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MIT announces updates on fact-finding and reviews of external engagements

Efforts also advance to protect whistleblowers, identify charity to benefit survivors of sexual abuse.
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Members of MIT’s senior leadership have announced progress in a variety of areas related to ongoing reviews of the Institute’s funding and external engagements.

The new information comes as President L. Rafael Reif wrote to the MIT community today to share key learnings from recent community forums and meetings.

“Over the past two months, in large public forums, in smaller private meetings and through hundreds of emails and comment cards, I have heard the unfiltered views of many students, staff, postdocs, faculty, trustees, parents and alumni,” Reif wrote. “Some of this feedback has been very difficult to hear — difficult, but necessary. Much of it must have taken great courage to deliver. All of it has been illuminating and helpful.”

The forums were part of the Institute’s response to the emergence in recent months of information on Jeffrey Epstein’s links to MIT.

Additional developments include:

Fact-finding continues

Goodwin Procter, the law firm retained to conduct fact-finding on the Institute’s engagements with Epstein, has informed the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation that its work in conducting interviews and reviewing documents is nearly complete, and that it is preparing a report on its findings. Once the Executive Committee has had the opportunity to review and discuss the results of Goodwin Procter’s fact-finding, it will write to the full community.

Two committees launch

Faculty Chair Rick Danheiser and Provost Martin Schmidt recently launched two committees — one to define a set of values and principles to guide the assessment of outside engagements, and the other to review and recommend improvements to MIT’s processes on soliciting and accepting gifts.

The first of these, the Ad Hoc Faculty Committee on Guidelines for Outside Engagements, will be chaired by Tavneet Suri, an associate professor of applied economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Its members are listed here.

A second committee, the Ad Hoc Committee to Review MIT Gift Processes, will be chaired by Peter Fisher, professor of physics and head of the Department of Physics. The membership of this committee was announced today:

  • Mariana Arcaya: Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning
  • Mahi Elango: Undergraduate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; President, Undergraduate Association
  • Heather Kispert Hagerty: Assistant Dean for Development, School of Engineering
  • Daniel Hastings: Cecil and Ida Green Professor; Head, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Sarah Hendrick: Director of Records, MIT Alumni Association
  • J. Chappell Lawson: Associate Professor of Political Science 
  • Fiona Murray: William Porter Professor of Entrepreneurship; Associate Dean for Innovation, MIT Sloan School of Management; Co-Director, MIT Innovation Initiative
  • Larry Sass: Associate Professor of Architecture
  • Glen Shor: Vice President for Finance
  • Janet Sonenberg: Professor of Theater Arts
  • Peter Su: Graduate Student in Materials Science and Engineering; President, Graduate Student Council
  • Tavneet Suri: Associate Professor of Applied Economics
  • Julia Topalian: Director of Gift Administration and Recording Secretary
  • Li-Huei Tsai: Picower Professor of Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Director, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
  • Anne White: Professor and Head, Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering
  • David Woodruff: Associate Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, MIT Resource Development
  • TBD: postdoc representative

Strengthened protection for whistleblowers

Vice President and General Counsel Mark DiVincenzo is assembling a team to strengthen MIT’s existing protections for whistleblowers, which include the Institute’s non-retaliation policy and its anonymous reporting hotline. This effort will also aim to ensure that these protections and policies are well-understood across MIT.

Community committee to advise on a charity

In an Aug. 22 letter, President Reif informed the community that MIT had received approximately $800,000 in Epstein funding and committed that the Institute would contribute an equal amount to a charity benefiting survivors of sexual abuse. 

MIT has now identified the mechanism by which that charity will be selected: Recommendations will come from MIT’s Committee on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response (CSMPR), which has broad representation from across the community, including the Violence Prevention and Response office. Led by Leslie Kolodziejski, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, CSMPR is composed of 29 students, staff, and faculty. It will advise President Reif on MIT’s donation.

Outcomes from two staff forums

Several teams will follow up on ideas surfaced during two staff forums earlier this month. Vice President for Human Resources Ramona Allen will convene a group of staff from across campus to bring forward employees’ ideas and channel their commitment and perspectives. To capture as many voices as possible going forward, she and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz are also evaluating options such as office hours, facilitated group discussions, and mechanisms to submit comments anonymously.

In a forum for postdocs and research staff, those employees expressed feelings of isolation and the lack of any unifying home at MIT; Vice President for Research Maria Zuber is organizing a group now to begin to fill that need.

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