The following email was sent today to the MIT community by President L. Rafael Reif.
To the members of the MIT community,
As our nation once again confronts heartbreaking mass violence, sending this annual reminder of MIT’s policies against harassment may feel to some as inconsequential and almost irrelevant.
Yet these policies could not have greater consequence, because they embody our conviction that the ultimate measure of our community is how we treat one another.
By reminding us that violence, racism, harassment and bullying are out of bounds – period – our policies can help lead us from error. Yet they cannot lead us towards the light: the essential duty to treat each other with respect, sympathy, decency, humility and kindness; the responsibility each of us has to make sure that everyone at MIT can truly feel at home; the challenge of finding a way to repair our fractured nation. This work we must do for ourselves.
Our policies also demonstrate that official statements matter – for good or ill. For instance, a recent draft of a government policy would redefine gender in a way that would erase the dignity and lived reality of well over a million transgender Americans, including many members of our MIT community. And next week in Massachusetts, the civil rights of these Americans are up for a vote.
Let me be clear: No matter how government policy may change, it will not change or weaken MIT’s commitment to protecting the rights and safety of every member of the MIT community.
Ultimately, nothing we do or say at MIT can reverse the fact that, from Pittsburgh to Jeffersontown, Charleston to Orlando, a baseball field in Maryland to the Boston Marathon, fellow human beings have been targeted and killed for being themselves.
Against the backdrop of our daily lives, such hatred and violence are much too frequent now. But we can and must fight the numb helplessness that might allow these acts to ever feel “normal.” We must keep ourselves alive to the shock and the pain, and stay focused on finding a better path for our society.
Tomorrow our community will come together to honor those killed or injured and those who helped them, and to console each other.
Vigil for Hope in the Face of Hate
Wednesday, October 31
Steps of the Student Center (W20)
I am grateful for the way we live and work together at MIT. I am proud that we do not fear each other or the world. As one can see any day in the Infinite Corridor, our openness to talent from every faith, culture, nation and background is central to our success, and central to our humanity. We should never forget the value and strength of this deeply American idea.
In this difficult time, we must use the strength, ingenuity and optimism of our community to help heal the world.
L. Rafael Reif