MIT Strategic Action Plan for Belonging, Achievement, and Composition released
The plan will be implemented over a ‘foundation year’ during which local units adapt to new recommendations
President L. Rafael Reif released the MIT Strategic Action Plan for Belonging, Achievement, and Composition in an email to the MIT community Sept. 1. Reif called the plan “a critical step in the Institute’s longstanding efforts to cultivate a community in which all of us can do our best work and thrive.”
Reif noted that a draft of the plan was released March 2021; at that time, the plan was titled “MIT Strategic Action Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” While emphasizing that diversity, equity, and inclusion were still priorities for the Institute and “remain front and center in the final version,” Reif wrote that the steering team shifted the focus to belonging, achievement, and composition because they believe “those words better reflect how we think about our community and its values.”
Reif concluded the email with a roadmap for what lies ahead: Institute Community and Equity Officer (ICEO) John Dozier and his staff will reach out to “local units” across the Institute to “offer guidance and support as they begin to develop or refine their own plans for action.”
The discussions in these local units will take place over what the plan calls a “foundation year.” The foundation year “provides an opportunity to experiment” and for the units to align their efforts with the recommendations of the strategic action plan.
The email directs readers to a website that breaks down and details the plan. The site features sections for the components of the plan — belonging, achievement, and composition — as well as a high-level executive summary of the plan, a directory of the faculty and students involved in writing and refining the plan, a pdf copy of the plan in full, and page with slightly more detailed summaries of the sections of the plan.
The belonging, achievement, and composition pages of the site each include a set of commitments, proposed actions, and clear indicators of “owners” of the actions; owners are the administrators or offices directly responsible for the management and implementation of said actions.
On the “Belonging” page, there are commitments to “critically engage with and empower the MIT community on the value of inclusion and belonging as drivers of Institute effectiveness;” “reinforce positive interactions among members of the MIT community to foster and promote an enduring sense of belonging;” and “support academic research, scholarship, and administrative collaborations regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, and related topics.”
The page features proposed metrics for evaluating progress on the commitment: for example, the extent of “participation of leadership, students, postdocs, staff, and faculty in inclusive leadership programs and engagement opportunities” (as a metric for the first commitment).
A suggested metric for evaluating the commitment to reinforce positive interactions among community members is responses from the Quality of Life Survey — such as percentage of community members who report a favorable sense of belonging, or number of members who report receiving mentoring.
A proposed metric for the third commitment is volume of research projects and teaching focused on systemic racism.
Among the proposed actions are “broadly disseminate the MIT values statement” (owner: President); “recognize individuals who participate in specific, project-based roles related to advancing Institute goals for belonging, achievement, and composition that fall outside of their job descriptions” (owners: Chancellor, Provoost, VP for Human Resources, VP for Research); and “make new investments of $1 million in research to achieve progress on racial justice and equality” (owner: President).
There are 25 proposed actions on the “Belonging” page altogether.
The “Achievement” page includes five commitments:
To “advance excellence in all forms among underrepresented undergraduate students” with proposed metrics like first- to second-year retention, four- and six-year graduation rates, and participation in experiential learning programs.
To “advance excellence among underrepresented graduate students” with metrics like qualifying exam pass rates and post-graduation outcomes.
To “advance excellence among underrepresented postdocs,” which would be evaluated by considering postdoc placements after completion of their MIT appointments.
To “advance excellence among underrepresented staff,” to be evaluated by considering promotion and retention rates, and average salaries within job classifications/bands.
To “advance excellence among underrepresented faculty,” to be evaluated by considering promotion and tenure rates, and salary increases.
Among the proposed actions are expanding the fifth-week flag system to a more structured alert system across all four years (to address the goal of advancing excellence among underrepresented undergraduates); and reviewing and evaluating existing tenure and promotion criteria and revising them to incentivize service contributions that include belonging, achievement, and composition (to address the goal of advancing excellence among underrepresented faculty).
There are a total of nine proposed actions on the “Achievement” page.
The “Composition” page makes five commitments as well, and is structured similarly to the “Achievement page.” In particular, four of the commitments are to improving representation of underrepresented populations: graduate students, postdocs and research staff, staff, and faculty. The final commitment is to “assess and strengthen recruitment of underrepresented undergraduate students.”
Among the proposed metrics for these commitments are applicant yield rates and graduate student diversity, postdoc diversity, diversity of managers and non-faculty academic staff, number of faculty participating in trainings about effective practices for search committees, and number and diversity of high school students participating in MIT-sponsored pipeline programs.
There are 18 proposed actions, among which are “catalog each department, lab, and center’s hiring practices for postdocs and establish Institute-wide best practices, processes, and standards” and “create a certification process focused on the relationships between diversity, community, and excellence for all faculty participating in faculty hiring decisions.”
The resources page includes additional information about aspects of the plan; there is a link to more information about the foundation year, a guide to “how to read the action plan,” steps to creating a local plan (for the “local units” to apply as they adapt to the overarching plan), and signups for weekly open office hours with the ICEO.