Ad Hoc Committee on Arts, Culture, and DEI at MIT

April 08, 2021

To the members of the MIT community,

On July 1, 2020, President Reif wrote to the MIT community outlining steps MIT will take to address systemic problems regarding racial equity at the Institute. As part of the commitment to confront our history, challenge common understandings, and engage previously marginalized voices, he called for an ad hoc committee to activate the arts and humanities in this effort.

The president asked that I form such a committee of staff, students, postdocs, faculty, and alumni and that the group be charged

"to recommend artistic and cultural responses that will affirm and inspire our community in this complex moment, and to identify ways to fund them. These [responses] may amplify elements of our curriculum – and extend beyond it. Music, visual art, poetry, storytelling and performance have the power to help reveal our history, heal old wounds, deepen understanding, lift our hearts, call us to action and sustain the momentum for progress."

Today, I am pleased to announce a vital step in our commitment to establishing a strong culture of racial equity and inclusion at MIT: the Ad Hoc Committee on Arts, Culture, and DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion). I have asked Institute Community and Equity Officer John Dozier and Associate Provost Philip S. Khoury to co-chair the committee.

Building on the foundation of President Reif’s vision, I am charging the ad hoc committee to:

  • Conduct an audit of MIT artistic and cultural projects that speak to racial equity, social justice, or both; that explore or celebrate the diversity of our community; or that amplify work by artists who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color. These projects may be ongoing, under development, or proposals for the future. They may be initiated by MIT faculty, students, or staff, and can be curricular or not and presented in any artistic platform or genre.
  • Identify resources, seed funds, and a selection process to support such projects and commission new ones in the future. Suggest platforms and timetables for presenting them to the MIT community and beyond.
  • Create nimble and flexible programs to recruit artists of color and broaden the diversity of artistic talent showcased at MIT – through collaborations, visiting fellows and artists, or other means of support.
  • Examine the campus as an artistic expression of MIT’s values and learning environment and recommend ways that we can deepen our understanding of the Institute’s history through digital, performing, physical, and visual experiences of MIT’s culture. This effort should include but not be limited to diversifying the artists represented in MIT’s public art program.
  • Coordinate with relevant efforts – the development of a Strategic Action Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the Community and Culture and other workstreams of Task Force 2021 and Beyond; and related MIT committees and student groups – to incorporate elements of their work into the ad hoc committee’s recommendations, as appropriate.

The ad hoc committee’s output will be a set of recommendations focused on the different dimensions of its charge. I have asked that it be submitted to me by December 2021.

I am grateful to our community members who accepted my invitation to serve on the Ad Hoc Committee on Arts, Culture, and DEI; the full list of committee members is available on the committee website. I am optimistic that their work will imagine new possibilities for artistic and cultural contributions to racial equity at MIT.

Sincerely,

Martin A. Schmidt, Provost