President Kornbluth shares update on ongoing listening tour

Climate change, generative AI regulation, administration noted as key issues

On Sept. 21, President Sally Kornbluth shared an update on her ongoing listening tour via an email sent to MIT community members. Since assuming the presidency of MIT in January, President Kornbluth has kept records of what she has seen on campus and heard from students, staff, and faculty to better understand the state of affairs at MIT. 

An initial summary of the preliminary data was shared on April 4 of this year. Nearly a year after the beginning of the tour, Kornbluth highlighted the larger trends that have emerged.

Taking Action

In echoes of President Kornbluth’s initial tour summary, two major concerns raised by the MIT community were that of climate change and generative AI. Since that initial summary, Kornbluth said that efforts have been made to take action in both of those areas.

On the topic of climate change, discussions occurred over the summer to better outline an actionable path forward for MIT to contribute to solving this global issue. Kornbluth said that Vice Provost Richard Lester and members of the Climate Nucleus and the Climate Education Working Group “consulted with more than 100 faculty and staff” to identify “MIT’s climate-related strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.” Kornbluth added that the administration is drafting “a proposed path forward” and she said that she intends to share more details as the plan is further developed.

President Kornbluth characterized the proliferation of generative AI as a “high stakes moment,” and said that “campus is buzzing with a range of compelling projects and activities” surrounding AI. These projects range from a student competition to pitch AI entrepreneurship ideas to endeavors to help lawmakers make better-informed decisions on policies regulating AI use.

Realigning the Administration

In response to sentiments emphasized by MIT staff and faculty members, President Kornbluth calls attention to several leadership “shifts and searches” intended to “make our systems work even better for faculty and staff.” 

Kornbluth highlighted a pilot program relating to “under-recovery,” an issue in research where indirect costs aren’t covered by project funding. Kornbluth said that the pilot will provide a “larger total central sum,” and subsequently be “ ‘budgeted out’ across the Institute” to reduce the occurrence of under-recovery. 

A full summary of President Kornbluth’s listening tour can be found here.