) POWER and encourages ROTTEN BEHAVIOR (divorce, childlessness for women who would otherwise want children, etc.).

Frauds! They are a big reason why college is dying.

3
Freedom about 3 years ago

Finally--

A) It's a truth of human nature that psuedo-intellectuals who are good at crafting stories (snake oil salesmen) easily convince people. It's not your fault that you fall for these huge lies, such as equity, liberalism, communism, socialism, progressivism-- if/as you mature, you'll learn nearly everyone is trying to cheat you out of something. Schools, colleges, and especially the mass media (NYTimes, Gawker, Vox, etc.) are overflowing with Communist ideology. Learn from someone you trust (your local priest, an older mentor you can relate to, etc.), NOT from a workshop or a lecture. Do NOT consume mass media-- it is very harmful. Do NOT give undue weight to "science" about race/sex. Learn from what you see with your OWN TWO EYES. It's easy to be a sucker. Don't be one. Moral: Treat EVERYTHING as a fraud by default.

B) It is a truth of human nature that discomfort is everywhere and is unavoidable. Do NOT use "avoiding discomfort" as justification for your actions, as modern fashionable people generally do. Instead, look for a HIGHER PURPOSE (becoming a better person, etc.). Learn to cook, read difficult books, go to church, work on yourself, care for your family, have children, make money, work hard, disassociate from leftists (who will encourage you to engage in dirty hook-up culture if you are not married, and, if you are married, will often convince you to seek divorce, even if you have children), stick to your values, don't sell yourself out to the media.

C) It's a truth of civilization that every civilization rots away. If you read news, watch TV shows from just 40 years ago you start to see how far we've fallen. We cannot stop it-- a few votes here and there cannot stop the communist bureaucracy. Democracy is powerless; the bureaucrat's power cannot be removed except by a social uprising). It's pointless to "complain" about the Communist infection or to become an "activist"-- you will become the victim of smears and the mob has no problem ruining your life (as public cases see Justine Sacco, Pax Dickinson, etc.). All we can do is focus on ourselves, the people around us and cut off negative people as much as we can. Ride it out and don't pursue fame: there's still some economic opportunity.

D) If you are in the capital class, by all means, go ahead: act Communist and grab your slice of the pie. My advice does not apply to you: it can hurt your career.

I know I should shut up, but this is obvious to me.

4
Socialist Worker about 3 years ago

1)Until recently women were the property of their husband or father in American society. In places like Saudi Arabia that is still the case. Rightest like Phyllis Schlafly fought against the Equal Rights Amendment citing separate bathrooms and exemption from the military draft as examples of the second sexes privileges and her husbands graciously given permission to speak.

2)Women are paid about 75 for the same work. That will end immediately after the revolution.

3)In most families women provide most of the care of the children. That is unpaid labor and prevents women from fully participating in the workforce. We intend to provide free and excellent child care for the children of all workers.

4)MIT discriminated against the admission of women until recently. We will see that all education is free for those who want to learn along with free medical care for all who need it.

5)The control of women's reproductive ability is still up for debate in the United States unlike a real communist country like Cuba where abortion and birth control are rights for all women not just the wealth.

6)Real communism is about workers control of industry and society as a whole. Its not about a race to see who can build up a pile of money fastest, how many regulations are needed to 'humanize' capitalist exploitation or placing political decisions in the hands of a privileged bureaucracy.

5
Freedom about 3 years ago

4-- Your ideas are insane.

1) Women have had more privilege than men in Western civilization for a long time (which is completely fine, as that is the natural order of things). They currently have more rights and fewer responsibilities than men. The problem is that society is becoming so anti-male that economic output and, notably fertility, is stagnant/decreasing, making BOTH WOMEN AND MEN UNHAPPY. It IS true that Islam is rather patriarchial, but this is not necessarily a bad thing-- many progressive people like Islam, and some are even converting to it. What's your point? Have you found Islamic women are less happy than non-Islamic women?

