The MIT Free Speech Alliance (MFSA) began discussions with the MIT Alumni Association (MIT AA) in June 2022 about becoming an officially affiliated special interest group. MFSA saw some advantages in affiliation because the MIT AA could provide better access into the MIT campus community, could promote MFSA events to all alumni, and could provide some access to the directory of MIT alumni, many of whom would likely take an interest in MFSA’s mission.
The other reason for exploring affiliation was to eliminate any concern on MIT’s part that the MFSA name is an infringement on MIT’s trademarks and intellectual property. MIT first raised this issue with MFSA in May 2022. MFSA takes this concern seriously, and makes a point of stressing its independence from MIT and the MIT Alumni Association on our website and in our communications, as well as in any discussions of our work with the general public and the media. MFSA furthermore has obtained expert legal counsel regarding this claim. While MFSA’s attorneys are confident that MFSA is not misrepresenting its relationship to MIT and not infringing on MIT’s registered trademarks, MFSA nonetheless sought a means to eliminate the concern outright. Official affiliation with MIT AA conveys a license to use the label MIT for an alumni organization.
The MIT Alumni Association has documented requirements and guidelines for accepting affiliation applications for new regional clubs and affinity groups of MIT alumni, nearly all of which MFSA had already met. To comply with these requirements, MFSA made some minor changes to its governance by-laws. MFSA prepared a charter document as required for MIT AA affiliated organizations, following an MIT AA template. MFSA submitted its application by letter to the MIT AA on November 15, 2022, along with all required documents. The application letter detailed how MFSA meets all of the published criteria to be recognized as an MIT AA affiliate group.
MFSA provided its application in time to be considered at the December 2022, meeting of the MIT AA Board of Directors. This group considers and accepts new club and group affiliation requests twice a year. However, MIT AA Board of Directors did not review and consider the MFSA affiliation request at this meeting. There have been two subsequent meetings of the MIT AA Board of Directors for considering the affiliation application of new groups. The MFSA application has not been reviewed in either one.
To date, the MIT Alumni Association has not provided any written explanation for why the MFSA affiliation application is not being considered.