Letter to the MIT Sloan community from Dean Schmittlein

September 18, 2020

To the MIT Sloan Community,

As you already know, on Wednesday, in consultation with MIT senior leadership, we made the decision to move all of our in-person classes online for one week. This decision was the result of two gatherings of MIT Sloan students over the past several days that, based on accounts of witnesses, appeared to violate state, local, and MIT guidelines as well as three important elements of the shared foundation of our community this fall:

  • The Community Compliance Agreement, which was signed by each member of the community attending on-campus activity
  • MIT Sloan values
  • And the school’s mission as it relates to principled leadership

MIT Sloan has, from its initial planning for an in-person component this semester, focused on the health and safety of our entire community: staff, faculty members, students, and the Boston and Cambridge neighborhoods of which we are a part. Today, we must redouble that commitment. Large gatherings of unmasked students not following social distancing guidelines violate our ability to maintain our health and safety principles. They also put each member of this community unnecessarily at risk. Although our testing protocols are strong, no one can guarantee that they have not contracted Covid-19 from one day to the next. And so no member of this community can be allowed to violate guidelines established by state and local governments, as well as by MIT, that are meant to offer protection for all of us.

The repercussions of this week’s two gatherings and the resulting suspension of on-campus classes were felt not only by the students who took part in the gatherings, but by every person in the MIT Sloan community. Each student who prepared to participate in on-campus classes. Every faculty member expecting to teach in person. Every staff member, including more than 50 temporary staff, who organized their work week around supporting the on-campus effort. And the overwhelming majority of MIT Sloan students who are showing leadership and modeling safe behavior.

Those among you who chose to violate guidelines and community norms have put the entire MIT Sloan in-person experience at risk. MIT has consented to a one-week closure. That closure assumes that neither of the events in question contributes to the spread of positive cases in the immediate future. In recent days, we have identified zero positive cases at MIT Sloan (and just two at MIT overall) in our extensive testing. Let us all hope that pattern continues.

Whatever our roles at MIT Sloan – whether we are faculty members, staff, or students – our interests this fall are shared. If you find yourself wanting to continue in-person learning, please know that I, and the entire MIT Sloan administration, want that, too. If you are in favor of maintaining the health and safety of the MIT Sloan community, and the communities in which we all live, it should be no surprise that we do, too. If you value and respect the thoughtful work of so many throughout the summer to make this semester a success, then you are not alone. And since you chose MIT Sloan, I’m sure you would choose to stand with us in the school’s mission – to be principled, innovative leaders.

Let me be as clear with you as I can be: Neither MIT nor MIT Sloan will permit further violations. If there are more events of this nature, in-person instruction may well end for the semester. And if we know who is involved, there will be individual consequences. This stance is grounded in MIT’s commitment to do its part to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and protect each other and the greater Cambridge community.

I expect a great deal of our students. In recent days, I have been seriously disappointed. We have said for months that we are in this together. That means not only that success is shared, but also that we will suffer the consequences of violations together. Indeed, if MIT Sloan is forced to end in-person learning due to the thoughtless choices of a few, it jeopardizes all in-person activity at MIT. That is not the kind of leadership we strive for.

I encourage you to consider what you can do, individually, as part of this community, and as a principled leader, to ensure that the semester can continue with the on-campus options we worked so hard to make possible. I encourage you to speak up when you see a gathering grow beyond the 10-person limit, as difficult as this is to do. And I encourage you to use your energy, creativity, and problem-solving skills to work with us as we design ways for small groups to gather safely and remain in compliance with state, city, and Institute guidelines while building the bonds that are among the most valuable parts of the MIT Sloan experience.

Please reach out to the Student Life Office or your program offices with ideas or for guidance. Together, we can get this right.

With hopes for a successful remainder of the fall 2020 semester,

David Schmittlein
John C Head III Dean
MIT Sloan School of Management