Checking in with you following the MIT community vigil

June 4, 2020
Suzy M. Nelson, Vice President and Dean for Student Life, 2016–2021 | John H. Dozier, Institute Community and Equity Officer, 2020–2023 |

Dear students,

Though the majority of you are not on campus, you are not far from our thoughts, especially now during this moment in our nation’s history--a moment that feels tragically familiar. We hope that you were able to watch the MIT Community Vigil on Tuesday. The student, faculty, and staff speakers captured emotions that many of us are feeling. They also made it clear that, for some in our community, the pain is more personal and can be traced to the centuries of racism and hate that have eroded our ability to relate to one another and our willingness to see the dignity in each human being.

We are heartsick for the families and loved ones of Black people killed in recent acts of racist violence. We honor the lives of Ahmaud Arbery (Glynn County, Ga., February 23), Breonna Taylor (Louisville, March 13), George Floyd (Minneapolis, May 25), Tony McDade (Tallahassee, May 27), and so many Black and Brown people killed in acts of racist violence by police, law enforcement officers, and by others. These individual instances, each one tragic in its own right, are just the latest in a long legacy of racism in America. We condemn unequivocally the violence and injustice that continues to endanger the lives of Black people and other racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual and gender minorities in this country.

Moving Forward

How do we move forward individually and as a community? For non-Black community members, it starts with self-examination: looking within and reflecting on how our own upbringing and education has shaped our worldview, biases, and beliefs. We must confront how these views may unintentionally or unconsciously promote systems of inequity. And, instead of placing the burden to educate others onto our Black friends and colleagues, we must become active learners who seek out ways to learn independently and to increase our knowledge and self-awareness.

Beyond individual action, we will be agents for change - building bridges with others, strengthening relationships, and embracing a more hopeful future. We will engage the whole community in developing a strategic plan for MIT that will accelerate the diversity, equity, and inclusion work that is already underway. We will share more details with you soon and engage our community in shaping our path forward, but for now, we commit to a process that defines a comprehensive vision, measurable objectives, remediation for challenges and obstacles, a strategy for assessment, and resources to achieve our collective aspirations.

We know that many of you may be feeling a wide range of emotions right now: powerlessness, rage, despair, and vulnerability. And we know that uncertainty and fear can affect your wellbeing. If you need assistance now or in the days and weeks ahead, remember that many resources are available to help support you. You are not alone. Please do not hesitate to reach out.

In Closing

No words can make this situation better. The antidote to violence, hatred, and systemic injustice is forging bonds that unite us in our humanity; strengthening our capacity for empathy and understanding; and holding steadfast in our dedication to equity, dignity, safety, and justice for all MIT community members. We join you and the rest of MIT in denouncing the cycle of violence and systemic racism that plagues our nation. And we commit to advancing transformative change that is urgently needed in the world right now.

Suzy and John

Suzy M. Nelson, Vice President and Dean for Student Life
John H. Dozier, Institute Community and Equity Officer