Rules to know and follow
I hope you found time to rest and recharge during winter break. I will write to you soon with encouraging news on student life, dining, and housing from DSL, but this important email is focused on our community’s rules that MIT expects every student to know and follow.
By any measure, the environment on campus last semester was tense as students expressed strong feelings about deeply held and often opposing perspectives. This friction tested our community in extraordinary ways. We continue to hear questions about the boundaries for protest activities and expectations governing individual and student group behavior.
Below my signature you will find practical information about the requirements for organizing and registering events; handling electronic communication; responding to misconduct; and finding campus updates related to current tensions on campus. Key policy highlights include the following:
- Our guidelines related to campus activism, which are anchored in MIT’s values and statement on free expression (PDF).
- MIT’s policies against discrimination, harassment, and threats.
- Expectations for student organizers to register events as described in the MIT Student Organization Handbook (PDF) and work with DSL staff to ensure they comply with Institute policies.
I believe that continued dialogue can bring our community closer together. Please consider participating in a program like the Center for Constructive Communication’s RealTalk@MIT program, a new technology-enhanced approach to dialogue. More opportunities to build skills in discussing difficult subjects will be offered throughout the spring, through summer workshops, and to incoming first-year students prior to and during Orientation.
As we come back together, I ask that you understand and respect these rules.
Campus events: policies and expectations
MIT has more than 500 student groups, and DSL advises and supports approximately 10,000 campus events annually, half of which are student-organized. To manage all this smoothly and fairly and to keep our campus safe, we have basic rules about reserving spaces (PDF) and registering events (PDF), as laid out in the Student Organization Handbook (PDF). The steps are easy to follow. This information may be particularly helpful (all PDF):
- Benefits and privileges of group recognition (page 13)
- Space reservations (page 20)
- Event registration (page 23)
- Postering and publicity (page 60)
- Discrimination and harassment (page 66)
- Use of MIT’s name, logo, and brand identity (page 66)
Specific guidelines for vigils, protests, and demonstrations. At MIT, we staunchly support community members' right to express themselves and to engage in campus activism. Yet we all have a vested interest in maintaining an environment where everyone feels free to live and work.
MIT therefore has additional special event guidelines that apply to vigils, protests, and demonstrations of any size. In response to questions from the community, they were recently clarified; if you plan such events on campus, you should read these detailed rules now.
Anyone planning a vigil, protest, or demonstration must register their event, reserve space, meet with MIT officials at least three business days in advance, and honor the Institute’s reasonable boundaries on the “time, place, and manner” of free expression.
The guidelines specify a limited number of preferred places where vigils, protests, and demonstrations may be approved. Other common spaces on campus may sometimes be approved for such events, on a case-by-case basis, and with all the usual requirements described above.
Demonstrations should generally occur outdoors. They are not permitted near MIT childcare facilities, such as in the Stata Center, adjacent to the east side of Hockfield Court. Also prohibited is demonstrating in faculty or administrative offices, classrooms, libraries, study rooms, or similar locations, such as student residences, where such actions would interrupt Institute activities. Because classroom disruptions are out of bounds, faculty and instructors have been provided with their own guidance on disruptions of academic activity, which includes steps they can take to respond effectively if such disruptions occur. Note that disorderly conduct on campus is prohibited.
Communication and community: Email, dormspam, and social media
Several messages distributed this past semester through dormspam caused deep pain for some community members. In cases where the content of electronic messages is alleged to have violated MIT’s policy for use of MITnet or other campus rules, a user’s privileges may be restricted temporarily, pending a review and resolution of the matter. Furthermore, online harassment on any electronic platform is prohibited. Our house teams, student leaders, and staff are here to help address concerns raised about such messages. Also, please visit this helpful resource for more guidance on electronic communications.
This spring, the House Postering Policy Working Group – including heads of house, students, and staff – will make recommendations about electronic messaging, dormspam, and residential community postering.
Protecting yourself online. Trolls exploit social media’s murkiness to misinform and harass. Sadly, there’s no way to totally protect yourself from being targeted. These online targeting resources cover doxing, trolling, and cyberbullying. If you are the target of electronic or online harassment or discrimination, consider reporting to the resources mentioned above or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, a service from IS&T.
Handling misconduct: Reporting and disciplinary steps
Incidents of bias, harassment, and discrimination are unacceptable and should be reported to the Institute Discrimination and Harassment Response Office (IDHR), the MIT Police, or the MIT Hotline. You can also find other supportive resources at the DoingWell website.
Addressing student conduct. MIT’s disciplinary process continues to handle complaints related to campus tensions. Staff in IDHR, the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (OSCCS), and the Committee on Discipline (COD) are working to ensure the review of reports is timely and fair.
It’s important to be aware that the administration may take any action it deems necessary or appropriate, including interim measures, to protect the health, safety, well-being, and educational or workplace experience of the MIT community. Such steps would be followed by a disciplinary review, which can result in COD sanctions for individual (PDF) and organizational (PDF) misconduct. You can find additional information on this website.
Updates from campus
Updates from President Kornbluth and other senior leaders are posted on a rolling basis at www.mit.edu/updates-from-campus.