Female privilege: http://www.amazon.com/The-Privileged-Sex-Martin-Creveld/dp/1484983122

Current state of women's rights: http://mattforney.com/2015/02/17/new-article-at-return-of-kings-20-signs-that-were-not-living-in-a-patriarchy/

Sharia law on rape: http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2014/10/28/punished-for-being-raped-the-burden-of-women-under-sharia/

2) This is breathtakingly stupid. Women are paid less because (a) they take easier jobs, (b) they work fewer hours, (c) they take breaks from the labor force more often, (d) they get free stuff outside of work so they have less incentive to work hard, (e) they do less overwork, (f) many choose to become house-wives because it MAKES THEM HAPPIER, etc. Why are you taking some random number out of the hat? What's your point? "Ending a number" is the rhetoric of an evil imbecile. Women and men are not supposed to have 1:1 ratios-- WOMEN SHOULD BE ABLE TO CHOOSE TO DO WHAT MAKES THEM HAPPY, AND EMPLOYERS SHOULD NOT BE FORCED TO GIVE WOMEN WHO DO NOT CHOOSE TO WORK HARD EQUAL MONEY FOR INFERIOR WORK.

3) WHY WOULD BUREAUCRATS DO A BETTER JOB OF CHILD CARE THAN MOTHERS? Are you implying the STATE CARES ABOUT CHILDREN MORE THAN THEIR MOTHERS? You are absolutely insane.

4) BS. Harvard had a 4:1 m:f ratio in the 1970s because the DIDN'T DISCRIMINATE AGAINST MEN.

5) You dismiss religious religious beliefs cultivated over thousands of years because....? You are a charlatan and fraud.

6) "Real" communism? COMMUNIST REGIMES typically conduct MASS KILLINGS. Death toll of Communist mass murders is 85 - 100 million in the last century. THAT is real communism. Empty happy talk about "workers control of industry" is the most harmful lie humans have told.

6
Freedom about 3 years ago

4--

Look at the stupidity in your comment

You say abortion, etc. is still unfortunately "up for debate" and that Communism would quell such debate. THE ONLY WAY TO STOP FREE DEBATE IS WITH A PRIVILEGED BUREAUCRACY THAT LIES (e.g. Pravda in USSR, VOX in Communist USA, health care statistics in Cuba).

Then you say Communism is not about having a privileged bureaucracy. NO-- COMMUNISM REQUIRES A LARGE, PRIVILEGED BUREAUCRACY-- that's the ENTIRE CONCEPT of COMMUNISM: make everyone live happily ever... by making everyone equal... by making everyone beholden to the bureaucracy so that everyone becomes equal. In other words, a power grab by the bureaucracy.

Capitalist exploitation? Sure, capitalists exploit other people, but bureaucrats do FAR, FAR, FAR worse.

There are little lies, there are big lies, and then there is Communism. Communism is the most pure form of evil.

7
Freedom about 3 years ago

SocialistWorker--

It is slightly disappointing (but not unexpected) that The Tech has deleted our reasonably civil discussion (at least up to comment 6) exploring the underlying themes behind the Equity Officers advocating "social justice and collectivism." I think a very large number of strong points were made, and it is a reflection on MIT (and modern liberal politics generally) that honest, vigorous debate directly related to the topic at hand is deleted. It is somewhat disappointing that this forum cannot be used to hear balanced criticism relevant to the topic.

I would be happy to read comments 7 - 11 and find the fallacies contained therein. I did not catch them before they were deleted, but in case you have an archived version you may e-mail them to me at freedom314(at)mail.com (an e-mail I have created for that purpose).

8
Socialist Worker about 3 years ago

I would like Edmund Bertschinger, the Institute Community and Equity Officer, explain why the admission of Saudi students is so skewed towards men?

9
Freedom about 3 years ago

13-- Your question presupposes equality of results is a desired ideal. The opposite (genuine diversity) is true.

10
Freedom about 3 years ago

State of the world:

- Equity officers slander their moral superiors by calling them sexist and racist.

- One is not allowed to call equity officers communist (and remain in good standing) because that's declasse and offensive to the bureaucracy.

Now then-- who has the the power? Who has the privilege? Use your brain people.

11
Socialist Worker about 3 years ago

1)Until recently women were the property of their husband or father in

American society. In places like Saudi Arabia that is still the case.

Rightest like Phyllis Schlafly fought against the Equal Rights Amendment

citing separate bathrooms and exemption from the military draft as examples

of the second sexes privileges and her husbands graciously given permission

to speak.

