MIT Statement on Freedom of Expression

MIT Statement on Freedom of Expression

Following MIT's violation of free speech in the fall 2021 Dorian Abbot affair, MIT President L. Rafael Reif commissioned the launch of an Ad Hoc Working Group on Free Expression to amend MIT's policies on free expression and open inquiry. The group drafted a statement of principles on free expression, which was part of a comprehensive report drafted on June 24, 2022 and released publicly on September 1, 2022 covering MIT's institutional policies and the importance of free speech to all people, especially the historically downtrodden and the current heterodox.

The Statement, adopted officially by the MIT faculty in late 2022, is often compared to similar principles of other universities, most notably the famous Chicago Principles from the University of Chicago. It argues that ideas and their speakers, even if said to be offensive or harmful by some, have a right to be heard, as do criticisms and peaceful protests against such ideas. 

The President of MIT, Sally Kornbluth, endorsed the Statement as an Institute-wide policy in a message to the MIT community on February 16, 2023. On October 18, 2023, President Kornbluth provided an update to the community on the Institute's intentions to foster a culture of free expression at MIT. The news in President Kornbluth's update is that MIT's Faculty Policy Committee is forming a Subcommittee on Academic Freedom and Campus Expression (SAFCE) to consider and propose practical steps to implement the recommendations of the faculty Ad Hoc Working Group on Freedom of Expression.

MFSA compared the MIT Statement to the Chicago Principles, analyzing their differences and recommending amendments to certain parts of the MIT Statement.

Overall, we believe the MIT Statement is an excellent launchpad for the defense of free speech, but there is always room to make it stronger.