North Court renamed after Susan Hockfield

Student groups protest at dedication ceremony

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MIT students protest the renaming of North Court to Hockfield Court Friday.

North Court was renamed Hockfield Court Oct. 4 in honor of Susan Hockfield, MIT’s 16th president and lifetime member of the MIT Corporation. At the dedication ceremony, students protested against the naming, citing Hockfield’s relationship with the late David Koch ’62. 

As the Institute’s first female and first life scientist president, Hockfield oversaw the expansion of East Campus and Kendall Square, launched the MIT Energy Initiative, and helped establish the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard.

The protest began at the steps of the Stratton Student Center. Students then walked across campus to Hockfield Court to attend the dedication ceremony. The protest was organized by a coalition of student groups, including MIT Students Against War, UnKoch MIT, and Movement for Anti-Oppressive Computing Practices. 

Protesters called for the cancellation of the dedication ceremony and the removal of Koch’s name from all buildings on campus. Ryan Aasen G, a protest organizer, wrote in an email to the MIT community that due to “the ongoing funding investigation, the environmental violations committed by the Open Agriculture Initiative, and the Global Climate Strikes, this event is inappropriate, and it exemplifies the disconnect this administration has to the seriousness of the reforms needed at MIT.”

Aasen wrote that much of Hockfield’s success was due to Hockfield’s close relationship with Koch “against the wishes of many students, staff, and faculty.” 

Aasen elaborated that Koch was responsible for spending “billions of dollars lobbying for the roll back environmental protections, funding climate change denial, and fighting against Americans’ right to affordable healthcare.”

Students at the protest carried signs reading “Oilfield Court” and called for President L. Rafael Reif to resign from the board of the oil company Schlumberger. Other signs read “Accountability not avoidance #THEYKNEW,” and “No Epstein! No Koch!” 

On the associated Facebook event page, MIT Students Against War wrote that the MIT Corporation “cares more about taking money from billionaires than about harms done to women, children, immigrants, poor people, and the environment,” citing the acceptance of funds from “a child sex trafficker (Jeffrey Epstein), a murderous prince (Mohammad bin Salman), destroyers of the environment (the Kochs), and dubious corporations.” 

Alonso Espinosa Dominguez ’20, a member of MIT Students Against War, was among the students and staff who spoke in front of the Student Center. “MIT does not exist in a vacuum. ... MIT has been set up to serve those in power,” he said. 

Community events similar to the Oct. 4 dedication have also occurred when the “first-floor common area in the Stata Center was named the Charles M. Vest Student Street in memory of the Institute’s 15th president … [and] the residence of MIT presidents was renamed Gray House to honor MIT’s 14th president, Paul Gray, and his wife, Priscilla King Gray,” according to an email to The Tech from the President’s office.

Edwin Song contributed reporting.