2)Women are paid about 75 for the same work. That will end immediately

after the revolution.

3)In most families women provide most of the care of the children. That is

unpaid labor and prevents women from fully participating in the workforce.

We intend to provide free and excellent child care for the children of all

workers.

4)MIT discriminated against the admission of women until recently. We will

see that all education is free for those who want to learn along with free

medical care for all who need it.

5)The control of women's reproductive ability is still up for debate in the

United States unlike a real communist country like Cuba where abortion and

birth control are rights for all women not just the wealth.

6)Real communism is about workers control of industry and society as a

whole. Its not about a race to see who can build up a pile of money

fastest, how many regulations are needed to 'humanize' capitalist

exploitation or placing political decisions in the hands of a privileged

bureaucracy.

12
Socialist Worker about 3 years ago

If freedom wants to soil the good name of communism then I should be allowed to defend it.

I would still like to know why the admission of students from Saudi Arabia is so skewed towards men. I think that is a reasonable question given MIT's past admission of deliberate exclusion of women base on their sex.

My last question is do the editors at The Tech seek to establish a new record for the censorship of comments?

13
Freedom about 3 years ago

16-- Stop, you socialist dweeb. You posted exactly the same comment in the previous, deleted discussion. The Tech has indicated they did not want to see that comment here. Respect their decision. Through this clear instance of spam, you have shown your degraded moral nature.

You did not even try to tie the comment to the original article. Instead, you robotically parroted the same manifesto, word for word, with no soul, no improvisation. You have shown how superficial your Belief is. You understand "communism" well enough to move your lips and deliver platitudes, but that's about it.

In the previous, deleted comment, there was a bit more context, as the surrounding discussion was rooted in talking about the content of the original article. There was also a spirit of free, honest debate, as I easily clarified and refuted the stupid deception in your manifesto. But the Tech has indicated they do not want to have such a debate here. If you would like to have a public discussion on those points, this is clearly not the forum to do so, at least not in our original style. Every private institution must have boundaries. And you must respect the boundaries the Tech has set.

Look, you're not all bad. You are somewhat more honest, and certainly more direct, than equity officers (who believe they are well intentioned), and that is why I extended you an e-mail address if you wanted to make additional points. There are other places online, including e-mail, where you can spread your ugly ideology.

17-- You did not defend communism. You just re-posted a spam comment, which was refuted and later deleted, repeated your original question like an entitled stubborn child, and then whined about "censorship" in the comments of a private news website.

If you want to defend communism, you would RESPOND to the original article or to a comment that was not deleted.

HTH.

14
Freedom about 3 years ago

Oh, and apologies for calling you a "dweeb"-- it's a bit unproductive (not to mention socially unacceptable) to criticize the person (rather than an idea), so I went a bit too far there. The intent was to say that your comments themselves are inept, not you as a person. Cheers!

15
Socialist Worker about 3 years ago

To Freedom: I'm a 'troubles' alumni so I have as much right to write and post what I want as you do.

I would not have reposed the comment you refer to except for the fact that you reposted.

If the tech doesn't want comments than they shouldn't ask for them rather than censor them.

16
Freedom about 3 years ago

The Tech was not asking for spam. Is that what you say when you violate boundaries? That they were "asking for it"? What's wrong with you?

I made a new comment, with a different point and entirely different information. Yes, I used the same word ("communism") but that is not a repost. Stop lying. Don't make it a habit.

My implication was that 'communism' is often perceived as an insult by people on the center and right (the same way 'sexist' is often perceived as an insult by people on the center and left), but that it is relatively socially inappropriate to throw around the commmunist insult in academia or journalism. (The reason for this would be that people in academia and journalism have leftist politics-- in your phrasing, they might be "farther along in the revolution.") This is not a new observation, here's a poster warning parents about Communist professors:

https://twitter.com/HailEuropa/status/568929676002856960

You did not respond to this implication. Instead you responded with some weird manifesto with third-grade-level intellect. It shows how you treat "communism" superficially and verbally, as some vapid word that is "good," rather than as something which must answer to observation and reality. It shows that you do not know that the world is a serious place, and that setting up a good government is no small task-- most empires fail after a few hundred years.

The fact that you are an alumni is worrying. My hope is that as people mature they learn a better style of rhetoric.