September Faculty Meeting Calls for
Major Changes in Institute Policy
The Institute faculty meeting held Wednesday, September 18 was electric and historic, filling the Sala de Puerto Rico with both faculty and observers. The meeting almost certainly marked a turning point away from the dubious and damaging policies the Administration has been following, in courting a Saudi Arabian monarch who was credibly accused of criminal acts, a convicted sexual predator, and other discredited players. Hopefully this will allow MIT to return to the principles, values, and academic integrity that our educational and research productivity and credibility rests upon. It should also enable increasing the recognition of the contributions and values of women faculty, building on the advances that followed from the Hopkins Committee report ("A Study on the Status of Women Faculty at MIT," MIT Faculty Newsletter, Vol. XI No. 4, March 1999). The reforms needed will require changes in governance that elevate the role of the faculty, students, and staff and end the running of the Institute from the top down.
In addition to the cogent statements from many individual faculty, a group of senior women faculty read a dramatic open letter, identifying their critiques of the Epstein affair and grievances, excerpted following and printed in its entirety in this issue.
"We write as senior women faculty members (current and emerita) of MIT to share our deep distress over the MIT/Epstein revelations and our profound disappointment in learning of the apparent complicity of administrative leadership. We write also to encourage efforts to uncover the truth about and learn from the current crisis. This letter is a call for integrity and action.
From various departments across MIT, we are gravely concerned about the situation that has emerged: Institute leaders, faculty, and lab directors at MIT may have violated campus fundraising procedures. They certainly violated Institute values not only by accepting money from, but also by inviting onto campus Jeffrey Epstein, a “level three” (high risk of repeat offense) registered sex offender. MIT cultivated a relationship with Epstein over time that rewarded, empowered, and elevated him. With the approval of administrative leadership, faculty and staff attempted to conceal that relationship from those they knew it would disturb. Some students and staff who were asked to collude were made to feel morally compromised. Taking Epstein’s money suggested a willingness to turn a blind eye to the impact of his crimes, which included procuring the prostitution of a minor. The fact that this situation was even thinkable at MIT is profoundly disturbing, and is symptomatic of broader, more structural problems, involving gender and race, in MIT’s culture. It is time for fundamental change."
Another group of senior faculty brought forth a Motion to Establish an Ad Hoc Faculty Committee to Protect Academic Integrity, to establish standards of accountability and transparency and a due diligence process to prevent such errors in the future. This committee of faculty volunteers would avoid the conflict of interest inherent in all current bodies appointed or hired by the President, by sharply limiting participation from members of the current Administration. Excerpted following and printed in its entirety in this issue, it will be considered at the October meeting of the Faculty.
Therefore be it Resolved:
That the MIT Faculty establish an Ad Hoc Committee of the Faculty on Protecting Academic Integrity, composed of Faculty volunteers independent of the Administration, to draft a statement of MIT values and standards, reflecting the responsibilities incumbent upon MIT as a global university, and the procedures to be followed by the Institute in receiving outside funding.The mission of the Committee shall include the establishment of a robust due diligence process for review of all fundraising at MIT including a review of ongoing relationships in the light of MIT values, and establishment of standards for Institute agreements with outside agencies, governments, and individuals, drawing on examples of best practices around the world.
And be it further Resolved, That the standards, policies, and procedures include:
(a) Compliance at all times with applicable local, state, and federal civil and criminal laws and to ensure adherence to applicable rules of international law in all their external and financial engagements.
(b) Revised conflict of interest rules to ensure that Faculty members or researchers at MIT do not leverage fundraising for MIT-based research when it is for their personal gain unrelated to benefit for the MIT community or the public.
(c) Protections and safeguards for whistleblowers that reveal wrongdoings or violations of policies.
(d) Public notification of any proposed gift or engagement with a donor above $100,000, with comments invited from the MIT community within a reasonable period.
And be it further Resolved, That the MIT Faculty requests the Chair of the Faculty ensure implementation of this resolution, in order to achieve the above goals; and further urges the Chair to ensure that the Ad Hoc Committee is provided adequate funds for staff support, and that it reports regularly to the MIT Faculty, and the Faculty Policy Committee, on the measures to be adopted as urged in this motion.
Though there was a call for the resignation of President Reif alone, we think that much of the senior leadership share the blame for the rot that has set in, and that there will be calls for other resignations in the days to come.
Faculty Newsletter Editorial Board Member Patrick Winston
Prof. Patrick Winston, who passed away in July, was a longtime member of the Editorial Board of the Faculty Newsletter. His attention and concern for MIT policies and culture was unique, and he was an invaluable member of the Board. Patrick was one of the few faculty members willing to challenge MIT administrators, Department Chairs, and Committee Chairs, and to bring forth reports, updates, or proposals. He brought that instinct of looking beneath the surface of issues to the Faculty Newsletter, and we will all miss him greatly. (See:"In Memoriam".)
Prof. Lloyd Resigns
One of the faculty who received financial support from Jeffrey Epstein, and in fact visited him in jail in Florida, was Prof. Seth Lloyd, who had been elected to the Faculty Newsletter Editorial Board. Prof. Lloyd offered his resignation to the Editorial Board, in part not to inhibit our discussions of Epstein gifts. We accepted his resignation.