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Security at MIT: A Message from President Vest

To MIT Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Over the past month, the people of MIT have demonstrated a wonderful sense of caring for each other, and a resolve to sustain the best values that define this university. It is not clear what the weeks and months ahead will bring, but I am confident that the spirit of respect, civility, and community will continue to hold strong on our campus.

During these difficult times, all of us are concerned about the safety and security of our campus. I want you to know that we have enhanced security on campus generally and are in the process of reviewing all of our security arrangements. The purpose of this letter is to inform you of measures we have taken to date and to let you know of additional steps we are taking:

Our Campus Police, a professional deputized police force, has increased patrols both on the campus and in the neighborhoods in Boston where many of our fraternities and sororities are located.

We are in continual, direct contact with the law enforcement, intelligence, security, and civic agencies at the local, state, and federal levels.

We have emergency response plans and protocols for emergency situations but are intensively reviewing them to see where improvements might be made.

Over the past year, we have upgraded the life safety systems, including those in student residences, with improved fire suppression, detection and alarm systems.

The Office of Residential Life/Student Life Programs is ensuring that residence emergency and evacuation plans are up to date. Additional nighttime staff is available for the dorms. Evacuation drills for residence halls are occurring this month.

The MIT Medical Department has protocols for handling emergencies, has staff available 24 hours a day, and has formal ties and close working relations with the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge.

Our communications procedures allow us to rapidly send messages directly to all students, and communication trees are in place for faculty and staff.

Housemasters, resident tutors, and residential life associates are able to provide advice and support as well as connections with other sources of support on campus.

Travel advisories have been sent to the MIT community from the Human Resources department. These will be updated as necessary.

The Facilities Department has extra supervisory staff available during non- business hours; the Environmental, Health and Safety Team has doubled the on-call staff from five to ten professionals.

Extra measures are in place to enhance security and safety at construction sites.

Facilities personnel are ensuring that access to sensitive building mechanical areas is controlled.

Mail deliveries continue to be evaluated for suspicious packages.

Delivery companies are being asked to provide MIT with a list of personnel who make deliveries to our campus, and to pay particular attention to those who deliver hazardous materials.

The MIT Reactor continues on enhanced security, with 24-hour armed guard.

Beyond these measures, I have appointed a Task Force on Campus Security to assist us in setting policy and planning for heightened security and safety for the immediate and longer-term future. Issues include protection of campus people, facilities and environment, and protection against dangerous or inappropriate release of information and materials. This Task Force -- which is comprised of staff, faculty and students -- will operate primarily through working groups formed to address the following issues:

  • Biological, Chemical and Nuclear Hazards - chaired by David Litster, Vice President and Dean for Research
  • Access and Openness of the Campus - chaired by Anne Glavin, Director of Public Safety
  • Information Policy and Privacy Issues - chaired by Robert Redwine, Dean for Undergraduate Education

If you have or hear of concerns that you believe the Task Force should consider, please send them in an email message to I have asked for primary recommendations by mid-November, with recommendations for immediate action possible before then.

Looking beyond our campus, the Provost and I are establishing a process to assess how MIT might contribute its expertise to the national challenge of protecting human life and critical infrastructure.

In all of this, we are keenly aware of the need to achieve an appropriate balance among the needs for physical security, the openness of our environment and academic culture, and the well being of our diverse community.

The past month has not been without its tensions, and we face a time of great uncertainty, but I am confident that the people of MIT will demonstrate the kind of creativity, mutual respect, and caring that is a hallmark of this place.

Sincerely yours,

Charles M. Vest

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