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Clay: Respect other opinions

Members of the MIT community must maintain "civility and mutual respect in class, work and living settings" over the next few months as individuals and groups on and off campus react to national and international developments.

The request was made in an open letter dated March 13 that was addressed to faculty and students and signed by Chancellor Phillip L. Clay, Dean for Undergraduate Education Robert P. Redwine and faculty chair Stephen Graves.

The letter noted that MIT anticipates extraordinary activities and events, including demonstrations and walkouts, and respects the rights of members of the community to express their views.

The letter emphasized the ongoing importance of building community at MIT, urging sensitivity where differences occur.

"We have students, staff and faculty from dozens of countries and from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds," Clay wrote. "We have members of the community in the military. Passionate speech and public dialogue may make some people uncomfortable or even fearful about how open or welcoming our community is in fact.

"Therefore, we urge faculty to take the appropriate opportunities to address international issues and conflict in classes, open forums and other settings."

The letter emphasized the Institute's commitment to balancing the "interests and rights of all members of our community."

Their goal in writing the letter was to "convey our expectations on behavior and conduct with respect to classes and other academic exercises." The letter stated, "Disruptions in academic or work settings are never appropriate." The letter also called for civility and tolerance in campus residential communities.

Guidelines for students and faculty focused on being "mindful of the values we share as an academic community."

Students who participate in walkouts or protests remain responsible for keeping up with the work in their classes. "The process should be no different from what happens under normal circumstances when a student needs to be absent," the letter said.

Faculty members are expected to be "reasonable and understanding. Given the extraordinary circumstances we may face with a war, we ask faculty to reflect on our overall educational mission and the welfare of our students."

The letter suggested that faculty "remind students about their expectations regarding attendance, assignments and exams, as well as to discuss possible contingencies in light of impending events." Should faculty elect to cancel classes for their own reasons, they should schedule and announce make-up classes. For "process guidance," faculty were referred to

In describing the role of the MIT Police, the letter said, "While some officers will be on hand in the event of large demonstrations or similar activities, their focus is on public safety."

The entire letter is available at

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 19, 2003.

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