Kornbluth addresses MIT community in the new year
Kornbluth: “the hardest, most important work – for the administration and for everyone at MIT – is the challenge of listening seriously, rebuilding trust and caring for our community.”
On Jan. 3, MIT President Sally Kornbluth began the new year by addressing the current challenges on campus and her vision for progress in a campus-wide statement.
Kornbluth opened her message with a reflection on her first year as President of MIT, stating that she appreciates the campus’ “matter-of-fact problem-solving ethos, the willingness to name a problem, measure it, design a solution and keep iterating until it’s right.”
With regards to the events on MIT’s campus and other universities, Kornbluth stated there were “four immediate steps” she plans to take to address the issue. Kornbluth said, “we have been listening to our community and working steadily for many weeks to identify the issues that most urgently need our attention.”
Student disciplinary process
President Kornbluth stated that she and MIT Corporation Chair Mark Gorenberg have asked the Corporation’s Risk and Audit Committee to “assess our current approach to handling complaints of student misconduct,” and to locate where “benchmark standards from across higher education may suggest practical improvements.”
With respect to a timeline, she stated that “work will begin shortly, in consultation with staff, faculty, and student leaders.” Additionally, in response to those feeling “unclear about how claims of misconduct are reported, reviewed, and resolved,” she included this explanation from the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response (IDHR) office.
On free expression
President Kornbluth and Faculty Chair Mary Fuller of Course 21 are initiating a new Committee on Academic Freedom and Campus Expression. The co-chairs will be Professors Michael Sipser of Course 18 and Anette “Peko” Hosoi, Associate Dean of Engineering and of Course 2. They will be tasked with “examining these policy areas to ensure that we all understand the rules and our responsibilities as members of the MIT community.”
Kornbluth stated that “we cannot expect discipline and policies to magically resolve all or even most difficulties that emerge in how we relate to each other in speech.” She added that “we need to rely on each other for decency and compassion.” Kornbluth further emphasized that “we need to lean into the idea that there’s a difference between what we can say and what we should say, as members of one community.”
DEI on campus
Kornbluth said that MIT will announce a new Vice President for Equity and Inclusion (VPEI). She stated that the new role of VPEI provides an “important opportunity to reflect on and comprehensively assess the structures and programs intended to support our community and create a welcoming environment.”
Additionally, Kornbluth emphasized the need to “talk candidly about practical ways to make our community a place where we all feel that we belong.” She noted that Vice Provost for Faculty Paula Hammond ’84 will work with the incoming VPEI to achieve this aim to “think broadly about the best approaches for advancing community, civility and mutual respect on our campus, in the spirit of our MIT Values.”
Campus climate survey
Kornbluth stated that a set of focused questions in MIT’s Quality of Life (QoL) survey will be sent to all MIT students and employees early in the spring semester. She added that “combined with incident data already reported annually by IDHR, information from future QoL surveys will help us gauge our progress.”
Kornbluth is optimistic about these four immediate steps, stating that these “institute-level actions will help us make thoughtful, evidence-based improvements in some key systems and programs.” She added that these improvements will help to “serve the people of MIT well not only in this difficult period but far beyond it.”
Finally, Kornbluth highlighted that “the hardest, most important work – for the administration and for everyone at MIT – is the challenge of listening seriously, rebuilding trust and caring for our community.”
President Kornbluth’s statement in its entirety can be found here.