Taking a stand against sexual misconduct

April 1, 2019
Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor, 2014–2021 | Martin A. Schmidt, Provost, 2014–2022 |

To the members of the MIT community:

We are writing to share the news about important new initiatives in our ongoing campaign to address sexual misconduct on campus and, more broadly, throughout academia. We believe that these actions will strengthen the fabric of our community as well as higher education communities across the country. You can read more here.

Launching 2019 AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct on April 2

In 2014, for the first time, MIT conducted a comprehensive survey to understand our students’ experiences with unwanted sexual behavior. The survey’s findings inspired a number of actions that followed: expanding the Violence Prevention and Response and Title IX teams with staff who support and educate students; creating new education and training programs for students, faculty, and staff; and developing and enhancing policies that protect and advance a safe, respectful, and inclusive environment.

Five years later, it is time to take stock of the progress we have made and the work that remains. To that end, tomorrow we will email all MIT students an invitation to complete the 2019 Association of American Universities (AAU) Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct.

To our students: We strongly encourage you to participate. Active student engagement in 2014 helped us understand the challenges students face and strengthen our prevention and response efforts; it will this time, too. You can find more information in these Frequently Asked Questions.

Responding to the Recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Last September, speaking to an overflow campus crowd, Institute Professor Sheila Widnall and Wellesley College President Paula A. Johnson presented a report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on the sexual harassment of women in academia. As co-chairs of the committee that developed it, they described the toll sexual harassment takes on individuals, communities, and institutions, and articulated recommendations for action. In response to the report’s findings, the National Academies have urged all of higher education to aim higher by changing the cultures and climates that allow harassment to go unchecked.

We are developing a plan to answer the National Academies’ call and simultaneously bolster our ongoing efforts. President Reif is establishing a presidential advisory board of senior leaders and four working groups of faculty, students, post-docs, and staff who will be responsible for engaging our community, responding to the report’s specific recommendations, and advancing our work to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct at MIT. Below we list the board’s senior officers and working group co-chairs. Information about the groups’ charges can be found here.

To help move the report’s recommendations forward, we have agreed to be a founding member and to serve on the steering committee of the new Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education. Among the collaborative’s goals are sharing and elevating evidence-based strategies and developing a standard for measuring progress in all of higher education.

We look forward to working with you to cultivate a campus climate that is safe and supportive for all members of our community.


Cynthia Barnhart

Martin Schmidt

Presidential Advisory Board

Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor

Mark DiVincenzo, Vice President and General Counsel

Leslie Kolodziejski, Chair, Committee on Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response

Martin Schmidt, Provost

Anthony Sharon, Deputy Executive Vice President

Susan Silbey, Chair of the Faculty

Sheila Widnall, Institute Professor, co-author of National Academies Report

Working Groups & Co-Chairs

Leadership and Engagement

Co-chairs: Alyce Johnson, Interim Institute Community and Equity Officer, and Maryanne Kirkbride, Executive Administrator of MindHandHeart

Training and Prevention

Co-chairs: Sarah Rankin, Director and Title IX Coordinator, and Libby Mahaffy, Human Resources Diversity and Inclusion Specialist

Policies and Reporting

Co-chairs: Marianna Pierce, Policy and Compliance Specialist, and Doreen Morris, Assistant Provost

Academic and Organizational Relationships

Co-chairs: Professors Tim Jamison and Paula Hammond