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Meetings focus on freedom of expression as war looms

The Committee on Community, which has been meeting since November, has scheduled three community-wide meetings starting Monday to discuss the importance of freedom of expression on campus in the face of heightened world tension and the threat of war.

"The success of this effort depends on broadly engaging faculty, staff and students in honoring the principles of our community," said Chancellor Phillip L. Clay, who chairs the 22-member committee of faculty, administrators, students and staff. "An important step in that effort is a series of briefings we will be conducting in the next month. All members of the community are invited.

"At each session, senior faculty, students and staff will present the principles, review MIT's relevant policies and practices for public discourse, and discuss how each member of our community can participate in an environment that encourages openness and dialogue. Those present will have an opportunity to present ideas as well as receive suggestions for effectively community-building in times of crisis that a war would trigger," Clay said.

The first meeting is on Monday, Feb. 24 (see box at left). All three sessions have the same format; members of the community may attend the most convenient session for them.

"The impending war in Iraq has profound implications for campus life and has personal consequences for some members of the community. The continuing risk of more terrorist attacks creates anxiety. Public opinion and community views about the causes of the geopolitical shifts and what are appropriate resolutions are sharply divided," said Clay.

"The fears, risks and potential conflict could create fissures in the fabric of our campus community, and could undermine the values that are so important to MIT--rational discourse, free expression, open inquiry, voice and agency.

"Our goal in this group is to assist MIT in preserving our community and its values and in addressing the challenges and opportunities the current environment presents," Clay said.

The committee has adopted the following principles:

MIT is an educational institution first and foremost.

"MIT is an environment that encourages informed analysis and dialogue, the expression of multiple points of view, and the provision of educational forums and other opportunities for the exchange of information and diverse views on the world situation.

"Freedom of expression is essential to the mission of a university. So is freedom from unreasonable and disruptive offense. We should avoid putting these essential elements of our university to a balancing test, and consider both the interests of individuals and the community as well as the right to freedom of expression."

MIT is an international institution.

"The education MIT provides and the research MIT produces are dependent on bringing together the best minds from around the world, regardless of nationality, religion or political views. We will continue to operate as an international institution that, with significant collaborations around the world, is committed to producing global citizens."

All members of the MIT community are full members.

"While fulfilling our responsibility to abide by the law, we will work to protect the rights and opportunities of all students, faculty and staff to pursue their academic, professional and research interests. We will continue to work diligently to keep our campus a welcoming, safe and supportive place to live, work and study. We will support those members of our community who are called to national service."

Questions and comments should be addressed to


Monday, Feb. 24

4 p.m., Room 10-250

Thursday, Feb. 27

7 p.m., Room 10-250

Thursday, March 6

Noon, Wong Auditorium

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