Invitation to join focus group on campus public safety

July 12, 2021

To the members of the MIT community,

We write to invite you to join a discussion about public safety on MIT’s campus. Over the past several months, the MIT administration has been working with the Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA) and the Black Students Union (BSU) in response to concerns they raised in a petition to Support Black Lives at MIT submitted to President Reif in June 2020. The petition included a number of concerns about MIT Police operations and processes and proposed certain changes to improve the experience and safety of MIT’s Black students and the entire community. The students requested that MIT review how our police are used on campus, and whether there are other co-responders or alternative public safety models that could better address the needs of the MIT community.

Dean Melissa Nobles, Vice President and General Counsel Mark DiVincenzo, and BGSA Political Action Chair Chelsea Nneka Onyeador are co-chairing a committee of students, faculty, administrators, staff, and members of the MIT Police that has been convened to conduct a review of the MIT Police department’s operations. The committee is working with an outside consultant, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). The goal of this review is to:

  • gain a better understanding of MIT community members’ experiences – particularly persons of color or other marginalized groups – when interacting with the MIT Police;
  • assess the positive and negative impacts of these interactions on community members; and
  • evaluate whether changes in police policies and practices would both improve the community’s relationship with the MIT Police and enhance community members’ feelings of safety.
     

With PERF’s assistance, the committee will provide any recommendations to President Reif and his leadership team on opportunities to improve MIT Police practices and policies, increase transparency of police work, provide possible alternatives to address the community’s safety needs, and create more objective reporting, review, and accountability measures for any police misconduct—all with the aim of bettering interactions with the MIT community.

As part of this work, PERF has scheduled three hour-long focus groups to hear from members of the MIT community about their experiences with and observations of the MIT Police, as well as their thoughts and ideas about how public safety may be reimagined on the MIT campus. We invite you to participate. To sign up, please select one of the times below:

If you are unable to attend one of these sessions, you can also share your thoughts with PERF by emailing MITPublicSafety@policeforum.org. Please provide your feedback no later than July 30, 2021.

To protect your identity, your name, course of study, department, or other identifying information will not be shared with the MIT Police or MIT administrators.

Thank you.

Chelsea Nneka Onyeador, Political Action Chair, Black Graduate Student Association

Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin Dean, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

Mark DiVincenzo, Vice President and General Counsel