MIT’s celebration of 100 years in Cambridge seems like the perfect moment to acknowledge its engaged and diverse community. The 2016 MIT Diversity Forum, held on Friday April 29, 2016, invited all members of the MIT community to reflect, understand, and act on diversity at MIT. Whether championing change, acknowledging successes, or discussing unfinished work, the speakers and more than 400 forum participants were motivated to learn ways to make a better community and to put diversity at the core of creating change at MIT.
President L. Rafael Reif started the day by talking about the ways MIT has changed in the past year. After hearing students’ recommendations for change, Reif says he recognizes how “our students have become our teachers,” not just on MIT’s campus but on campuses across the country. The rising concerns of students about social justice on college campuses has encouraged members of the community to actively share their experiences and hold administrations accountable. President Reif and Vice President for Human Resources Lorraine A. Goffe-Rush have answered this call and are using spaces like the MIT Diversity Forum to spark actionable change at MIT, because as Goffe-Rush explains “at MIT we don’t wait, we lead.”
Gender, identity, race, class and sex was the topics of one faculty panel including Sasha Constanza-Chock, associate professor of civic media, and Tanalis Padilla, associate professor of history. They discussed how recent political action has helped changed lives for many people, yet has also revealed just how long the journey for progress is. Both Constanza-Chock and Padilla agreed that one must “get a deeper understanding of a social problem and act” and that “acting on diversity is not just for campus communities but for justice everywhere.” The panel and Q&A, moderated by Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Melissa Nobles, also featured Abubakar Abid ’15 who recounted his experience of learning about the discrimination against Muslims and how this sparked his involvement in the MIT’s Muslim Students’ Association.
Jelani Cobb, an associate professor of history at the University of Connecticut and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, served as the forum’s keynote speaker. He addressed the ways “history informs the present” and how solutions to social injustice issues in America can be found in researching the ways past solutions have failed.
The 2016 MIT Diversity Forum also extended into breakout sessions including topics on understanding bias, dissecting privilege, standing up against discrimination, and understanding Islam and Muslims. Later a town hall meeting addressed the recommendations of the Black Graduate Student Association.
The entire MIT community is invited to engage in these efforts:
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at MIT – Advancing a respectful and caring community that embraces diversity and empowers everyone to learn and do their best at MIT.
The MindHandHeart Initiative – Tapping into passionate community spirit and innovative problem-solving skills to enhance mental health and overall well-being at MIT.
Learn more about how MIT is working to make a better world at betterworld.mit.edu, and share your stories with #MITBetterWorld.