Opinion letter to the editor

Chancellor and provost respond to column on MIT India Conference

This is a response to an article published Feb. 9,  “Shunned by Harvard, feted by MIT.

To the Editors,

Each year, the MIT India Conference is organized and run by MIT graduate students, with the guidance of faculty and staff advisors. When it takes place this year on Feb. 16, Dr. Subramanian Swamy is scheduled to speak by video on the subject of the Indian economy.

Because some of Dr. Swamy’s past public statements are sharply out of step with MIT’s values of inclusiveness and respect, a number of people inside and outside our community are asking the MIT administration to intercede and rescind his invitation to speak.

This is a moment when two of our most deeply held values — freedom of expression and inclusion — are in conflict. For MIT as a university, guarding freedom of expression is fundamental to our mission of advancing knowledge and educating students. We are and must be committed to ensuring that different points of view — even those we reject — can be heard and debated in a respectful and safe way. At the same time, however, as a global institution that depends on bringing together talented people from around the world, we are and must be profoundly committed to making sure we create a community where people of every background — in terms of nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation and more — can feel welcome and supported. 

In this instance, our students have chosen to allow Dr. Swamy to speak. We support their right to do so, and we expect to maintain our community’s standards of open, respectful dialogue.


Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart

Provost Martin Schmidt