7.0 A Diverse Community of Scholars

7.1 Philosophy

MIT has a proud history of serving the nation by providing a technically based education to its diverse community. By serving as a meritocracy which treats individuals as responsible adults, MIT has served an important role in higher education. The Institute has succeeded in bringing a diverse set of students to Cambridge and given them instruction. MIT is ostensibly a diverse place, full of women and men from different places, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. People speak various languages and follow many different religions. Yet at MIT people tend to cluster among those like them. As a result the diversity at MIT is in many ways an untapped resource.

Diversity is an imposrtant piece of the Educational Triad: through contact with different people, students gain an understanding of themselves and their role in each educational area. MIT recognizes the importance of academia and research at the Institute and is successful in these arenas because it places definite emphasis on them in the way the Institute is run.

Accordingly, MIT needs to be upfront in tackling the reality of a diverse yet splintered community. There is much to be gained from learning in diverse surroundings. In this globally networked world, everyone is engaged in the enterprise of learning how to function in a diverse society. Undoubtedly, the working world has become international and being able to function in it requires knowledge of and tolerance for diversity. While this can be taught in the classroom, the highest potential comes from working and speaking with a diverse set of people. Exposure to and interaction with different people helps us learn tolerance, see common values, and even appreciate disparities.

7.2 Recommendations

In order for MIT's community to reap the benefits of its diverse nature, there must be a concerted effort to increase social and intellectual interactions beyond the familiar groupings and relationships which confirm and reinforce our previous life experiences.

There is no perfect solution. It must be communicated to the MIT community that diversity is something that should be valued and experienced at MIT. Various programs and policies, outlined below, will move MIT in the right direction:

  • Greater involvement of the faculty in reading admissions folders. This means that the faculty have a greater investment in the future students. Increasing the level of information that faculty have about the student body should serve to help the two groups interact.

  • MIT must make clear that its admissions policy is (or should be) based on demonstrated excellence, strong potential, and the need to seek an increasing array of talents and diverse interests which support the development of the whole person. Fallicies need to be debunked, and a key time to do this is during orientation.

  • Development of a more deliberate strategy for monitoring and changing the demographics of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty.

  • Call for extensive studies to investigate the effects of the changing student body demographic and the performance of groups whose size has increased at MIT (i.e. women, minorities, non-science and engineering majors). The results of these studies would provide important information which can be used for evaluation of past processes as well as being the basis for future planning.

  • Increased accessibility to alumni/ae, especially those from groups who have few role-models at MIT.