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MIT shares draft of five-year strategic DEI plan, focuses on underrepresented community members

Final plan expected to be released by May

Provost Martin Schmidt PhD ’88 emailed a draft of MIT’s five-year strategic action plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to the MIT community on March 30, 2021. The email, which introduced both the 15-page draft document and a link to a community feedback form, expressed the importance of unity to enable “meaningful change together.” 

Schmidt emphasized that the plan is a set of explicit actions for the Institute. The DEI team hopes that the plan can be considered as “an encouraging step that can help make your local efforts more lasting and effective.” The comment period on the draft is open until April 30 via email or the feedback form at deiactionplan.mit.edu, and an invitation to an upcoming community engagement session will be sent soon.

The action plan draft is composed of three main pillars: Composition, Belonging, and Achievement. Each has associated “commitments,” with six commitments in total.

Pillar 1: Composition

The Composition pillar focuses on the diversity of MIT’s community and student body. 

The first commitment focuses on underrepresented graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty. This segment outlines a goal of providing bias, diversity, recruitment, and outreach training for graduate student/postdoc admissions staff as well as hiring managers for staff and faculty searches. 

Other goals include supporting recruitment and yield activities for underrepresented graduate students, focusing on bridge programs such as MSRP (MIT Summer Research Program), cultivating and enhancing alliances with minority-serving institutions and HBCUs, and using Affirmative Action data and goals in staffing categories including leadership and management. 

The second commitment aims to “assess and strengthen our recruitment of underrepresented undergraduate students” by evaluating STEM outreach and pipeline programs as well as enhancing recruiting efforts for underrepresented undergraduates.

Pillar 2: Belonging

The Belonging pillar focuses on strengthening the interpersonal relationships in the MIT community to foster a sense of belonging for underrepresented community members. 

The first commitment aims to “critically engage with and empower the MIT community on the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion” through public values statement, accessible repository of DEI resources, methods of recognition for contributions to DEI, and community led programs and events that encourage examination and integration of DEI issues and solutions. 

The second commitment is to “reinforce positive interactions among members of the MIT community to foster and promote an enduring sense of belonging” and includes goals such as implementing a mentoring program that uses “culturally-responsive” training, creating a Wellbeing Lab and developing messaging about self-care, compassion, resiliency, and respect, and promoting cultural student groups. 

An in-progress section states a goal to meet urgent student financial needs and address food insecurity. This section also states a goal to address toxic power imbalances in the workplace and hold faculty accountable for creating healthy interpersonal relationships with students and each other.

The third commitment aims to support academic research, scholarship, and collaborations regarding DEI. This commitment alludes to President Reif’s letter from July 2020 which announced immediate investments in antiracist research totaling $1 million as well as an effort to seek additional sources.

Pillar 3: Achievement

The Achievement pillar focuses on the success and opportunity afforded to underrepresented groups. 

The first commitment under this pillar aims to “close achievement gaps and advance equity” among all underrepresented populations. Some of the goals listed in the section are to launch an undergraduate advising program that emphasizes support of a wider set of backgrounds, expand the 5th-week flag (early alert) system beyond the first-year core, analyze potential differences in participation and outcomes in experiential learning programs, provide transitional funding for graduate students to facilitate success during periods between sources of funding/advisors, address inequity in graduate program progression, study salary and promotion equity among staff, and revise the existing tenure and promotion criteria.

MIT declined to comment on past efforts to address DEI concerns in the FAQ, and wrote instead that the plan is “about what MIT is going to do to reinforce its value and interest in being a leading voice in creating and sustaining more diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities.” In response to the question of who would hold the Institute accountable for this plan, the website wrote that it is “likely that the Committee on Race and Diversity will continue to play an oversight role in the monitoring and implementation of the plan” while the president and senior leadership of MIT “are [the plan’s] ultimate owners.”

A final plan addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion is expected to be produced by the end of the semester.

MIT’s Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) program administrator Adriana Espinal reached out to The Tech, writing that she “participated in the open forums organized by the Steering team, and this first draft shows they are actively listening to the community and incorporating our feedback and thoughts.” 

“I am hopeful for the next stages of this plan, and developing concrete goals, metrics and accountability practices that will move us forward as a community."

MIT community members are encouraged to reach out to the DEI team with feedback and thoughts on the plan. Feedback can be submitted via email to provost-reply@mit.edu or via the feedback textbox