Tensions on campuses across America over the past few months have been brought to light and addressed due to a number of racially charged incidents, notably at Yale University and the University of Missouri. On November 3, 2015, after racially-charged social incidents, public confrontations between students and administrators, and a sharp decline in minority tenure and tenure-track faculty, 1the President and Provost of Yale University devoted $50 million in resources over the next five years to enhance the excellence of its faculty by building diversity university-wide.2 On November 9, 2015, after hunger strikes, racially motivated death threats, and persistent administrative inaction, the President and Chancellor of the University of Missouri resigned.3 Their examples affirm the historical importance of student-led initiatives in the broader projects of democratizing and decolonizing universities and society at large.
It is important to note these tensions have been building for a long time; these scenarios are not “isolated incidents”, but rather indicative of larger problems such as cultural acceptance.
We cannot imagine the fear and disappointment our peers at Yale University, the University of Missouri, Ithaca College, and so many other university students must be feeling at this moment, but we wanted to take the time to say that at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), we stand with you. We are sorry you have had to make the choice between your education and your safety, and we look forward to the day when standing up for your beliefs will not come at a cost to a Black body.
As students at a similarly well-regarded institute, we understand the urge to forfeit what we deserve because we feel we have been gifted with the opportunity to attend a school of this caliber and should just be thankful. We are not lucky to be at MIT. MIT is lucky to have students and other community members to contribute to its culture and academic successes.
As a campus that promotes equality and the safety of the learning environment, we have a responsibility to once again look inward and address the issues in our own community. We would like to reiterate MIT is a collaborative community, and we must address these issues of climate together as students, staff, faculty and administrators. We hope to see change implemented in this same collaborative spirit.