Skip to content ↓

At open forum, MIT community discusses recent U.S. tragedies

More than 600 attend event emphasizing commitment to “stand together against injustice, intolerance, and hatred.”
Watch Video
Press Inquiries

Press Contact:

Kimberly Allen
Phone: 617-253-2702
Fax: 617-258-8762
MIT News Office

Media Download

Randomly assigned to tables of 10, participants at an open forum engaged in extended conversations about values, sources of intolerance, and ways to help MIT sustain an inclusive community during a time of social tension.
Download Image
Caption: Randomly assigned to tables of 10, participants at an open forum engaged in extended conversations about values, sources of intolerance, and ways to help MIT sustain an inclusive community during a time of social tension.
Credits: Photo: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT
Kester Barrow, area director for MacGregor House (a student residence), in MIT’s Division of Student Life, also spoke to the audience about the needs of a diverse student community. While race is a social construct, Barrow stated, it is also the case that “race is a lived experience for us all.”
Download Image
Caption: Kester Barrow, area director for MacGregor House (a student residence), in MIT’s Division of Student Life, also spoke to the audience about the needs of a diverse student community. While race is a social construct, Barrow stated, it is also the case that “race is a lived experience for us all.”
Credits: Photo: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT
Facilitators at each table led conversations guided by a set of open-ended discussion questions.
Download Image
Caption: Facilitators at each table led conversations guided by a set of open-ended discussion questions.
Credits: Photo: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

*Terms of Use:

Images for download on the MIT News office website are made available to non-commercial entities, press and the general public under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license. You may not alter the images provided, other than to crop them to size. A credit line must be used when reproducing images; if one is not provided below, credit the images to "MIT."

Close
Randomly assigned to tables of 10, participants at an open forum engaged in extended conversations about values, sources of intolerance, and ways to help MIT sustain an inclusive community during a time of social tension.
Caption:
Randomly assigned to tables of 10, participants at an open forum engaged in extended conversations about values, sources of intolerance, and ways to help MIT sustain an inclusive community during a time of social tension.
Credits:
Photo: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT
Kester Barrow, area director for MacGregor House (a student residence), in MIT’s Division of Student Life, also spoke to the audience about the needs of a diverse student community. While race is a social construct, Barrow stated, it is also the case that “race is a lived experience for us all.”
Caption:
Kester Barrow, area director for MacGregor House (a student residence), in MIT’s Division of Student Life, also spoke to the audience about the needs of a diverse student community. While race is a social construct, Barrow stated, it is also the case that “race is a lived experience for us all.”
Credits:
Photo: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT
Facilitators at each table led conversations guided by a set of open-ended discussion questions.
Caption:
Facilitators at each table led conversations guided by a set of open-ended discussion questions.
Credits:
Photo: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

More than 600 members of the MIT community met on Wednesday in the Institute’s latest public discussion of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion — matters made all the more salient by the series of high-profile gun killings in the U.S. this month.

The event featured public remarks by a few MIT speakers, while devoting most of its time to private discussions among audience members. Randomly assigned to tables of 10, the participants engaged in extended conversations about values, sources of intolerance, and ways to help MIT sustain an inclusive community during a time of social tension.

The U.S. has been roiled most recently by two incidents in which black men were killed by police officers this month, followed by the killing of five police officers who were serving at a demonstration in Dallas.

Video thumbnail Play video
DiOnetta Jones Crayton, associate dean for undergraduate education and director of the Office of Minority Education, speaks at the July 13 MIT community dialogue on diversity, tolerance, and inclusion.

“I urge us not to give in to the darkness, the darkness of doubt and fear,” said DiOnetta Jones Crayton, associate dean for undergraduate education and director of the Office of Minority Education, in closing remarks to the entire audience. Instead, she said, the “light” we all carry can help us “stand together against injustice, intolerance, and hatred.”

The event is part of an ongoing MIT effort to foster diversity and a culture of inclusion.

“Injustice, racism, mistrust, suspicion, fear, and violence corrode the foundations of a healthy society,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif wrote in an open letter to the MIT community on Monday. “We cannot stand as observers and accept a future of escalating violence and divisiveness. I believe our leading civic institutions have a responsibility to speak clearly against these corrosive forces and to act practically to inspire and create positive change.”

On campus, MIT has started implementing a series of measures intended to further extend an atmosphere of respect and inclusiveness for all — and of greater mutual understanding among community members regardless of differences in ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

These efforts have been spurred in part by recommendations that MIT’s Black Students’ Union and Black Graduate Student Association made in December 2015. Changes at MIT that have occurred or are being implemented include increased financial aid for undergraduate students; expanded diversity orientation for undergraduate and graduate students; increased capacity at MIT Medical, including race-based traumatic stress counseling, and new staff with expertise in issues pertaining to the African diaspora; and more extensive collection and release of data about ethnicity and MIT, on subjects from admissions to student life.

At the same time, MIT expects to keep holding community events on topics similar to those featured Wednesday, in order to generate frank and supportive dialogue.

“We can’t solve a problem we can’t hear each other talking about,” said Ed Bertschinger, Institute Community and Equity Officer and a professor in MIT’s Department of Physics.

Kester Barrow, Area Director for MacGregor House (a student residence), in MIT’s Division of Student Life, also spoke to the audience about the needs of a diverse student community. While race is a social construct, Barrow stated, it is also the case that “race is a lived experience for us all.” As such, he suggested, we have an obligation to understand how those sometimes very disparate experiences shape us, individually and communally.

Audience members at the forum also submitted written suggestions about new ways MIT can keep working to generate civic inclusion on campus. Additionally, MIT chaplains set up a “prayer and reflection” space used after the event, where, among other things, community members created a paper chain of written thoughts about recent events.

In her closing remarks, Crayton urged audience members to rise above the current climate — “Returning violence to violence can only multiply violence,” she said — and noted that MIT can “challenge itself” to “make a better world” for everyone, no matter how daunting that goal may seem at times.

“If we stay in a state of helplessness for too long, it will cloud our vision,” Crayton said, adding: “As a nation, I do not believe we are incapable of rising above our current state.”

Press Mentions

The Boston Globe

Laura Krantz writes for The Boston Globe about MIT senior Vincent Anioke’s essay on the admissions website, "part of an uncommonly open discussion being fostered at MIT about the racial tension gripping the country." Krantz also highlights posts by undergrads Ben Oberlton and Selam Jie Gano, a recent community forum, and letter from MIT President L. Rafael Reif.

Related Links

Related Topics

Related Articles

More MIT News

Photo of Annauk Olin with her husband and baby

Saving Iñupiaq

Linguistics graduate student Annauk Olin is helping her Alaska Native community preserve their language and navigate the severe impact of climate change.

Read full story